Caring for sick kids is par for the course when you’re a parent. Until you’ve lost a child. Where calm and logic once prevailed, crazy creeps in.
I’m never sure people understand when I say I am different. Reactions, thoughts, perceptions all shift. Like how we handle sick kids. A fever is not just a fever. It’s the beginning of the end. We see the crazy there, but to a bereaved mother it is warranted…the correct reaction.
In reading Kathy’s poetry, she so powerfully captured these thoughts and emotions. I am so honored to be sharing one of her pieces here.
When I began sharing our story of child loss, I had a dream. A vision that one day I would help other grieving parents share their stories. That I would help provide a platform, and this blog would become more than just my voice.
Please help me welcome Kathy from Less Than 1 Percent.
I peel off my toenails mindlessly, one by one
as I stare at his listless body,
limp with fever, and
scribble down notes in my brain.
His temperature was 102.3 at 6:03pm,
and after an emergency run to CVS (what good is a spare bottle
when the medication expires so damn quickly?!)
I gave him Tylenol and a few sips of water at 6:27pm.
“Just rest, sweet boy,” I whisper softly,
patting his forehead with a cool washcloth
(‘but don’t close your eyes, they might not open again!’
I whimper to myself).
I sit on the floor in his room, hovering close enough
to hear his breath go in and out, and I wait.
I will check his temperature again at 6:57pm,
but if it’s not gone down I am taking him to the ER
(winter weather advisory be damned).
I look up at the canvas print of him on the wall,
wrapped up in ducky bath towel
that proudly tells the world he is JAMES.
When he dies, what will I do with that picture, I wonder.
Should I keep all his pictures up or will that be too upsetting for his brother?
What did James do today,
What do I need to remember?
I go to the kitchen and dig through the trash
to retrieve a piece of yellow construction paper
covered in green, directionless lines
and two random half closed circles.
I will treasure this, it could be the last thing
he ever colored.
How could I lose another one of my babies?
I shake my head in disbelief,
this cannot really be happening.
I self-soothe with one simple thought:
Tinsley and he will take care of each other in Heaven.
It is time to check him, and I know.
His temp will read 106, he’s contracted some rare horrible virus
that only kills .05% of children, and
he won’t even make it to the hospital.
Defeated, I press the button: 101.1.
I startle and I startle him. It’s dropped a whole degree?!
“Mommy, can I have some water?” he perks up.
My mouth gapes open and a tiny piece of hope
We rest together, and I feel his body growing cooler.
We wander into the living room to watch Curious George
and nibble on some crackers.
His temperature has dropped to 99.5,
almost back to completely normal.
I press his body into mine,
inhaling the giggles and snuggles —
thank God I get at least one more day of this.
I breathe a sigh of measured relief.
“I do not think he is going to die tonight,”
I tell my husband.
He whirls around in his chair, alarmed.
“No, Kathy, I don’t think so either,” he says gingerly,
concern for me dripping off his face.
kiss the top of James’ head
and stop planning out his funeral.
Kathy Gardner lives with her husband Charlie and their two little boys in Newtown, CT. Their 3rd child, Tinsley, is already waiting for them in Heaven. Tinsley died suddenly in December 2017 at 32 weeks because of a True Knot in her umbilical cord. Kathy shares about her journey as a loss mom on Less Than One Percent. Kathy works in public relations, adores Bob Dylan, and is a proud Dartmouth alumn. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.
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