Friday, April 22, 2011

I Remember: The Waiting Room

This is the first of a series of posts about losing my son, Josiah, at eight days old. For a bit more background, click on the tab "I Remember: The story behind it" at the top of the page.

My hope in posting these is that my own journey toward healing through remembering will give you courage to face the things you have been avoiding, denying or despairing over.

Remembering brings perspective. It brings healing. It brings hope...

Josiah was admitted to the hospital late on a Sunday night.

I was battling a raging breast infection. As he was wheeled off to his room, I roamed the floors of the hospital trying to find the illusive, ill-marked "pumping room" for breastfeeding mamas.

Once I was done there, I was shown to a small private room for parents outside the waiting area of the PICU.

There was a single bed, a chair, a window. It was quiet, peaceful, womb-like.

By Monday morning that little room was filled with a group of warrior women who came to hold me up, cry with me, pray with me.

Later that day, it became a place where I would try to rest. Besides my sister, few were allowed to come in.

I was worn out. I had not slept for almost 7 days since giving birth to my first baby. And I knew I needed to refuel. I knew that I needed to prepare myself for what was ahead.

But I thought what was ahead was bringing my baby back home.

And in between being cocooned in that room--pumping milk for my son and trying to get myself healed and rested--I would go to my Josiah's little hospital room to look at his face, rub his forehead and assure him that mama was there.

Outside of my sequestered room there was a whole other world that I saw very little of in my two days in the hospital.

The waiting room was filled to the brim with people. Friends and family came to show their support, to meet our son, to pray, to wait and to hope.

My husband spent his two days escorting them in and out, in and out of Josiah's tiny room. For some it was the first time they'd seen our son. For most it was the last.

And I distinctly remember that Monday night when I really saw the full waiting room for the first time.

At that point, I was so exhausted that the hospital provided a wheelchair for me to go back and forth from my room to Josiah's. I was being wheeled back to my room, to the cocoon, to be sequestered again.

But when I passed through the waiting room, it was like time stood still. It was as dramatic as any sappy slow motion scene you've seen in a movie. I remember it that way still.

I remember a sea of faces. Faces that looked tired, afraid, somber, sad. And in that moment, the reality of what I was facing hit me.

I didn't want to take it all in.

I remember the air feeling thick, palpable, heavy. Inside, my soul was gasping for air and crying, "Don't. have. anything. to. give." And somehow I felt in the moment that I should have given them something. A thank you. A glance. An acknowledgment that they were there.

But I didn't.

I hung my head and I closed my eyes like a toddler who thinks you can't see them if they can't see you. And I didn't open them until I was back in my hideout.

And that memory has haunted me.

Up until recently, it has been frozen inside--like a Polaroid picture with the word "traumatic" stamped across it. And part of the reason why is that instead of seeing that the people were there for me, all I felt is that they wanted something from me. And I didn't have anything to give to them.

Also locked up inside that frozen memory is the reality that that moment also spoke something very clearly to my soul--a message that it raged against at the time. It said, "They are here because this is a huge crisis. Your son is in danger. This is really happening to you."

But now I see that the words my soul heard and wanted to delete in that moment wasn't the whole message of the day.

The people weren't there to get something from me.

I remember feeling this immense NEED in the room at the time and thinking that I was feeling it coming from the other people there. But it was so clearly my need that was screaming the loudest. I needed space. I needed quiet. I needed to get back to my little room again.

And every person in that room yielded to my need--though I didn't see it at the time.

Not one person approached me. They collectively saw that I was overwhelmed and they stopped talking. The room went quiet. For me. My soul was gasping for breath, and those people gave me air.

And when I think about that, I hear the other words that my heart couldn't hear that day. "You are not alone. We are here. We care. We will lift you up. We love Josiah too. We are facing this together."

So I have been revisiting that moment in my mind. I have been consciously trying to remember each face I saw that night.

And as I have been doing that, new feelings have emerged about that waiting room.

I can remember it without trauma. I wonder about what each person was doing when they got the call that Josiah was in the hospital. What were they told? What did they feel? What did they put on hold so they could be there for me and for my family that night?

I see the waiting room differently now, but I see myself differently too.

I imagine myself, with open eyes and an open heart, whispering thank you to each brave soul who came to be there.

I am grateful for the waiting room. And I am thankful for the faces that filled it.


