Eleven months ago you were still here.
I’m riding the bus and have this space between and the weight of this day, this 11 month anniversary of your death, scoots over and sits on my lap. But then I think, it’s 10:24am. You were still alive.
You were still alive eleven months ago right now. I was holding you. We were starting to really understand that you were going to die. We were talking to the doctors, the donor people, your nurse Carrie was quietly bustling around your room, under the white board on the wall with HARVEY WALKER written across it. Eleven months ago, you weren’t dead yet. Not at 10:24am.
I have wondered why we didn’t spend more time with you on Saturday. Besides having labored for two days and, unbeknownst to anyone, my internal bleeding, we didn’t know you were going to die. Except for the part of me deep in my soul, deep in my heart, deep in that inner well of knowing. From the place that whispers that you can simulatneoulsy hear and ignore. Not on the surface. Not in the human mind. There I had hope. There I would go home, sleep, wake up and we’d fight this battle and get you saved. Because miracles happen. Because we weren’t sure yet. Because we didn’t hear the doctors’ words like I hear them now: already knowing but not able to just say it, not able to say anything that might sway us one way or the other. I remember Dr. Baxter saying that the “insult” to your brain was very severe and the prognosis was “grim”. The next thing she said was something about honoring our desire to keep you on the machines, keep doing tests, and then she said again, in her delicate, baby-dying, doctor speak, that it didn’t look good. So my human mind heard, desperate for hope and possibility, we’ll keep testing, we’ll keep him on the machines. She wouldn’t say that if there wasn’t hope, right? Wrong.
But when the phone woke me up at 7:30 Sunday morning, a strange number, that knowing reared it’s head. Before actually being awake, just at the milisecond my brain registered the sound of the ring, the deep knowing, the whisper was heard. Your vitals were decreasing and we should come right in. He’s dying. Go.
I asked your dad if he would want to donate your organs if it came to that. He said yes. We didn’t know yet how ravaged your insides were. We were driving to the hospital. I remember the way to the hospital with incredible clarity. I have forgotten so much and what I remember is so fuzzy but I can see the exit onto the highway, the left turn, the sign we drive past before we turn in. The bumps in the sidewalk as they wheeled me in, going around a new piece of cement in our path, the chair mistakenly hit against the side of the elevator. The locked doors, the beeping, the hand sanitizier, the length of the hallway from the door to your room, nurses station on the left. I remember my way to you. I could get there in my sleep.
I don’t know at what point on Sunday we realized you would die but we talked to the donor representatives, your uncle re-explained to me what they said, we made decisions that were then taken out of our hands because everything, except your heart was not undonatable. We must have known by then. When Carrie suggested we have a photographer come, do hand and foot prints, a harpist could come play, we must have known by then. When Dr. Gee came in and talked endlessly about the extent of your brain damage, using the same words “insult” and “grim” over and over. We must have known by then. I don’t know when the mind caught up with knowing, when the dream awoke to the reality, I can’t remember the exact moment. I don’t think I could fully comprehend it. It was the beginning of my life taking me by the hand and leading me through it. It was the end of my sense of volition, of control, of influence over what happens to me. It was the beginning of the end for me and just the opposite for you.
I have strong visions coming back. Last night as I closed my eyes, I saw the back of your body, naked and purple, the cord over your shoulders. I saw it fall away as Heather turned you over and then I saw your face and I knew you were dead and my cells recognized you at once. He looks just like my other baby. There was some genetic click, some shift in my genome at that moment, a moment of completion, of wholeness that rippled back through my history, our ancestors: Here he is, the next of us. He will come and he will go and this collective shift will be passed on in the cellular memory, in our collective knowing, me and all of those that came before me. We recognize you, we hold you, we sing to you.
I wish you could have stayed.
After I got off the bus, I took your cousin to the cafe. A little boy crawled over to me, pulled himself up to standing on the coffee table, looked at me with giant brown eyes, pacifier moving in and out Maggie Simpson style and handed me the toy he was after. It all happened so quickly but also so slowly. I watched his little body. The instable sureity of the newly mobile. I thought, you are like my son. You are where he would be. I saw how big he was and also how small. Not an infant, but not a toddler. For the first time in eleven months, I asked the question I absolutely always avoid since you died. There is a terror in it for me. There is a fear of the slippery slope. Of the rubber necking I might do. How I might subject some poor family to the horror in some horrible way: like staring to long, asking too many questions, touching their child. I always shake the thought out of my head. But not today for some reason. Today, I asked his mom “How old is he?”. “Eleven months” she said, slightly annoyed as she scooped him up and went on to whatever needed to happen next that was overwhelming her. I knew it I thought as I watched his little head bounce above his shoulder, his big eyes locking mine, not letting go until she was gone. I waved to him just before they were out of sight.
And then I sat down with Matilda and read her the book she’d chosen.
It rained all day on March 28th, 2014. Downpour, real rain. On and off but mostly rain boot, rain coat, umbrella rain. I had thoguht earlier in the day that since we’d had such a dry winter, that it was almost like the clouds had just saved it all up and were letting it all go today. Later, I lay in acupuncture in the afternoon and I heard the rain pelting the roof, saw the drops careen down the window pane and thought, at least the sky are crying. At least the heavens knows how immeasurably tragic this is. How deserving of downpour and sobbing your absence is. At this the sky is with me, gearing up, getting it out, for the months to come.
2 thoughts on “Eleven.”
downpours and sobbing in san francisco, too, from the skies and from harvey’s family, all of whom miss him so, miss him so, miss him so, miss him so.
Such an ever-present fear: Will I come upon a little boy the same age and see Harvey as he might (should) have been? It will happen. The child so innocent, determinedly living his life. He cannot – no one outside can – know the impact. The excruciating pain of the void. The relief in seeing another child healthy and thriving. Another family facing mundane tasks, blissfully unaware of how enviable even drudgery seems to those from whom who the privilege of such tasks was violently wrested.
Would this mother, learning Harvey’s story, be re-affirmed of the preciousness of the exhausting normalcy she enjoys? Would she take a moment to give thanks? Or would she be horrified and feel threatened, and fear for her own child’s survival?
Either way, probably not worth the risk to the wounded.