Sunday, September 4, 2011
A man called me over to him while I was working last night. When I approached, he stuck out his hand and said, "I want to thank you." I couldn't imagine what he wanted to thank me for. Just minutes before I was sitting on the other side of the bar, chomping on a sandwich while I let our new trainee run the show for a little while. I hadn't even served him. "I want to thank you for what you did." I must have still looked confused, because then he asked, "You're Catholic, right?" I started to think he must be referring to Gabriel so I asked, "Are you talking about my son?" He said yes, and told me that while I was pregnant he had asked one of my co-workers why I seemed so sad. Those were his words yesterday, but if I had to guess I would bet he actually asked, "Why is that pregnant girl such a bitch?"
He told me that my co-worker had told him about Gabriel's diagnosis. At about the same time, he and his pregnant wife had been told by the doctor that their daughter had a cyst on her kidney which was as big as the kidney itself. The kidney would have to be removed when she was born. It was a dead kidney, they had been told. He said that after learning about Gabriel, their problems didn't seem so bad. "Your problems still matter. She is still your daughter. I am grateful that Gabriel's life helped put things in perspective for you, but you don't have to minimize your own experience." He insisted that it all seemed so small now. Ultimately, his daughter was born in May, and the cyst was no where near as big as the doctors had initially believed. She could keep her kidney.
"I couldn't have done what you did," he said.
"Yes, you could. You think you can't do a lot of things, until you are doing them. Until you have to."
"No. I couldn't have. We wouldn't have. We couldn't have put ourselves through that."
I have heard those assertions often, but I don't accept them as true. I certainly never thought on January 31st, when my world was shattered by the words "incompatible with life," that I would come out stronger in June than I ever imagined was possible. I only knew that for me there was no choice. Any of my "options" were false. They were just a band-aid that might temporarily patch up the hole where my loss would lie, but would only be a quick fix that would never last.
The man shared with his friend, "She carried her baby to term, even knowing what would happen." I've never found the knowledge of what would happen to be reason enough to let Gabriel go earlier than I had to. It was all the more reason to keep him and hold him and love him on this earth as long as I could. Besides, carrying Gabriel wasn't really about me. Carrying Gabriel was right for him, and parenthood is about doing what is right for your child. Sometimes it means letting go, whether letting go happens during college, when we walk them down the aisle to be married, on our deathbed, or even on theirs. We might all be surprised by what we can do for our children.
Someday I will face God, and though I have many faults to answer for I will still be able to say, "When You called, I answered. I did what You asked of me." I pray that God will respond by handing me my child, whole and happy and healthy, and that he will wrap his arms around me and say, "Mommy, you did everything you could."