We are honoring Heather and her family as dove releasers this year at the Running with Angels 5K on May 17th. Heather visits new parents when their babies are born. Only these visits are not the happy, joyful ones that take place so often in the new-mother rooms of the hospitals. Heather arrives with tiny blankets and beanies, her camera, and with the stuff she uses to make molds of little hands and feet of babies that won't be going home . . . She is a bereavement specialist. She truly understands what these new mothers are experiencing. She has become acquainted with so many families over the years. It isn't just that she has offered counsel, love and light through the countless dark hours. She has lived through loss herself--of two of her children. The most recent experience was last May 31st, 2013. Sweet little Tatum. Heather relates her story so beautifully at babytatumtime.blogspot.com. Grab some kleenex before you go.
When we lost our daughter Emily years ago, there was so much uncertainty. I didn’t know what to do. I didn't know quite what or how to feel. We had been made aware of her fatal heart condition before she was born, yet I didn’t know what to expect as I faced the prospect of losing one of our twin daughters. I could not foresee the incredibly powerful, absolutely empty feeling that began with her diagnosis and continued after her short mortal life was over. And yet we still had Amy. What comfort this sweet daughter brought (and continues to bring!) to our lives. I also could not fully foresee the incredibly powerful, absolutely soothing and eternal feeling that came as I transmitted my tears heavenward.
That semi-hollow feeling came every time we visited Emily's grave, as we remembered her burial on that frigid February day, and then as we saw her name etched into the headstone, each time bringing a harsh reminder of reality. When Emily died, I eagerly embraced all the help and comfort that was offered. I was very willing to submit to the wisdom and support of doctors, nurses, grief counselors, and family members--all those who were there to help us. I appreciated their knowledge, expertise and comfort.
Years later, when we were faced with losing another baby, I was determined to consider things differently. Upon my arrival at the hospital, just after confirming the death of our unborn son, the nurses suggested that it might help to have a visit from a bereavement specialist named Heather. I was told she would come and prepare me for what was to come. I immediately said no. I hope I was somewhat gracious, I can’t remember. But of course I didn’t need help! I had been through this before, and I knew all there was to know, didn’t I? In my shock and lingering denial of my situation, amidst the feelings of devastation and loss, I pushed away even the thought of needing her help.
Then, after little Eric was delivered a few hours later, I realized how wrong I was. I did want help and comfort. In fact, I remember pleading for Heather to come. And come she did. She arrived at the hospital soon after he was born, just after 2:00 in the morning. She wrapped his little body in a soft white blanket, took pictures of him (which I cherish), made molds of his tiny hands and feet (which I cherish even more), and gently tucked him into my arms. I could feel her tender, loving and understanding compassion, even though she knew I had pushed her away a few hours earlier. She respected the fact that I had done this before, and she was so kind as she lovingly took care of me, and of little Eric. She was a heaven-sent angel to me that night. And she continues to be, to so many other parents in their time of loss, whether it’s at a "convenient" time, or in the middle of the night. She continues to inspire. Heather will always hold a tender place in my heart.