Memories Burst From Our Hearts

We have hundreds of memories bursting from our hearts.  The problem with writing about them is if we don’t have some perspective, a modicum of humor or some healing around them, writing about them doesn’t help and readers would be snoring or turning the page to get away from the angst in one minute.

The last thing I want is for someone to think “Oh my God get over it already.”

And then, I started to get over the most difficult experience of my life.

Megan Barbara McCaffrey entered this world around 8am on December 23, 1981.  She was my second child, second daughter and a true Christmas gift.  I was tired, but so very happy, and wanting to rest until she was brought up to my room.  In those days, at Vassar Hospital in Poughkeepsie, NY, babies born by cesarean section went immediately to the neonatal ICU for a couple of hours (for reasons that still escape me….a difficult birth for the moms but the babies are basically lifted out).

My pediatrician was on vacation and another doctor was covering for him.  While my ex-husband was making the phone calls that our very healthy, almost 7lb baby girl was born, our pediatrician entered my room with a grave expression.

I couldn’t understand why he was there when he was supposed to be on vacation.

He told us that Megan wasn’t able to breathe.  That there was something wrong with her heart.  That she wasn’t going to leave the ICU.

Then, the single most terrifying sentence that was ever uttered to the mother of a newborn came out of his mouth.

“Do you want me to call a priest.”

Time stopped.

I’ve always, no matter how traumatic a situation I’ve been in, lived with the adage that what’s the worst that could happen?  That thinking has gotten me through many bad events in my life.

For the first time, the worst that could happen, happened.

During the late afternoon of December 24, 1981, Megan died of cardiac arrest during open heart surgery.

Time does heal in some ways.  After weeks of virtual immobility, I realized the garbage needed to be emptied and I started living again.

One day, when Megan would have been 7, I was at her grave on a Saturday afternoon.  I was cleaning around it a little and leaving flowers.  It was a beautiful spring day and I was happy/sad to be at the cemetery.  It’s always bittersweet.  I heard a commotion at the church and turned around to see the kids who had received their First Holy Communion pour out of the church with their lacy white dresses and little veils.

Like a punch in the gut I realized this was Megan’s year.  She would have been pouring out of our church with the other children.

Not back to square one, but I wanted to collapse with grief again.

Life went on.  I had two more children, a divorce happened, I went back to work, later remarried, and my children and I all got older. Our family has grown and my children and grandchildren are awesome.  We have lived with joy and happiness and weathered normal squabbles and frustrations.

I think of Megan every day and sometimes still get blind-sided as I did at the cemetery that day.  I know that she is in heaven and isn’t feeling the grief that I feel.

Ok, so at this point in my story, I have no perspective, no humor, nothing but angst. Have I lost you all yet?  I hope not.

Last year, at 62 years old, I dreamt that Megan was alive and 2 years old.  That she was with my grandmother and 100% healthy.  My grandmother was handing her back to me. This was probably the happiest moment of my life.

And then I woke up.  It was as if she died all over again.  People at work were asking me what was wrong.  I was stuck back in my grief anew.

Until… comes the healing part.

I went on a women’s retreat at my church.  Over the course of the weekend I was filled with the Holy Spirit and it hit me that for the last 35 years, Megan has wanted me to be happy.

How is it that never occurred to me before?  She has been doing whatever little kids in Heaven do.  And trying to tell me to be happy.

God put me at the cemetery the day she would have had her First Holy Communion as a tiny inkling of the joy she has had since her death.  We celebrate her birthday as we celebrate Jesus’ birthday.  How cool is that?!

It took 35 years and a weekend retreat filled with God’s love, for Megan’s message to get through to me.

I’m not sure how time is measured, if at all, in Heaven.  And I hope beyond hope that I still have a lot of time here on earth.  Like a lot, a lot of time.  A lot.

But I’m guessing that it will be in the blink of a moment to her when she will greet me in Heaven.





