Twenty years ago at this time, I was on maternity leave with my new baby girl, Lucy. We were still reeling at the tragic events of September 11, which included my cousin’s death in one of the twin towers in New York city. Thankfully, the holidays were approaching and our spirits were lightened by the festivities…Thanksgiving at my parents, Santa photos with my little boy and baby girl, a visit to see the amazing light display at the local zoo, and reveling in the joy of the season in anticipation of Christmas.
During this time, I returned to work on December 11, 2001. On that day, our lives changed in an unfathomable way. Our three-month-old little girl died during her afternoon nap at the daycare. It was ruled as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). I won’t replay the details because it is just too sad. Her death broke me, my husband, our son, and extended family to pieces. The scars are still in our hearts and souls.
During this time each year, the scars start to ache and burn. I am reminded of the emptiness in my arms, the hugs and kisses I can’t have, the isolation of grief, and the hopelessness of a future without her. Tears stream from my eyes as I write this. I still ask God, “Why did you take her?”, and I still have no concrete answer. I have a lot of unanswered questions, mostly regarding what life would be like if she was alive today.
Even though there are many things I don’t know, what I do know is that I have adapted to this life without Lucy here on earth. Twenty years ago my spirit was crushed. I don’t remember much of what happened in those first two years following her death. I recall that I slowly started looking forward to events with family and friends. I continued to work. My husband, who quit his job to care for our toddler, eventually started a business. We had a baby boy 18 months after Lucy’s death. Life continued along. Our boys went to school. I advanced in my career and my husband grew our small business. We experienced four miscarriages and the death of my parents. Then, amazingly, we had another baby boy 10 years after Lucy’s death. We kept moving forward.
During all of life’s events, I eventually started volunteering for the SIDS Foundation of WA (now NISSA), and then joined its board of directors, became board president and, at some point, served as the Executive Director. During the many years, I’ve spoken with grieving parents, taught Safe Sleep Education workshops throughout Western WA, written grants for education funding, served on an Infant Death Review committee, and lobbied local and national legislators on the importance of safe infant sleep and the need for funding to help reduce preventable infant deaths. I like to think that the time I’ve spent volunteering with NISSA has been my “girl time” with Lucy. She is with me through it all.
The decision to live life purposefully, love our boys, volunteer to help others, and keep moving forward has been a good one. So much has happened in 20 years and I am grateful for the life I have with my husband and three boys who are now 22, 18 and 10. Even though I still don’t know the answers to many questions and I miss Lucy every single day, it gives me great comfort to believe that she is cheering us on in our work, play and service to others. She is always with us, even if she is unseen.
During this holiday season, please be kind to yourself, grieve as you need to, love those around you, be of service to someone else, and know that your child is always with you in some way…cheering you on as you move forward day-by-day.