As most of my friends know, I lost my daughter Macy 15 years ago. She died 3 days before her due date. It takes top billing as the biggest tragedy of my life.
Every year on her birthday, I take the day off to do something “I would have done with her if she had lived.” I would love to say I came up with that brilliance on my own, but it actually came from my very good (and clearly brilliant) friend Jordan. When he told me to do that (vs. lying in bed crying with the blankets pulled over my head per MY plan), I was neither happy nor gracious. But I got up in year 1 and went to the zoo. And cried a lot. And laughed a little bit at all the kids who were crying and whining (it was hot, there was a drought, and all water fountains were turned off). My Macy was content to go where ever I took her and waited patiently as I wiped thousands of tears away.
Since then, we have gone back to the zoo, we have been to the water park, we have explored Mt. Airy, we have had mani/pedis, and for the past 2 years we have driven to the closest beach. It’s always a sad day; I write in my Macy journal, I read all my happy pregnancy entries and all the gut wrenching entries after she died. I replay the days leading up to her death over and over in my head, and wonder why I was too stupid to know something was terribly wrong. Last year, however, was a bit better. I had considered going to the beach many times, but I always woke up and thought, “Gosh, 6 hours of driving for 4 hours of beach/dinner time seems kind of crazy.” It may be (although taking your deceased daughter places on her birthday may trump that), but the beach is my place. The ocean, with its endless horizon, feeds my soul like nothing else. There seem to be two types of people – beach people and mountain people. I am 100% beach. Mountains make me claustrophobic, although I can certainly tolerate them for a beautiful waterfall (sensing a theme?). I like to believe I was a mermaid in a previous life.
So after the success of last year, I decided that was it. We would always go to the beach, assuming the weather supported it. I got up this year, and was met with the usual overwhelming sadness. I thought once again, “If I can get through this day one more time…” I cried a bit, I packed up, and I got in the truck to head east. And then something weird started to happen which is why I eventually had to write it all down. First, the sun was shining through thin clouds. You know how just a few rays come through and it’s So darned pretty and you think “How does anyone doubt there is a God in a world that is this beautiful?” It was that sort of morning. And I thought, “Thanks Macy; I needed a sign and there you are as always. Right on time.”
As I drove, I realized that I wasn’t sad at all. As a matter of fact, I was almost happy. I started thinking about the day she died, but instead of my usual tears, I remembered the people who were the gifts in my life. It started with my pastor, Ray Wickham. He was one of the first phone calls we made when we realized she was gone. I am certain he drove 120mph to get from Cary to Duke Hospital. He arrived in what seemed like minutes while we were still in triage. He held me for a long time while I sobbed all over him. Then he said, “Janet, I know why this happened. There is a Biblical reason. Do you want to know?” I looked at him and said “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK” through my sobs. He said “The Bible says, ‘It just sucks.'” He made me laugh at a moment I was certain I would never laugh again in my entire life. For those who wonder why I drive an hour to church every Sunday; that moment, combined with the most amazing memorial service ever delivered, are two big reasons.
My wonderful, amazing, one of a kind, damn I am lucky, mother somehow got on a plane and was by my side before that day was out. I don’t know how I could have gotten through it without her. Then again, I can say that about every single thing that has ever happened in my life, good or bad. I am so BLESSED that God gave her to me.
Chris, Nick, Andrew, Marissa. The children who own such a huge piece of my heart. There were some dark years in the middle, but we came through them and found each other again. We were always meant to be.
My friends, especially Mary, who dropped all her vacation plans and drove back home to be with me. My friend Cathy, who flew in from Illinois to stay with me and reminded me that “People say the dumbest things at funerals and you just have to nod and assume their intentions are pure.” My IBM coworkers, Kevin, Apryl, Sonal, Becky, Ginger, Dayna, Tom, Jason, John, Steve, Tuck, Maryann, Don, Robin, Lynn and all the others I am forgetting to mention. They loved me through the pregnancy and they loved me through my loss.
My church youth group who were so crazy in love with my baby girl. They wrote me amazing letters after she died. I still have them all.
My friend Debbie and my cousin Jennifer who sent me cards not only when Macy died, but for years afterwards to let me know they were thinking of me. I still have all those too.
After replaying all of those memories for the first hour or so, I started thinking about all the amazing things and people that have come into my life in the past 15 years. Especially those things that frankly, never would have happened if she lived:
- Sarah, my amazing teenager
- Marge, my 2nd mom
- My dogs (6 may be obsessive, whatever)
- Dakota, my awesome horse
- My 100+ year old farmhouse that I adore even when I am freezing to death in winter
- My Siler City posse: Joyce, Lea, Kris. I love you ladies.
- Trisha and Emma Reese, the first baby I was mentally ready to hold in almost 13 years.
- Jennifer (still not sure how I made it through this without knowing you)
Maybe most important… Definitely most important… there would be no Horse and Buddy if Macy had lived. I would never have been brave enough to commit so much of my time to something that was a leap of faith. I would have stayed in the corporate world so I had enough money to buy her a pony :-), lived in the suburbs so she could attend the “good” schools, and kept a big safety net around me at all times. I drove along I-40 thinking about the lives that the program has changed: the first words, the first steps, the improvements in so many important little areas, and the joy, and the joy, and the joy.
I finally reached the ocean, parked my truck, and started to walk across the street. Some guy ran the light, but instead of going all the way through, he stopped in the middle of the intersection and backed up. I was standing there trying to cross, but was afraid to go behind him in case he ran me over, and afraid to go in front since I would pretty much be in the road. As I was contemplating this, the car behind him rolled down the window and yelled “JANET!!!” In the teeny tiny small world we live in, there sat some Horse and Buddy parents. Wonderful fabulous supportive parents who I love. I ran across the street (behind the car who had stopped by this time) and hugged the wife. She said they were just there for the day to celebrate their anniversary. I said “ME TOO! Not the anniversary but just for the day!” The light turned green, we told each other to have fun, and I walked off to the beach, shaking my head. I don’t know if I have reached the “Everything happens for a reason” stage nor do I think I will ever get there until I can ask the Big Man some important questions on the other side, but WOW. I thanked Macy and God again for yet another sign that life is actually quite good.