Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Stopping and Not Stopping

Tonight we stage at our house: three families, seventeen children, to caravan across Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey to attend Josh's wake on Friday and funeral on Saturday. 

I say seventeen children, but my two oldest are not minors anymore, and indeed, my oldest daughter just turned 21 and could drink if she felt the least desire to consume an alcoholic beverage. We are cousin-heavy on the younger side. I had four children before any of my siblings were married, and so my oldest ones are a bloc, sometimes included with the grown-ups, sometimes shunted off with the babies. My second daughter is the only one of the cousins to have ever seen little Joshua, when she went out to Philadelphia to help the family during his tracheostomy, and then only for a brief moment, long enough to capture a photo of him as he lay in his mother's lap.

It is hard to write about a grief that is not primarily your own. My brother and sister-in-law bear the hardest burden of all, and Joshua's story is rightly theirs to tell, in their own words. But all of us have been praying for him from a distance, and poring over every photo, and waiting through nights for updates to the family text. On Sunday, we were all avidly following the updates as his vital signs gently but inexorably dropped: heart rate 90, heart rate 30. Heart beat was not detected; in the arms of the Lord now. I had thought, somehow, that I would be at home when the message came, ready to receive it, but I was out in public, in the bright sunshine. Joshua never saw the sun in his 4 1/2 months of life, except perhaps as he was being airlifted to Children's in Philadelphia. Except for the moment of his birth, he was never free of wires or IVs or tubes. He was held once by his parents when he was conscious, as a bright-eyed newborn.

Even trying to find a place to grieve is difficult in a busy house. As I sat in the rocking chair in my bedroom (with the door that does not latch, with the lock that's fallen off and now lives on the mantel) trying to cry somewhere out of the public eye, kids kept coming in, looking for something or wanting to use my bathroom. Darwin had been off on a scout canoe trip. Some older daughters were leaving for work, or getting home from work -- I can't keep straight who's coming or going at what time, no matter how often they tell me their shifting schedules. Life keeps going on.

Even right now, in the silence of the morning (the only time when it is silent), it doesn't seem real that people are descending here tonight, or that we're leaving in the morning. Suits have been mostly acquired for young men, with one holdout who stubbornly falls into a window in which the old First Communion suits are too small, and the Confirmation suit too large. Daughters have taken each other shopping for funeral blacks in their different style essences. I do not have a pair of black dress shoes to go with my dress, having put off looking at Zappos until it was too late, and am pondering whether it's worth it to stage a trip to the mall in the few hours remaining for action. Piano lessons start in half an hour, and no one is stirring. 

It's going to be another beautiful late spring day in Ohio, and Joshua will be buried on Saturday in New Jersey. And then we're into rehearsals for Fiddler on the Roof -- did I tell you I'm playing Golde? Maybe we'll stop to breathe in July, after the show, after the Boy Scout canoe trip. Joshua is not breathing, never breathed on his own after January. Life doesn't stop, except for those for whom it has stopped. And even that is only the start of something larger.


Anonymous said...

It’s crazy how life doesn’t stop in the face of an incalculable loss. And, I guess, good?? For most everyone to keep doing what they’re doing. Meanwhile, you make time and space to grieve and pray. I am taking a break from a workout and came across this post, and am thinking of that sweet little baby and his family, and his extended family. I hold you all in my heart, even as I ago back to my workout, absurd as that seems.

Emily J. said...

Prayers for the entire Hodge family, especially your brother and sister-in-law. Hope the trip gave you and your family time to for mourning and reflecting on life together.