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Monday, June 30, 2014

when someone lobs an emotional grenade at you

Sometimes someone can throw you off your game when you least expect it.

Last week I met someone new. She was fun and had a good sense of humor.  We were outside on a beautiful, balmy June evening looking out at the skyline of Boston.  As we were talking about our favorite places in Boston (like the classic films on the outdoor screen at the Boston Harbor Hotel), she looked at my left wrist.

"You have a tattoo!" She reached for my wrist and held it sunny side up.

"It's a starfish! Does it have a meaning?" She gazed up from my wrist to me.

"It does." I paused. "It reminds me of my daughter."

"Oh, you have a daughter! she said.

Gently I said "I did but she died."

My new friend looked at me sadly "I'm SO sorry. How old was she?" She looked at me concerned, brow furrowed.

"I was pregnant with her and she died." I gave her a little smile, an honest smile that I always feel rising from my heart when I think of Grayson.

"Oh, well at least you didn't lose a real baby, you know, like one you actually knew."

I felt the familiar swift, cold, wicked sting across my heart. Just when you think a scar has healed, someone comes along with a razor blade and slices right through that tender, soft, fragile spot that you try so hard to protect until you are whole again.

In that moment there were so many things I wanted to say. I wanted to say "You're right. I never touched her soft hand to my lips or knew what color her eyes were. I never heard her voice. (This was something that still bothers me terribly. I often wonder what her voice would have been like.) I never bought her her first pink snowsuit. I would never know if she liked vanilla like me or preferred chocolate like her father. We would never peek into her crib to see her smiling back at us and she would never wave at us from the stage as she graduated from high school." In just one millisecond all of these things flashed in my mind at the same time like a movie montage. I saw them so clearly.

I wanted to tell her all of these things. I wanted to tell her that she was insensitive and rude. What kind of thing was this to say to someone? But what I realized instead is that in this great, big, beautiful world, everyone has a perspective and to her, a child was a child when you held them, when they had a name and clothes and things. To me, however, this child I would never know was just as real a baby as any one that had ever lived. She would always be a part of me, physically and emotionally. I can't imagine loving her more if I had looked into her eyes. Perspective is an interesting thing.

It was just a moment that had passed, not enough of a moment that had reached that awkward point yet. I smiled at this person that I knew would never understand my perspective. I wanted to say "You're a rude idiot." Instead, with deliberate soft kindness I said "You know I love this quote from Dr. Seuss's 'Horton Hears a Who'-- 'A person's a person no matter how small.' Would you excuse me?"

As I walked away, I felt the hot flush leave my cheeks. I didn't cry, I didn't lose my temper. I realized it's just perspective and I can't fault someone for her perspective. What I CAN do, however, is control my reaction to their unexpected grenade tossed into my world. That's all you can do in this life, really. That, and honor what matters the most to your heart.

And so, on July 24th, on Grayson's birthday that never was, I will be sitting in a small chapel in Massachusetts listening to mass being said in honor of our child and later I will listen to this song from Iz and remember the life of this very real little girl.

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