You hear that time heals all wounds. This is a lie. The wound of a lost child never heals, but time does anesthetise you to the pain somewhat. You get used to carrying the cross around with you and slowly, you become able to smile again with honesty. The grief is always there though, often very close to the surface.
Sometimes I feel my most honest moments are alone with Mary, bathing her, dressing her, when I can just hold her and cry. Cry for joy because God has given her to me, forgiven me, trusted me, saved me. And cry for Ruth, for the overwhelming love I still feel for her and can no longer express in the tactile way that was so every-day just a few brief years ago. These are strange moments, full to bursting with an incredible amount of love, but also excruciatingly painful. A moment when I let my grief out of the secret, carefully hidden box I keep it in for a moment and allow it to engulf me. I wonder what Mary makes of me dissolving into a blubbing puddle of love in the middle of putting her pyjamas on?
Some startling perspective on this yesterday, when Lou was at work (she's a paediatric nurse) and a child death occurred. This sort of thing is an inevitable part of the day to day work of a children's nurse, but still, it shatters the normality of your day and confronts you with the stark reality of your own monstrous grief, lurking right there, ever present, just below the surface.
When she came home last night, after a 14 hour shift, tired and emotionally drained, I just knew that she was going through it, I could just tell. When she vaguely told me about her experience, I found that I was in a bit of a state too. A strange mixture of the resurgent grief for Ruth which is always present, yet practice allows one to somehow keep in check, and a desperate concern for Louise and the grief such a thing must cause her. Interesting that my immediate reaction was that I needed to know what had happened, how this child had died. Lou said she had the same reaction. I'm not sure why, perhaps in some deep part of our psyche we both needed to know this was not Ruth?
Anyway, my point really is that I have been confronted and forced to re-examine some family issues over the last few weeks. Petty squabbles that are, in reality, trivial by comparison with the struggles that Lou and I have to face daily as a result of the tragedy we live with day to day. But I guess you either get that, or you don't. To get it requires some small measure of empathy and a desire to see things right. A recognition of the duty of care we all share, and should be most closely modelled within the family. An understanding of the relationship between true happiness and putting ourselves at the service of others. In short, perspective.