Love lost, read and found
I once had a baby daughter we called Jessica Maria who was born on December 8th, approximately three weeks early. Those of you in the know, might also know that Kath and I called her Jessica as a nod to one of our favourite Disney characters ‘Jess’ from the wonderful a Toy Story 2 that had come out the year before, and of which our first daughter Hannah (then three) had a doll of which she just simply loved.
Her second name ´Maria’ coincided with the fact that she was born on the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, but in actual fact I am not sure we were at that moment in time even aware of which day of the week it was on a daily basis, and the choice of Maria was just in namesake tribute to my own loving mother.
There are so many small and simple things, and mostly perhaps without even knowing, but maybe they have just one thing in common, they are the things we do for love!
In actual fact I remember the day she was born so very vividly, and it’s first anniversary just as much and Jessica’s little life impacts me mostly on just anniversaries, and I suppose they can be summed up as being two unique ones, then eleven more shared anniversaries, and then all of the ones that have come and will keep coming hereafter.
Jessica was born on Friday December 8th of the year 2000, after Kath was referred to have an additional scan because of our concerns that at this stage, her baby bump was still kind of tiny. In comparison to Hannah who weighed a whopping 9lbs 8 ounces when she was born, and we were right. It was still a few weeks from Jessica’s due date, but immediately after the scan, the doctor told Kath and I to go home and pack our bags and come back as soon as possible as for the immediate safety of our baby, she had to be delivered immediately.
Sometimes things happen in life that are just too big to ever find yourself ready for, and you can’t take things in quite as fast as they are happening, but as we most normally do, we call all our immediate loved ones, a thing we just have to do, even though we are not ready to deal with the onslaught of what comes after, but when you’re engulfed by a trauma or crowd, you don’t care to count how much is too many, just as long as you feel you have company.
December 8th was a day that changed Kath’s and my life I guess, Jessica was born and the next 365 days all blurred into so very many.
I don’t know that we were ever directly told that Jessica’s condition meant she was deemed life limited, but we were told so many many things each day on the way, that we just kept managing each single piece of a complicated puzzle without ever trying to put the whole picture together and working out what it means.
For us, as for any parent, the things we do, we do for love, and a family just does all it can to pull through, and in Jessica’s case it wasn’t any different, and we always hoped for the day that her life and ours would one day feel more like we expect of the norm. Jessica didn’t comply with the norm. She was born by emergency Caesarian that same day whether we felt ready or not, weighing a tiny 3lbs and 3 ounces and a few days later she was only 2lbs 8 ounces and it was nearly three months before she was close to being ready for us to introduce her to home. Home was what was really only fleeting short stays for her, but we got to see Hannah playing with both Jessie’s there, and it didn’t matter how much hospital equipment was packed in her room, as long as we had Jessica there, and that was about the best of our norm, from the day we first said hello to her on her birthday.
She died on November the 28th just short of her first birthday and I don’t know why it took so long to organise her cremation service but that was eventually set for December 10th 2001, and for a few days before that, she was laid waiting and eternally resting at the chapel of rest, where Kath and I went to sit in sad quiet reflection sat by her side, staring at her serene motionless body, now tube free and not really looking quite like herself, or our Jessica as we had come to know her.
The cremation service was booked for the Monday, and as coincidence would have it, the last time we saw her in the flesh, before they closed and sealed her casket, was on her birthday, and as grieving parents, it wasn’t easy knowing exactly what we should do, to mark the sad anniversary, the day our daughter should have celebrated turning one, and so we did the kind of things that most people would do, although perhaps there was no real call for it. We wrote her a birthday card, and gave her a small teddy bear as a present, knowing she would neither read it or get to play with it, let alone hold, but it’s just the things we do for love and nothing more, and then after we kissed her cold forehead goodbye for the last time, those things were sealed up with her, and two days later at her funeral service I carried her casket into church and then those things were cremated with her, and joined the ashes of her that we kept at home.
Her first two birthdays were certainly imprinted forever in me and Kath, and the next eleven years that followed, we kind of marked them silently with little fuss, other than to remind each other of her birthday. Perhaps I could go on and say that they felt a little anti-climatic, but then it isn’t easy to handle the subject of losing a baby, let alone yours, and besides Kath and I already had our routine that started ten days earlier, when each year we would attend mass on the anniversary of her passing, and pay tribute to her name in the remembrance book, and then perhaps take out and look at the few good photos we had of her, and by the time her birthday came around just ten days later, we were kind of emotionally exhausted each year.
When Kath died in November of 2012 it was just a few weeks before the anniversary of Jessica’s passing, and Kath had already imparted me with her dying wish, to be buried with the ashes of our tiny Jessica, and that she would like her Dad’s ashes joining her too. I have written about that before, and all the things that time of year that made me raw, but I found myself a few weeks later at Jessica’s anniversary mass and book of remembrance without Kath beside me for the first time, and with our three daughters all looking at me, and Katherine’s mother crying hysterically, and my mother rubbing my arm up and down, while I stood there crying lost in a very familiar crowd, that didn’t have the main face I wanted for company. Every year since that has come after, I keep up the routine tribute but it’s kind of even more deeply embedded alone and inside of me, and I know it’s another one of those things that we end up doing just for love, because we don’t know how to do anything different.
I think of the birthday card and teddy bear we placed in Jessica’s casket on her birthday, like it was something to comfort her and for her to hold, on the journey that she alone was taking, and then of her ashes that lived at home, and of the similarities that happened eleven years later, when Kath asked me to bury her with something precious she wanted to once again hold, and I had our baby’s ashes placed in a silk drawstring bag and placed in Katherine’s motionless but peaceful hands, before her casket was eventually closed, and then at her funeral service I called upon our loved ones present, because I could not carry them all alone.
There are some things we do because it brings us comfort and continuity, but mostly these are just the things we do for love.