She would have been 32…

She would have been 32…

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

            When the card arrived I checked the return address.  As soon as I saw from whom it had been sent I knew its contents.  The sender, a very dear friend of mine, is one of a very small number of friends and family—with the exception of my immediate family—that understands and remembers why March is such a difficult month for me.

I don’t know why my friend remembers.  Maybe she writes it down somewhere.  Maybe it is the way that she is wired.  I have no idea and will never ask her.  That she remembers and chooses to acknowledge is what moves me so very much.  It would be much easier, and in some ways safer, for her to ‘forget’ the difficulties of March or, at least, ignore its significance for Candice and me.

Every March 18th I have to stop and give pause.  In the last 32 years I have done that every year except for last year.  March 18, 2017 I was feeling miserable all day.  My stomach was very upset and I could not seem to shake it.  Suddenly—very suddenly—I realized the date.  For reasons that I can neither remember nor explain I had been so preoccupied that I had let the significance of the 18th of March escape me.  The moment that it occurred to me and the moment that I apologized, the pain disappeared.  That may sound overly mystical but I am not exaggerating.  The pain vanished, though tears of sadness and embarrassment ran down my face.

March 18, 1986 my first born, Bianca, was delivered three months prematurely.  She was beautiful.  As beautiful as her sister, who would be born three years later.  She was a stunning golden brown who moved her arms and legs and squeaked rather than cried because her lungs had not fully developed.  Three days later, as a result of a brain hemorrhage and underdeveloped lungs, she passed into eternity.

Medical personnel could not give me and my wife, Candice, a definitive reason for the premature birth.  It may have had to do with the flu that Candice had suffered the week prior.  It may have been that Nature identified a serious problem that necessitated terminating the pregnancy.  In either case, we got to see our first born for all of three days.

The friend who sent the card was told that story a number of years ago in a very personal conversation.  She cast no judgment nor fell into simplistic language in response.  I could tell that she somehow felt, quite deeply, the pain that  Candice, and I had suffered in 1986, and that which continues to be part of who we are to this very day.

I have often said that there is an “underground” of parents who have lost their children.  It is an underground that those who have not lost children rarely identify, let alone acknowledge.  It is a body of people who are not very trusting in sharing their experiences because they—we—regularly encounter those who are uncomfortable with death generally, and the death of children in particular.  In fact, many of our friends and family are so uncomfortable that they would rather change the subject or simply go silent.

The friend who sent the card is, therefore, quite unique.  She seems to understand that the pain does not disappear.  It is something to which you grow accustomed. It is a pain that need not immobilize you, but it is a pain that you must acknowledge.  And it is a memory which you cannot and should not let go.

My deep love for my first born cannot be measured.  And I believe that her spirit understands that.  On March 18, 2017 her spirit needed to remind me of her presence.  Her spirit knew that I was busy trying to save humanity but that there was a moment that I needed to share with her.  It was her moment, or better put, our moment.  I apologized to her spirit countless times and hope that I have been forgiven.

The card that my friend sent means more to me than she can ever imagine.   She appreciated that after such a loss one does not just “move on,” but one must mourn, reflect, and adjust to the new environment, an environment that may look much like that which existed prior to the tragedy but which differs in some very deep ways.

To fellow members of the “underground,” find friends like mine and cherish them.  They do not replace therapists and should not be treated as receptacles for all that you are experiencing.  But they can be so essential in providing the setting through which you can carry out the healing process, a process that will last your entire life.

I think these thoughts on the day that my first born would have turned 32…

13 thoughts on “She would have been 32…

  1. I too know your pain and I cannot thank you enough for sharing your story Sometimes, through my selfishness, I feel as though I am the only one to have felt this pain. At other times, I I pray that I am the only one who knows this pain as I don’t want anyone else to feel this bad.
    With age and maturity, I have come to thank the Powers That Be for the blessing of conception and for the granting me the gift of feeling that depth of love….regardless of how short the time we had together. I never knew I could love that deeply. She made my heart grow
    I never had a chance to name my child. However as with your beautiful Bianca, as long as we live, they too will live…in our hearts. It is such a deep love that not even death can take them away from us. Happy Birthday, Bianca.

    • You and I have known each other for many years. I so appreciate your sharing this with me and with those who view my site. As a fellow member of the “underground,” i share your pain. The pain resonates with me and always will. Love to you.

  2. I will be long gone, but I still hope that the depth of human feeling expressed here will be more the norm than the exception. Thank you, Bill Fletcher Jr.

  3. So sorry to hear of this, Bill. One expects ones children to bury them, not the other way around. My sympathies are with you and your family.

  4. Thank you for sharing this, and doing so with such grace and compassion. I cannot even begin to imagine what you and Candice experienced 32 years ago, and every March since then. I send you both hugs. (And another word of thanks for all of the work you do to make this world a bette and safer place.)

    • Thank you for such kind words.
      I don’t discuss personal matters very much on social media but when it comes to my first born that is a different matter. It was in meeting other parents who had lost children that I found myself driven to share my/our experiences and sentiments.
      Thanks again!

  5. Yes, thank you. It is a part of life we share more often than we want. While we assume the ideal of our children living fully and in turn caring for us, if we think about our past, when many children didn’t survive, these terrible losses may have been our normal. Instead we now often live with illusions until reality strikes. I am also one of this “underground.” And as I live on, it is not just my first son gone since 1975, but others I was not prepared to lose.

  6. We have talked about loss before. This was beautifully said and I cheer on the person who reaches out to you. We all need those friends who just know what to do. The great thing is that your beautiful daughter lives on this beautiful sharing.

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