March 25, 2016
A Letter to My Son, Twenty Years In.
Dear Bretton~Elijah Lucas,
Twenty years in, you are still transforming our lives.
Weighing a tiny one pound, two ounces & just ten inches long, you could have never realized the enormous impact you had on our lives. You rushed into our arms and our hearts, two hours and twenty minutes after the first contraction, too early and without warning.
You were to be our fifth child, our third son. We know you would have had the same unruly, curly locks that your siblings all possessed as little ones and the same tiny button nose that graces each of their faces. We wonder if your dimples would have been present on the cheeks of your face or hidden away above the cheeks on your bottom. We ponder the question often: would your eyes have been blue or brown, a fifty/fifty chance in our house.
Your four older siblings had all arrived three days past their due dates. Fashionably late but naturally born. You came early and while your birth was also natural, we would have given anything for an intervention-filled birth, if it meant your journey could have had had a different outcome. You were to also be born at home but with the first contraction, we knew something wasn’t quite right and we made the choice to head into the city to the big hospital, with the thought and belief that modern medicine would find a way to stop labor and give you a fighting chance. Instead, you arrived too quickly and nothing could be done. The care we received was compassionate and hands on. Everyone cried with us and despite your incredibly sad ending, our hearts were filled with love and gratitude for your brief moment in our lives.
Bretton~Elijah Lucas, you have transformed our lives by the lessons you have taught us. Before you were born, we were living an intentional, well thought out life that included taking the time to cherish the moments. But when you arrived, those moments had more meaning and we from that moment on, truly embraced all that the universe has offered to share with us. We know you would have found your own creative outlet in our family, a family that includes filmmakers, artists, photographers, musicians, writers and actors. Your birth was the catalyst that created the freedom for the artistic energy that flows through our house on a daily basis. We know that without this experience, we would have probably been more subdued about our creative endeavours but you taught us that we have only one chance at this life and making the best of the opportunities we are given has fulfilled our bucket lists with much more meaning than we could have ever dreamed.
Our journey has been long and at times, painful beyond belief. We wondered if we would survive another day, another moment and would this experience ever end. Exploration of our grief, which each of us has done together and on our own, brought light to the dark and healing to our hearts. But it did not mean that we have ever forgotten you, Bretton.
Healing does not mean forgetting.
As a couple, we were aware early on that many relationships do not survive the pain of baby loss. Love hurts, love heals. Keeping you alive in our hearts has helped us remain focused on who we are as individuals, who we are as partners and who we are as parents.
As parents, we are reminded on a daily basis that you are not present in a physical sense, Bretton, even though we feel you all around us. We parent you from afar and love you just as much as your siblings who walk with us. Like all parents in the community, we are often asked about our family and how many children we have. Proudly, without hesitation, we share who you are and where you fit in our family. For a time, I did struggle with how to answer this innocent, sometimes daily question. My hesitation was centred on the idea that if I shared our story, I would make the person who asked uncomfortable or even sad. What I discovered many times over was that the individual asking sometimes had their own story to share and a healing conversation would open the door. Other times, the shock I expected did not happen but instead a moment of compassion and sometimes a “please tell me about your son”.
Just when we thought we had settled in to the new life that was created after your birth, just when we thought we had made peace with our experience by moving forward to help others, just when we thought it was safe to venture into a new pregnancy and continue with the creation of our family, just when we were hopeful and healthy again, the death of your baby sister, Ciara-Rose Kennedi, shook our world upside down again. With disbelief, we tiptoed forward. But this time, we knew who had our backs and what we needed to do to realign our life once again. It wasn’t harder this second time around but it wasn’t any easier either. We are thankful that we have wise people among us and one of the wisest during this second birthing loss experience was our midwife, who answered our daughter’s Chynna’s innocent question about why this happened to us again. She held Chynna in her arms and said “Bretton is not alone now; he has his baby sister to watch over and to keep him company”. We are often comforted by the image in our head of our babies together forever.
Grief is painful and harsh, messy and exhausting but in the end, worth the heartache, for the moments we had with you and your baby sister. A series of six early losses, treasured and precious babies just the same, have added more dimensions to our baby loss journey. We have not been fortunate enough to have a healthy Rainbow Baby, a baby born after the storm of baby loss, so all our parenting energy has gone into raising the incredible children we were gifted with and now our grandchildren we love so much.
Where are we now, twenty years in? We don’t take anything for granted. Every breath is cherished, every milestone and every moment celebrated. Even the things that don’t go well are honoured. We had hoped to live a life that would not hold regret but until you came along, we couldn’t quite envision what that looked like. You taught us that there are reasons for things to happen, that bad things do happen to good people and sometimes we are chosen for the task. But regrets are absent. There is no time for regrets, only time to celebrate what you have brought to our lives. A peacefulness, a calm and an understanding that what is meant to be, is meant to be. That doesn’t mean it’s never been messy or hurtful. We have lost friendships, had strained family moments and wondered at times what path we were supposed to take. Our spirituality was splintered and today continues to be a place of exploration that we believe will continually evolve as we journey.
In the end, Bretton, our grief energy turned into a community project, a legacy for other’s to access as they too mourn the loss of their precious babies. If we couldn’t have you, we knew we could at least share our story with others who truly understand. And create and spread the awareness that the impact of baby loss on family’s lives does affect the community at large. We started small with our H.E.A.R.T.S. Baby Loss Support Program in Sherwood Park. This quickly turned into what is now the BriarPatch Family Life Education Centre. The legacy piece of this project is injected in the name: Briar is a combination of your name and Ciara’s, and Patch represents the small patched heart we have used from the beginning for the H.E.A.R.T.S. logo. A gift to our community that we will leave here, in good hands, when we one day move back to the West Coast. Another dream but one that we’re not quite ready to take on just yet, as our work is growing and far from complete.
Bretton~Elijah Lucas, thank you gracing our lives and for the path you placed us on that warm spring evening. It has opened a whole new world for us, not the one we planned but now the one we imagine we would have missed if you hadn’t slipped gently into our arms on March 25th, 1996. We miss you daily, we speak of you constantly, we remember every little thing about you and our love for you continues to grow.
Love, mom, twenty years in.