Sunday, October 02, 2005

For Taylor, Jeremy, Rachel, and their moms

Well, it's October. This has always been my favorite month. A few days ago, I was driving in North Orem and saw the beautiful colors on Mt. Timpanogos. It was five years ago when I first got a good look at the beautiful fall colors that that mountain has to offer. I was in a recovery room at Timpanogos Regional Medical Center, and the only thing I had to do was look out the window. I didn't watch tv. I didn't call people. And I didn't have a new baby to cuddle.

On October 1, 2000, I found out that the baby I was carrying was no longer living. I was 30 & 1/2 weeks along (that's 7 months, for those of you that don't speak in weeks). Just a month earlier, my friend Sarah & I were on our way to an Institute class when she told me about a friend's sister who had just had her baby two months early because the baby had died. "Did she have a c-section?" I asked. "No," Sarah told me, "they just induced labor." Then I said my nightmare-inducing words: "I cannot imagine anything worse than having to go through labor to give birth to a baby you know isn't alive."

On October 2nd, Darin & I picked out a plot in the Provo City Cemetery for our son, and then bought an 18-inch long casket. Sitting in an office at Berg Mortuary, all I could think was, "This is wrong. It's backwards. People don't get caskets for their kids." Taylor James was born on October 3, 2000, and we were able to see the cause of his death - his umbilical cord was in a knot and wound around his right thigh and both ankles, figure-8 style. As his body grew and the knot got tighter, everything just shut down. His funeral was October 6th. We were shown so much love and support from so many - from my friend Grace, who brought me a copy of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun to cheer me up, to the man that cut Darin's hair the day before the funeral - at the BYU barbershop, when it was closed, and didn't charge him anything, to whoever it was that taped an envelope to our door that contained $300 cash. The first card we received in the mail was from the Kinnears. I received numerous cards, letters, and phone calls from my cousin Heather, who was so supportive and praised us for loving our son before he was even born.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that Curly was due to be born on October 4th, 2001. When that preganancy was coming to its close, I reminded my doctor that October 1st was when I found out Taylor wasn't living, he was born the 3rd, and the 6th was his funeral - could I PLEASE have this baby early? I won't be able to throw any birthday parties that first week of October. Dr. Gamette was very accomodating, and Dr. Dayton delivered Curly that very day, September 26th. She was, and is, my rainbow baby - the beauty after that storm.

When Curly was not even three weeks old, my mom called me. I knew immediately that something was wrong. She told me that Jeremy Kinnear had died. Jeremy was, I guess, technically, my brother James's friend. But you know how sometimes your siblings' friends become your own? That's how it was with Jeremy. He was my friend, too. He wrote letters to me when I first moved to Utah. The first "band" I was ever in consisted of me, James, and Jeremy - the band was called "Jeremy's Mom's a Librarian", and I played guitar, James played harmonica, and Jeremy played...buckets, which were easier to carry around than drums. His nickname was Crazy. He was one of the most talented percussionists I've ever encountered. He and James were in a band called Attica with four other guys. They were very, VERY good. They were played on local radio and traveled far distances to perform. Jeremy was ALWAYS HAPPY - in a dark, contentious atmosphere where people all around him could be found arguing and screaming, he'd have a little grin on his face and be quietly laughing. I've seen it happen.

I thought my mom must be mistaken: "What? No. *crying* You're wrong. You're wrong..." I asked her what had happened. "We don't know yet." What?! "Mom, that doesn't even make any sense." "It happened some time this morning. He was found on the New York State Thruway..." And as she was telling me the little of the known information that she was sure of, I tuned her out and realized that it was Jeremy's birthday. I talked to Chad, another of James's friends. He was as distraught as I've ever heard him. He told me that it was a hit-and-run, probably, but no one knows how he ended up on the thruway at 4 in the morning. He asked, "Jenny, can James come for the funeral?" "No, Chad. He's committed to two years. He won't be coming."

I made arrangements to fly to NY for the funeral. Darin couldn't get the time off from work, but Monica (now James's wife) came. I liked having another adult with me because, in addition to the stress of flying with a 2 & 1/2 year old and a newborn, this was just a month after September 11th, making the entire flight extra tense.

The funeral home was packed - in fact, I think Jeremy's funeral set a record for number in attendance at the Lind Funeral Home. The service was filled with music, just like Jeremy's life. The best talk I have ever heard in my life was given by Ben Tillotson, Jeremy's next door neighbor, who, upon finishing his talk, put his newest Special Olympics medal in Jeremy's hand. At the conclusion of the services, everyone walked by the casket one last time, and my sister, Brandy, and Monica and I cried even harder when we saw that someone had put a photo in the casket of Jeremy & James together.

