7. Sometimes I thought August died because he didn’t want to stay with us.

Six days after August was born and died, a friend of mine sent me these lyrics from a Patti Smith song:

Image from UK painter Mary MacCarthy — click image to visit site

Little emerald bird
wants to fly away
If I cup my hand
could I make him stay?

Little emerald soul
Little emerald eye
Little emerald soul
Must you say goodbye?

All the things that we pursue
All that we dream
are composed as nature knew
In a feather green

Little emerald bird
As you light afar
It is true I heard
God is where you are

Little emerald soul
Little emerald eye
Little emerald bird
We must say goodbye

I just came across them again, 18 months later, and they brought back how horribly devastated and betrayed I felt when he died. I felt like he left us on purpose. I remember our midwife coming over three days after the birth, and asking her, “Why didn’t he want to stick around? We love him so much. We were so ready for him. Why didn’t he want to stay?” She said, “Oh, sweetie, I think he did want to stay. He just couldn’t.”

It’s been over a year and a half and it’s still hard for me to understand. Sometimes I get it: Everyone dies. Some people die much, much younger than anyone expects. That’s what happened to August. That’s all.

But other times it just washes over me as strongly as it did from the start: Why didn’t he stay? Is there anything I could have done to make him stick around? Did he leave because there was something lacking in us, his parents? Something undeserving? Is there greater meaning in his life and death than simple biology?

Did he know how much we loved him and wanted him here with us? And still do?

Is this really a hole that can never, ever be filled?

Will I ever get used to that?


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