  1. I remember... Little Josiah, You and Chris...

  2. I continue to be with you on this journey, friend. I don't know why God quietly whispers when you and I need eachother, but I remember calling you not knowing anything about Josiah. I only wish I had heard that whisper a few days earlier so that I could have met sweet Josiah and been one of the faces in the waiting room. But I am here to read the memories that you share. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life. XOXO

  3. Valerie, your memories are precious to me. Lara, I distinctly remember everything about the moment when you called me and I told you what had happened. It comforted me. It was like Father called me Himself. Your voice reminded me that He saw everything and knew what I needed.

  4. Dearest Angela - As you walk through these memories I pray that God will use each one of them to soothe and heal your soul. It was out of deep love that we were there praying for you, Chris and Josiah .....I will never forget his sweet face and praying over him and the two of you in his hospital room. I love you! Aunt Tina

  5. Aunt Tina,

    Thank you for being there to love us and pray for us in the hospital and in the many years since then. I love you.

  6. I found your blog by following from my sister's website at belkaidesigns. I don't know if you know each other, but I just read this post and couldn't believe how strong my emotions reacted at so many of the same experiences and emotions from (also) 9 years ago when my son lost his struggle to live at two days old. Thank you for sharing this. I know that this process of grief and life after loss is a very long one and I appreciate your sharing your story. Thank you and God bless you as you continue to walk in Him and serve others who are touched by you and your story.

  7. Wow, Brooke. I am sorry that we have such a similar loss in common. Thank you for reading my story when it touches yours so personally. I met your sister at an event for parents who have lost babies. She was selling her beautiful jewelry there.

    Thank you for your encouragement. The further I go, the more I realize that no one can walk this journey alone. If you ever want to talk, you can reach me at imagineangie [at] hotmail [dot] com.

  8. I read this post a few days ago…it has not left me. I have wanted to write about what I remember about those two sad hospital days…I have questioned my purpose for writing…is this for you? The gift of a window into one of the many in the waiting room? Is it for me? Am I searching to ease the pain of one of the saddest and most confusing times of my life? I have not wanted to be selfish…

    And so I write now with as pure intention as I have. And to be honest, there is probably something in this for both of us. What? Oh, I don’t know. As I wrestled with this for the past few days, I know for me that remembering has brought up a lot. You know that I have always felt comfortable remember Josiah and celebrating his life. What I didn’t realize is how uncomfortable I have been remembering his death. In fact, I don’t remember much about those days. I have found that odd. You know how in movies, often crime dramas, they will tell a story through flashing images on the screen? That is what my memories are like…

    I remember being at church, working, when I found out that Josiah was in the hospital. Kim told me. I went right away.

    I remember the waiting room full of people. I can’t remember what I felt or even one other person who was there. I can’t remember how long I stayed or who I talked to.

    I don’t know when, but I remember someone sending me to Target to buy you a bra. Someone went with me…maybe it was Cassidy, or maybe Rebecca. I remember we didn’t know what we were doing. We were giving specific instructions…I felt inept.

    I also remember you wailing. Even now remembering that hurts to my core.

    I remember feeling helpless…wanting to help, wanting to love you…knowing there was nothing , absolutely nothing to easy anything…that part was awful.

    I remember getting to meet Josiah. I don’t know why I never went to your house to see him. Well, yes, I do…I was giving you and Chris time and space. Chris took me into the hospital room. I don’t know if anyone else came in too. And I can’t remember if you were there or not. I think you were…but I don’t know. There are two things that I distinctly remember about your son. First, he had tremendous peace…it was overflowing, radiant. It endeared me to him…I want to be close to him just to experience a taste of what he rested in. Second, he looked so much like Chris. I was so, so, so thankful for that moment with your little babe…Although the time was brief, I feel like I really encountered the essence of who he was. I think that is why remember him, talking about him, celebrating him has always been so easy for me.

    Those are my memories of those two days. I hope there is some value for you in them. I hope there is life in them for you…a nugget to use in rebuilding.

    I love you, dear friend. And I love your son. His memory is never far from me.


  9. Dearest Brie,

    Thank you for every word you've written here. I will be returning to what you wrote in years to come because it is so precious to me. THIS is why I write. This is why I started a blog in the first place. It's one thing to put my most vulnerable experiences out there for others to read, and it is quite another for others to join with me and put theirs out there too.

    Thank you for having the courage to share what those days were like for you. It means so much to know that you remember.

    I know what you mean about the choppy memories... it's why I have to write. Because as I have been giving myself permission to remember, the pieces have been coming together and a more complete picture is forming.

    You have been so faithful through the years to honor Josiah and to let me know that you love him. My mama heart thanks you for that too.

    And by the way, you handled the bra assignment perfectly. It was just what I needed. :)