If Gabriel had lived, he would be four years old today.
We all went to the cemetery to put flowers on his grave marker. DearDR explained to Monkey why we were there. “This is your brother,” he said. “We come here to remember our angel. We bring the flowers and we look at the marker so we remember him.” This is what we have to remember him: a grave marker, flowers. The baby-shaped hole in our hearts, that will not go away or diminish.
I know Monkey didn’t understand what her daddy was talking about, and that’s okay. Some day she will.
Always white flowers. His casket was white. And so little. No casket should be so small.
If he had lived, my tiny, perfect, stillborn son — if he had lived, would we have Monkey? I always ask myself this question. She was conceived a mere nine months after Gabriel died. I’m not sure that would have been the case if he had survived. And then, if not Monkey, what of Bun? How does that work?
To this day, we do not know for certain why he died. I don’t mean the greater mystery of it; those “whys” I have to give up to God. Each child is a gift. I don’t understand the gift of Gabriel. Losing him brought DearDR and I closer than we were, made us realize our love for each other and how strong it was — possibly even made it stronger.
My experience of two other pregnancies, pregnancies that were fraught in the last trimester (Bun’s a bit earlier than that) may hold some answers. DearDR and I make beautiful babies — Gabriel, even, was a devastatingly beautiful creature, long in the toes and fingers, beautiful lips, but so so still — but our placentas are not too good. They tend to want to quit before their expiration date. But because of Gabriel, my subsequent pregnancies were closely watched, and problems dealt with.
I wanted to do this better. I’ve been thinking about this post for at least a month. But I am stumbling over this, writing clumsily. I’m not sure why. Maybe because the emotions are so big; maybe there are too many things I want to say. What words emcompass the pain, not just the fresh, excruciating pain of his loss four years ago, but the smaller pain that still afflicts me, us? If you’ve lost a child, you know; if you haven’t, I hope you never know.
Maybe it’s that even losing Gabriel, I feel incredibly blessed with my children, my two girls — and my son. As DearDR put it on more than one occasion: Gabriel made us parents, but Monkey (and then Bun) made us a mommy and a daddy.
And, finally, maybe it’s that I am in some small way beginning to understand the gift of Gabriel. When Monkey was conceived, I turned my pregnancy over to God; I put my faith in Him (or Her, whatever you wish). When Bun was diagnosed with a CCAM, I turned to Gabriel in my heart. Please, I said. Just that, please. And we got a miracle. Maybe we — my family specifically, not “we” in general — need an angel looking out for us, and that’s why we were given Gabriel.
I miss you, Gabe. I don’t know why I never got to see the color of your eyes or your smile. Look out for us, okay? Your dad and me, and your sisters, and for that matter, any other siblings who come along. And anyone else who turns to you, okay? Make a special place for them with God. Thanks.