When I was 8 my grandfather Hixon died. He had leukemia and did not make it very long after his diagnosis. My grandfather and I shared a birthday and that always made me feel special. He was a really great man, funny as hell, and his funeral was attended by hundreds of people. I’m not kidding hundreds. This story is not about him though, but his mother, my great grandmother Ottie. Ottie was a great lady too, the kind of woman who smiled with her eyes. She baked the most amazing pies, won awards for her poetry, traveled across the country to collect rocks and minerals, and made the BEST fried chicken in the world. She was just so beautiful to me. When my grandfather passed away there are only a couple of things I remember clearly. The amount of people that showed up to his funeral, the sadness of seeing him in that coffin so thin, the anguish on my great grandmothers face and a statement she made, “No mother should ever have to bury her child.” Even at 8 years old I remember thinking how correct her sentiments were and feeling so sad for her. She had lost her 63 year old baby. She then when on to live on her own to 100 years old. She was so cool.
A few years later, my aunt was pregnant with her third child and faced the same predicament. She was full term and the baby passed away before being born. The day that this happened I had a middle school field trip planned to Cedar Point. I had never been and was pretty excited to go. My mom and dad told me not to attend because my aunt and uncle were going to have a funeral that same day for my little cousin. I was a selfish brat and went anyway. I remember getting on the bus and immediately thinking I had made a mistake. I started crying but quickly dried the tears as to remain “cool” and went about the day like nothing happened. When I got home my father would not even look at me and my mother reiterated her disappointment. I asked how my aunt and uncle were and my dad snapped and said “How the fuck do you think they are? They just lost there son.” I ran up to my room so ashamed at myself and my stupid, selfish decision. The next day I apologized to my dad and all he said to me was you don’t need to apologize to me you need to apologize to your aunt and uncle. I knew I did. It was a couple of weeks before I had the guts to do it. My uncle came over and I asked if I could speak to him outside. We were out by the garden and I started balling and said how sorry I was for them. I apologized for being selfish and not being there. He gave me a hug and said he appreciated it. I never did give my aunt a proper apology. Aunt Chris, I am so sorry. You are such a wonderful, kind, and loving woman and mother. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I’m sorry I was not there for you, uncle Bruce, the girls and baby Robert. I don’t regret a lot in life but know this is one thing if I could do over I would in a heartbeat and I have felt that way since I was 13. I’m also sorry that is has taken me this long to give you a proper apology. Your strength and love are so inspirational.
Last January I went back to school. It was scary and nerve racking. My thought process was something good had to come out of my second miscarriage breakdown. It ended up feeling good being an adult student, going to class, and getting A’s. One of my classes was Intro to Social Work and the second class period the professor had us give are latent reasons for taking the class. People were spilling there guts. Many had been through some type of social work system from abusive relationships to drug and alcohol addiction, welfare, etc… and found the system flawed or inspiring. Some were new students that heard the professor was cool and others were adults changing careers. When I got up to tell my latent reason I put it out there. Shaking like a leaf, I told my story of recurrent loss, coping with substance, quitting jobs that I love, and looking to education now to better myself and do something good for others. Everyone was warm and EVERYONE had a story so once I sat down I felt ok about my honesty with strangers. The next person to go up was a blond girl a couple years younger than me. She then told her story about having a daughter at a young age, being in an abusive relationship and getting out, almost going to jail, and recently losing an infant to SIDS 8 months prior. She was visibly upset when she told her story, but she never cried. She talked about the brief time she had with her baby girl and how going back to school and making both of her daughters proud was very important to her. At the end of her story her voice cracked and got horse when she mentioned how much she loves kids and how she wants to protect them by becoming a social worker and she looked at me and apologized for my losses. I was already crying throughout her story but then I lost it. She walked back to her seat and I mouthed “I’m sorry” back to her.
How do these women do it? How do you say goodbye? How do you put one foot in front of the other? How do you find the strength?
I am amazed and touched by these women. All so different and so beautiful. I’m sorry you had to experience what you did. And although, I do not know what the future hold for my little girl, there is a great likelihood that I will join your club sooner than I would like. Thank you for giving me inspiration and hope.