Today Adam and I attended a service in Des Moines: “in loving memory of the children associated with Blank Children’s Hospital who died in the year 2008”. We received the invitation several weeks ago, and have been really looking forward to a having another opportunity to memorialize Jack.
As we arrived, we were each given a flower and then seated amongst the other families who had lost their children last year. There was a sad peace throughout the lobby, as we all shared such a deep and strong bond. We began the program by each putting the flower we had received in a vase in front of the room. The number of flowers represented the grieving family members, and actually filled two vases. Music was performed, poems were read, and a slide show of our children’s pictures was shown.
I was caught off guard as the pictures flashed. I guess I had it in my head that these were all families grieving the loss of infant children…but there were children of all ages represented, and actually Jack was one of only two infants. I almost appreciated that no one in the room could say “I know exactly how you feel” and instead we could acknowledge how different and personal each loss was. Here is Jack’s part of the slide show. If you listen closely, you can hear Megan in the background saying: “Hi Baby Jack.”
At the end of the program, we went outside and each released a balloon for our child. It was rainy and cold and it was almost as if the heavens were joining in on our tears. Our little family was among the last few to watch the balloons fly away. We then went inside and chatted with a couple families and also reunited with one of the social workers who was invaluable to us the first few days after Jack was born. She had only seen us at our worst, so it was nice for us to show her that we had survived and that we were hanging in there.
Before we left, we walked around the hospital and went up to the NICU where we had spent those first awful days. It has been months since we have been there, and we were only there a few days, so it was strange the way the memories came flooding back.
The theme for the program was perfect: “We Remember”. It was wonderful to be there with others who have experienced a loss like ours and know that they really do know what it means to “remember”. For us, we remember our children every moment of our lives. When we are weary and need strength, we remember them. When we have joy and yearn to share, we remember them. Jack will always be a part of us as long as we remember him. And trust me…we will never forget.