And Then There Was One

Summer 2015.  I am sitting in a doctor’s office patiently waiting to be seen.  It is a routine visit so I am not worried.  I have a magazine in my hands and my brain is distracted and these are both good things in my world at this time.  When after a few minutes the door suddenly opens, a cheery nurse dressed in pink scrubs calls my name and invites me to follow her to a small doctor’s room down the corridor.  She begins with the usual protocol – she asks my date of birth, takes down my weight, and does my blood pressure.  We finish and as I sit down she begins another series of questions.  “How many children do you have?” she asks me, not looking up from her clipboard.  I don’t answer because I don’t know what to say.  I am flustered and embarrassed and as I try to find the words a sob escapes from deep in my heart.  “I had two,” I tell her, ” but my oldest just passed away.”  The nurse is mortified and as I weep she comes over to deliver a hug and words of apology.  It is a moment neither of us was expecting and probably etched itself in both our memories forever.

It was the first time someone had asked me this question since Luke had died.  The first time someone not in my circle, someone who genuinely had no idea, asked me a question requiring me to proclaim publicly that I had a child that had passed away.  And friends, I was not ready.  I didn’t realize I had buried my emotions quite so successfully when I was out attempting to function in the real world.  In my defense, it was only about four months into the hell that is child loss.  I had gone to work and the grocery store, but that was it, and in those places people knew me and they either knew what had happened and treaded lightly or they knew what had happened and they were too afraid to talk to the mother of the dead kid so they stayed clear.  Either way, the question of ‘how many children did I have’ surprised and terrified me all at the same time.

I am stronger now or at least better prepared.  Initially I felt that to not include Luke in my number was disloyal.  I would tell people my youngest was in whatever grade he was in at the time and that my oldest had passed away.  But you know that was awkward and the human in me simply wanted to spare them that.  Selfishly, I didn’t want to have to go there every time I met someone new.  It’s exhausting to have to steady yourself to give the explanation and then brace yourself for whatever comes next – the questions, the comments, the pity.

So here’s what I need you to know:  If today is your Day One you need to decide how you are going to answer this question.  Really think through the words you want to use so you can try and control your reaction.  Prepare yourself like you would back in the day when you were going to fib to your parents about why you were out all night.  It is definitely easier when it’s more of a canned response.  Maybe talk to your spouse and discuss what strategy works for both of you for the stage of grief you are in.  It was John who told me it was okay to just talk about Logan and his support helped me be better with that decision.  And friends, It does get a little easier, but just a little.  The truth is I don’t want to say I only have one son.  I want to scream from the rooftops that LUKE WAS HERE.  That my two is now ONE and my heart is forever altered.  Maybe someday I will.  Xxx

 

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  • sheri
    August 19, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    Hugs. So beautifully written.

    • pattyinwood
      August 25, 2018 at 3:28 pm

      Thank you, Sheri! and I will take hugs anytime.

  • Anne m.onopoli
    August 19, 2018 at 8:07 pm

    Sending a hug my friend! I had A similar thing happen when I had Togo to the drs. And they asked if I was Married! I burst out in tears and I felt So bad I reacted That way!
    Some things you know are going to be hard and you kind of prepare yourself . But it is those other times it hits you in the stomach! ❤️

    • pattyinwood
      August 25, 2018 at 3:32 pm

      I never even thought of that, but of course it would be the same kind of experience. I hate that you felt bad about it, but I think that’s just the way some of us are – not wanting to make someone ELSE feel bad. UGH. Thanks for sharing. Xxx

  • Nikki
    August 20, 2018 at 8:25 am

    Love you Patty ❤️. Just another thing that you don’t think about happening, until it does…..Thank you for sharing your heart and helping others to know they are not alone.❤️

    • pattyinwood
      August 25, 2018 at 3:32 pm

      Love you for reaching out, friend. Xxx

  • Judy
    August 20, 2018 at 11:42 am

    I’ve been asked this question soooo many times since loosing Tristin 14 years ago. My answer is always the same:” I have 4 beautiful daughters ,one in heaven , three still with us” usually it doesn’t end in a further question, just a comment. Works for me as she is always with us in spirit

  • Judy
    August 20, 2018 at 11:42 am

    I’ve been asked this question soooo many times since loosing Tristin 14 years ago. My answer is always the same:” I have 4 beautiful daughters ,one in heaven , three still with us” usually it doesn’t end in a further question, just a comment. Works for me as she is always with us in spirit

    • pattyinwood
      August 25, 2018 at 3:33 pm

      Judy, I think this is a perfect answer. It means a lot that you would reach out. Sending love your way! Xxx