Do you ever find a story that touches you or changes you, even if it doesn’t directly relate to you, and even if you don’t know the people behind the story directly?
For me, it’s the recent story of Hudson Slater, a baby boy just over four months old who was born with a heart disease, was then treated successfully, and who died “out of the blue”. I heard about his story from a mutual friend Penny and I cried over a boy and mom I have never met.
Two weeks later, Andrea shared her son’s eulogy on her blog whatiwastryingtosaywas and again I wept over such sadness and bravery, and thanked G-d again for a healthy child who I often take for granted. Andrea has since started a campaign called The Hudson Initiative to raise awareness for coronary heart disease, which I’ll write more about next week. In the meantime, read Andrea’s blog post, which she’s given me permission to share.
It’s two weeks today since I last held my son.
I have no real learnings for you. I couldn’t write a book on anyone’s grief but my own. I can tell you it still feels surreal. I still wake up wondering why he’s so quiet. I still feel the universe was unforgivingly unfair on both Hudson and us. And I still miss holding him close to my chest. I can also tell you that we haven’t touched his things, except to smell them and rub them against our faces. We haven’t even discarded the milk we’d prepared so diligently the night before he died.
It’s hard. I can go all day feeling drier than the Sahara and then I feel the longing and the emptiness in our home or I look at one of his photos, remember the time I took it and the flood of tears comes.
The only thing that doesn’t go away, even momentarily, is the pain. It’s physical and real and on-going. Unending.
I won’t write much more today. It feels disloyal to his memory still. Everything feels disloyal to his memory. Eating without interruption. Watching a TV show in its entirety. Taking a walk outside without his baby monitor. The guilt is all consuming. We’re alive and he’s not.
However, I did promise a few mothers that I’d share my eulogy with them and it was the only thing I wanted to get right on the day we bid him a public farewell, so here it is.
I sat alone this morning, the day before we sent your body away, and listened for you. I tried as hard as I could to see you. And in the quiet noise that is nature, I felt my own heart skip a beat as it has done several times a week since you were born… I drew in a sharp breath and remembered… That this is where you live now.
I’ve woken up before the sun every day since Friday. My intentions always become very clear to anyone paying attention. I would hate the sun. I would hate it with every ounce of my being because it refuses to mourn. Because every time the sun comes up it means another day I have to live without my son.
Every day I’ve begged whoever’s in charge to take me back, just to last week Wednesday or Thursday so I could stop it. But, most hatefully, it will not be.
Every day I’ve asked that I be taken instead and every day ends and I’m still here.
Every day I’ve blamed myself for letting my beautiful son die.
Every day I get up from the couch where I sleep, I go into the room where he woke us at 01h30 on Friday morning to make sure we were there for him when his little heart gave up and I weep as I realise anew that nothing we did changed anything.
Every day I rise and I am as cold to my bones as his soft skin was the last time I kissed his face and all I want to be is as cold as the Winter that has truly arrived since the day he died.
But, no matter how hard I try to hate everything in this world, it doesn’t last.
I realise the sun is actually Hudson. I realise that he will not allow me to hate for much longer. I know that he will turn my anger into calm. My grief into smiles as I remember him. I know this is a long journey and I won’t be the person he needs me to be today but I also know as the sun hits my shoulders that he will be there to comfort me until I can be the person he knows me to be.
He mourned with me on Saturday and Sunday and the sun was hidden behind a blanket of miserable grey clouds and rain (as my friend Axel posted in a private message to me: “The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”) but now Hudson warms me. He reminds me that he’s here still.
That everything he went through in his life was mapped out long before he entered my body and became a part of me that would never leave. That he chose his path. He chose Nick and I. He chose his faulty heart. He chose the difficult and trying life that he lived and he chose his death.
Before Hudson, I realise now, I was a shell of a person. I would say I was selfish and wanted what I wanted in life and had no room for the bigness of children. But it was a lie. I was just empty and didn’t know any better.
I was walking along looking for somebody and then suddenly I wasn’t anymore. He forced his way into my life and, in doing so, saved me from myself. I fell truly in love for the first time in my life. Hudson turned me into something. He turned me into love. He filled me. He completed me. He made me count.
You are all here because you knew Hudson in one way or another. So I’m not going to go into the surgery and hospital stays and rubbish doctors or even tell you the funny stories of the nurses who poked fun at his fake crying. You’ve all followed his journey through pictures and updates, you’ve all fallen in love with him vicariously because, even from a distance, it was simply impossible not to adore this kid.
What you might not know though is that no matter how hard things got. No matter how many times I thought I couldn’t put my son through another day in the hospital. No matter how meatily the guilt swelled up inside me as I watched them poking his skin in search of veins. There was never a day in his life that my son didn’t smile broadly and gummily and his dad and me. That he didn’t stare deeply into my eyes with eyes as big as his face – eyes that enveloped me entirely with one glance and showed, with such beautiful honesty, his instant and surging love for his mom. Eyes that told me exactly what he needed at any given point of the day.
He was happy and giddy and shy and full to the brim with love. He was a personality and proud of it. He had a sense of humour and a physical wit that would put me to shame. He held his head up high almost from birth. He spoke his first word. He laughed as his father and I touched his little tummy.
Even his last day with us was one filled with gums and fistfuls of grabbed hair as he hugged me tightly and snuggled his little face tiredly into my neck.
But one of the most important things I’ll remember about my son was his impact. When he was born, I said he was going to be famous. When we found out he’d have to undergo surgery, I said he was going to be big and important. I told him he had no choice but to make it through and that I was expecting nothing but success. And he was and still is all of these things.
Because of Hudson, people are hugging their children a little tighter at night.
Because of Hudson, one mother might ask her doctor to perform the check on her unborn son for CHDs and, in doing so, save her child.
Because of Hudson, Nick is a father, the proudest, most attentive, doting father I have ever known or could ever have hoped for.
And, because of Hudson, and only because of Hudson, I am now a person of substance. I am Hudson’s mother, and this is always going to be bigger than anything I ever wanted to be.”