About Barb Knowles

The things that are important to me are family, friends, teaching, writing, languages and using my sense of humor to navigate this crazy world. Please join me on this blogging adventure...
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32 Responses to Memories Burst From Our Hearts

  1. The Lord is amazing; I know you know that. *Warm hugs* and I don’t care that we don’t know each other ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This made me cry, and I am glad you shared.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thank you. As a writer of .memoir essays, it’s really hard for me to write about something without some distance. I’ve written about Megan before but I think I’m finally at the point where it isn’t as maudlin. Hopefully.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. iksperimentalist says:

    After reading this post I was reminded of a song I recently heard … it is on YouTube … Heaven’s Hallelujah …. You might like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thank you. Do you mean the Leonard Cohen song?


      • iksperimentalist says:

        It is the Leonard Cohen song with different lyrics …. they are much more optomistic …
        I love the music but not the old lyrics.
        I used to listen to Hallelujah in French or Italian so I would not hear the dark lyrics.
        Now I listen to the new lyrics in English.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        I’ve never understood why that is taken as a Christmas song. It was never meant to be that. I always want to yell “HAVE YOU LISTENED TO THE LYRICS?” But I love the song and the music. It sounds like the version you are talking about are more appropriate to what we’re discussing (if that makes sense). I’ll listen to it tonight.


  4. I am so sorry for your loss, I can think of nothing worse than losing a child, especially so very young and without warning.
    I rarely think of the baby I lost the year my Dad died. I was 40, felt something wasn’t right and so saw my GP. I was losing a baby I didn’t even know I was expecting. In a way it’s a blessing because we’d never got used to the idea, my age was against me too so we could’ve been faced with horrendous decisions, and so I just accepted it. But there are times when I wonder, and if I’m honest, wish.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      It would be impossible for you not to. My mind denial game is pretending that Megan would be healthy. She would be in great pain and have had many surgeries if she had lived. Perfect on the outside but completely…I don’t even know what word to use. Every organ was messed up. So what I really am is happy that she never suffered. But it was so sad for all of us.


  5. Michael Doyle says:

    Another brilliantly written essay. I am truly sorry for your loss and I hope that by writing about it you find the inner peace I am sure you are looking for. Excellent!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thank you so much. That is truly high praise. Writing about her is something I need to do, and I do privately. I have written a little more formally about Megan here, but now I can write with some distance. At least I hope so.


  6. Garfield Hug says:

    Peace and Garfield hugs 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Carrie Rubin says:

    So sorry again for your loss. Your ongoing pain shows how a loss is never forgotten, and the grief can tackle you at any time. But your story of acceptance is truly inspirational. Thank you for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Petra says:

    Beautiful. Out of loss and pain beauty. Thank you for reminding me.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ann Coleman says:

    Oh, Barb, this was so powerful! I’ve never lost a child, so I can’t begin to imagine what you went through, but still so sorry that you went through it. I’m glad that you have reached the point where you can see that Megan does want you to be happy, and that you believe you will see her again some day. (I believe that too, for what it’s worth.) And I’m so glad you went on that retreat and that you have found peace…..

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t pretend to know where “heaven” is. Since I was a child, when I seek the Lord or pray, my eyes tend to roll upwards. But then I’m wondering if people in Australia do the same, isn’t that my “downward”? I do know that John 14 records Jesus telling his followers that He was going away to prepare a “place” so that where He is, we may be also. Rev. 21:4 says that in that place, “[The Lord] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.” Isaiah 25:8 says basically the same thing. So, either we believe those promises, or not. I want to see your beautiful Megan some day. And I predict that you and I will have many tears of both grief and joy to be wiped away.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Patty Dann says:

    What an exquisite and powerful piece. Thank you for this gift.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Little by little, my story is forming. And in a great part due to your book, the “Butterly Hours”. Thank you for your support, and for understanding how grueling making sense of these memories can be.


  12. Paul says:

    What a touching post, Barb.

    When you said the last thing you want people to think is “Oh my God get over it already”, I related to that so much. There are so many blog posts I could write about my school experience but I hold off because I feel like it would be overdoing it and people would think exactly what you said. When in reality, I just want to tell stories and not make it seem like I’m living in the past. Almost makes me wish I started a blog while I was still in school, but the thought never crossed my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      I think what we have to do when writing on a topic we’ve written about before, is either, what have we learned from it, how have we moved on in some part of our lives, and how to write something that others can relate to. The emotions, if not the topic. In this post I tried to write about perspective as well as some healing.

      Liked by 1 person

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