The next July, we went to Indiana for an extended family reunion. It was held at McCormick's Creek State Park, but we stayed with my cousin Heather and her family. Li'l ~j. and Heather's son Luke aren't too far apart in age (and are pretty similar in personality), and Curly's only three months older than Heather's daughter Rachel. Ours was an extremely pleasant visit, and I couldn't help but think how excited I was that my cousin & I had kids that played so well together. I kept envisioning our kids being penpals and having special friendships even though they lived so far apart from each other. Then in August, I got another of those phone calls from my mom. This time the call woke me up. "Rachel Norris died last night." "What? Heather's daughter? How?" "Well...she choked." I absolutely could not believe it. "Mom, I HAVE to go to the funeral. I have to be there. We were just there. Heather was so supportive when we lost Taylor, Mom, I have to go." Later that day, I contemplated calling Heather. What would I say? Then I remembered that, when we lost Taylor, as hard as it was to get phone calls, it hurt more to NOT get them. So I called. David answered. "David, it's Jenny." "Just a minute." Heather answered. I could barely whisper, "Heather." "I know." That's what she said, over and over. I don't even remember what else was said during that conversation, only that my resolve to get there was stronger.

Again, my mom stepped in and helped us get last-minute flights to go to Indiana for the funeral. Again, Darin couldn't get the time off, so li'l ~j., Curly, and I flew to Indianapolis. My cousin Erica picked us up at the airport and drove us directly to the funeral home where the viewing was going on. Rachel looked like an angel. Heather and David were weary. Lukey was holding on tightly to his parents and sucking his thumb. He was also shaking a bit. My mom and Brandy drove to Indiana, as well, to be there for the funeral. It seemed the entire town of Greencastle knew about what had happened. The funeral service was so sad - it's very blurred in my memory. The burial is what I recall, and it was wrenching. As the casket was being lowered into the ground, Heather began wailing. It was hell.

Heather had gotten Rachel's picture taken a month or so earlier, and a few weeks after the funeral, she went to the Wal*Mart photo studio to see if she could purchase the remaining photos. The clerk asked her to wait a minute while she spoke to her manager. The manager came out and told Heather that she would be given a print in every size of each pose, as well as the negatives, at no charge.

When my son died, I made the choice to help people going through similar circumstances, whatever their stage of mourning, no matter how long it has been - if their crisis is just beginning, or if it's been years. Just last year, I got a phone call from a gentleman I've never met: "Hello, is this Jenny? My name is Kevin Simons, and I was just at the cemetery today, visiting my daughter's grave, and I noticed fresh flowers on your son's grave. Then I noticed that today is his birthday, and I just wanted to call to say that I hope you have a beautiful day." "Well, thank you very much. I really appreciate that. If you don't mind my asking, when did you lose your daughter?" "No, I don't mind at all. It was 25 years ago."

Once you've experienced something like this, people come out of the woodwork with similar stories - either it happened to them, or their sister, or someone else that they know... And while I still have a drive to help people and do all I can to help share the burden, I hope you'll excuse me this week while I turn to my food- and retail-therapy.

Here's to Taylor, Jeremy, Rachel, and their moms. As it says on a headstone near Taylor's: We have a renewed desire to pass our earthly test.

18 comments:

beans said...

yeah, i got chills while i read that. and now i'm crying. i'll never forget those events. i love you jenny.

Monica said...

It's strange how sometimes you get a small glimpse of other people's sadness. When I looked at pictures of Taylors funeral before I knew you and cried but didn't understand why, when I hugged Lyn at Jeremy's funeral and felt like I had known her forever and wanted to make it all go away, and when I looked at the picture of Rachel and wanted to hold her but knew I couldn't and neither could her mom. You give me strength in my nightmares. I think I'll go kiss Eliza.

wendysue said...

It's amazing in life when you are given the blessing of an experience to really connect with another. I think it's then when we realize that we truly are spiritual beings having a human experience. Thank you for this small glimpse into your life.

La Yen said...

I wish I could be there for you tomorrow--you know that I love you and that Taylor day is a holy day at our house.

Tara said...

I am sorry for your sadness. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have heard the wail - from my parents, my sister, my friend... When my sister Nicole died, it was the most terrible, suffocating feeling I have ever experienced, and yet I knew I could only be feeling a portion of the pain my parents were experiencing. It wasn't until I had my own children that I understood. Grief is the worst feeling in the world, and yet one that can bring us closest to God if we let it. I pray for you and all the parents who have lost their babies, whether they were big or little.

