In Loving Memory of Jesse Gabriel Kammerzell

Your precious feet left tiny footprints in our hearts...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Baby steps pun intended. In group tonight we talked about goals we have for ourselves in this journey. For me, it's not so much goals as it is little accomplishments as life returns to normal...whatever normal might be. At first it was just to get dressed. And then, to go out of the house. Billy's parents kept my dog, Jewel, for several days after Jesse died. I am not sure I could have dragged myself down the steps to take her out. When we brought her home, it was horrible to walk her, because I'd remember how only a week before I'd have been winded walking up and down the steps and how I'd worried about slipping on an ice patch. I'd used to daydream on those walks about how life would be with a baby. So walking her, left alone with my thoughts, is still a difficult thing.

Then it was to go out for lunch. The first time we went out to lunch afterwards, we were going to go to the mall, something, anything to get out of the house. After we ate, my energy was completely sapped and all I wanted to do was crawl back in bed. So we went home, and I did. One of the hardest things was making myself go to the grocery store. Crowds were smothering, crushing. I'd never really appreciated why people send food and buy meals for families in the wake of tragedy, but now I get it. My family wouldn't have eaten if not for the kindness of friends who kept us well fed for weeks afterward.

One day a couple of weeks after, I went to Kohl's. I had Kohl's Cash to spend. I walked around, not seeing anything I wanted, carefully avoiding the baby and maternity departments. I found a few random items and as I approached the front of the store it dawned on me that this line of people I was passing, stretching all the way back to the shoe department was the checkout line. The temperature in the store suddenly increased about 20 degrees and I felt like someone was sitting on my chest. I saw a woman with a rosy-cheeked baby in a carrier strapped to her chest. Suddenly, I had to be out of that store. I couldn't take it for one more minute. I tossed the items I was carrying on a nearby display and it was all I could do to keep from running out the sliding glass doors of the store, and I sat in my car and sobbed. Such a failure, to not even be able to handle going to the store! I never did spend that Kohl's Cash, $30 gone to waste!

The next hurdle for me was going back to work. I'm very, very fortunate to work with an amazing staff. One friend had called every person on staff to let them know about our loss before we came back, and I am so very thankful for her kindness. Still, I dreaded the sympathetic looks, the averted eyes, the hugs and I'm sorries even. I didn't want people to look at me and feel sorry for me. I didn't want them to think of me as the one whose baby died. I made it through the first round of hugs at the door and thought I'd be okay, until I walked into the first staff meeting. The topic of the opening exercise was six-word-memoirs. Tell a meaningful story in just six, well-chosen words. The example given: "For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn." Extremely powerful words. Extremely powerful. I thought my eyeballs might fall out of my face right there, but I managed to hold myself together, until we were asked to tell our winter break stories in six words. The enormity of this task brought me to my knees. Could I just borrow that example? Because it sure fit. I fled to the bathroom, where my principal found me and excused me from the meeting. Our school social worker came and talked with me...listened to me mostly...for a good long time, and I was so grateful for that. She helped me to send a message to my students' parents so that they might talk with their children before they returned to school. I was terrified that someone would say something, meaning no harm but not knowing. The rest of the day was better, and I found that I was relieved to be around my work family again.

Then next step was to that first morning back with my students. Our counselor met them with me and I talked with them about Jesse. Then I left and they made cards. There's nothing like the thinking of an 8 year old to make me chuckle. One wrote, "If you just don't think about it you won't be sad!" and another, "Baby losses are always bad. But look at it this way, now you won't have to get up at 3:30 to feed the baby!" One child wrote, "I just want you to know that it's okay to cry." (That made me cry a little.)

Once I was back in school, it was easy to throw myself into my work, my students, and not dwell on my sadness. But it was like a mosquito, the grating whining of it always there in my ear. I'd brush it away and keep on about my business. The problem with that was, I felt as though I held myself together during the day, during the week, and then when I got home...weekends, especially, I would just melt down. Like I had spent so much energy just holding the pieces together that I couldn't do anything else, couldn't function. The very second I slowed down enough to breathe, that mosquito would land at last and suck me dry. It was hard for my family, and hard for me because again, I felt like a failure, that I couldn't even handle playing a game of Chutes and Ladders with Sami. It was very difficult for me to deal with her for some time.

Anyway, none of these things were things I'd anticipated or worked toward as goals. They were more just hurdles that had to be cleared, and then I felt that I could move on to the next thing. And still, I can't really think of a goal. I just take each day as it comes and thank God for the hurdles I do clear.

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