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.”
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…..here 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.