Sunday, September 12, 2010
When they arrived at our house last evening, it came almost as a relief. The door opened and it was as if they were forever, old friends, the warmth of their presence immediately comforting as they handed over a beautiful, hand turned salad bowl with a freshly made salad and a soft loaf of fresh wheat bread. We had the lights off, only the dim ones on, throughout the house and it was about the first moment of coziness we'd had since the brightness of summer began.
Our friendship had been nearly eleven months in the making, and it was complicated. When their baby died, friends of theirs from all around called me, asking for advice, solace, ways to soothe the couple and themselves. They were a beautiful pair, we'll call them Sada and Peter, and their beautiful newborn Violet, Violet October, had just died; she'd died after three days, and nobody knew why she hadn't made it. So friends of theirs, and friends of friends, they called me, and finally her number was in my hand, and I called her and the connection was instant. But I was eight months pregnant, so my support was limited to the telephone, and my life was not public for the taking, because I wanted to protect her. When Fiona was born, my heart ached so badly when I talked to her the tears squeezed from my eyes from the yearning I could imagine, all the while my own six pound bundle lay curled on my chest. But our friendship prevailed, and we finally met face to face when I returned to run my meetings in January, and finally, this night, this two-days-before-her-birthday night, they were in our home.
The first part of her story was like mine: she was buoyantly pregnant, blissful, and amazed when her water broke: the baby ceased to move, but in her story Violet lived through that part.
It was only when she was born that she began to fail; like others we know she was whisked away in the confusion and Sada was left to finish off the business of birth while the doctors tried to bring Violet round. When all was tidied up Sada hurried on lame, limping legs, bow legged but determined towards the nursery and upon entering was greeted by a team of doctors, all surrounding her little daughter whose face she could just make out.
Violet, what is going on, girl? Sada said, her voice full of beauty, enthusiasm, encouragement.
The words would prove to be magic: this was the moment that Violet had stayed alive for. She lived through the birth because at that moment her eyes flew open, and they fixed for a matter of a few, long seconds, locked in a stare with her mother, whose breath left her as the love rushed in and threatened to pull her underwater. Their eyes met, for that brief moment, and mother met daughter, and then Violet's eyes closed again and that was it.
They brought her round, and tried and tried, but three days of efforts could not make Violet come back to them in her entirety. Her parents held her as her heart finally ceased to beat, her spirit wrapped tightly around their hearts, where she would stay.
This was a year ago, a year ago today, and now I just ache as I think about what last night brought, that being the night that a year ago when they didn't know. That heavy, longing feeling, of such intense desperation to turn back the clock. To just turn it back and know, and know what to do to undo what awfulness has happened. The anticipation is almost enough to suffocate you. I wanted to drive through the darkness of the night to their house and sprinkle some kind of fairy dust over the house to stop time, then creep in and lower their eyelids so they could have lain quietly in the dark, sweet dreams drowning out the cries of their hearts that urged them to do something, do something, do something.
But I am powerless, as is the rest of the world, to aid them in their grief. Violet's birthday will come, today on the 13th, the day she shares with three of my own sweet ones, and Sada and Peter will live through it with great difficulty, but in the end they will eat supper and wipe their eyes with kleenex and brush their teeth and go to sleep.
My only comfort is in knowing that they are true friends, friends who have shared a meal around our candle-lit table, an inauguration of friendship, of like-minded individuals with a common tragedy. My hope is that our friendship will fuel us for years to come, bathed in the knowing that our daughters have left us with much more than we could ever know.