AzĂșcar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AzĂșcar said...

My mom and I were talking about losing a child a few weeks ago when a girl we knew had passed. One of us said "I can't imagine the pain." The other said "No, I think we can imagine, and that's why it's so horrible."
My heart aches in the kind of empathy that only mothers can know.

Bek said...

Thank you Jenny for sharing this. I can't even get my thoughts together enough to say something profound or helpful. I am so, so sorry for your loss and your pain. I wish that terrible things like this didn't have to happen and it hurts no matter how old your children are.

I was just talking about this with my mother in law. She is almost 60 and has recently been diagnosed w/ a pretty serious case of breast cancer. The jury is still out about her outcome. There are 4 kids in her family. Her sister Jadalyn was killed in a car accident when she was in college. Her brother was murdered last year in a robbery. She said that when she told her parents about her cancer--it was the worse then chemo. Her parents have outlived two, and possibly three, of their children. We decided that was the worst thing you can endure in life--to outlive your kids, no matter how old or young they are when they pass.

I will be thinking of you today and your little family. I wish I could help you as much as you have helped me in the last few months. Your kind thoughts and words and just plain awareness of how I was feeling were so very helpful. I hope you know that the choice you made to help others w/ their own kinds of grief has and will continue to make an impact on others.

nie nie said...

Jenny,
I love you. It is good to know where Taylor is, and that you will see him again...so will Jeremys mom an Rachels mom.

Queen Scarlett said...

You have touched my heart. My tears and thoughts are with you today. Taylor is blessed to have a mother like you. I had an early miscarriage before I had Kalea... I know it's nothing like what you went through - but the grief of losing a child you loved before you ever met them... is... I don't have words for it. I wish I could give you a real HUG. I hope you can feel the virutual HUG via the Internet.

Lorien said...

I don't know what to say, but I feel like I should say something. I am, and was then, so very, very sorry. You're an amazing person and I admire your strength and your emotional honesty.

~j. said...

Thank you, everyone, for your kind, sweet words and thoughts. Beans, Monica, WendySue, Carina, Nienie, thank you. All these "virtual friendships" (actual friendships, whether we've met face-to-face or not) gave me strength and helped me have a rather good day yesterday. I thank you.

Jen - thank you for your tribute to Taylor on your blog. And for celebrating/mourning with me.

Tara - You have seen it all around you. I'm confident that you've been a great source of strength and love for your mom, Tori, and anyone else who goes through it...that's just the kind of person you are.

Bek - You, too, have gone through similar experiences, and you are so strong, and such an example to everyone who knows you. I wish your mother-in-law the best.

Queen - I had a miscarriage just six months ago. Losing a baby is losing a baby, whether it's at eleven weeks or thirty. I'm sorry you had to go through that. Kalea is lucky to have you as her mother - one need only glance at your blog to see that you adore her.

Lorien - Thank you. You probably don't remember this, but after Madelyne was born, you let me hold her, and she was the first baby I had held since Taylor. Taylor was due in December of that year, so they would have been very close in age. I have never forgotten that. Holding her was a healing step for me, and although I've only seen her a few times since you moved to the other side of town (which side I live on now, too), every time I see her, I'm reminded, "That's how old Taylor would be." I need to see Madelyne more often.

Lorien said...

I always felt really awkward about having a baby when I knew you would have had one the same age. It was strange, almost feeling guilty about having a healthy child. Not really guilty because I knew you didn't wish me any ill will or anything, it was just odd to feel so happy about my own child, but at the same time try to be sensitive about someone else's pain and try not to say something hurtful (unintentionally). Anyway, I'm glad it turned out to be a healing time for you. Like I said before, you are a strong woman.

Nicole Og said...

Jenny- thanks for writing this blog. And thank you for be so willing to help others as they struggle thru similar circumstances. You have always been someone I've looked up to, even before I was a little yearling!

~j. said...

Thanks, Nic. Happy birthday.

Sue said...

Oh, Jenny, I barely know you, but my heart was breaking for you, for your friends. And I'm moved beyond words at your desire to help other people.

Mary said...

My son, Joseph, would have been 16 in August. He was full term and I did not know his heart had stopped beating until I went to the hospital in labor. He too had a knot in his umbilical cord that somehow pulled tight just before birth. I, like you, learned how important it is to say something, to make contact, even when you don't know what to say. I will always remember how supportive and kind people were to me during the time that was my nightmare. Thank you for sharing.

Maggie May said...

what a beautiful testament to your spirit. to take pain like that and reach out to other people is amazing, and a refining of the soul that takes my breath away.