Saturday, January 8, 2011

I did not know that she could go away.

I'm quoting here from a letter Mark Twain wrote to a close friend after the death of Twain's daughter, Suzy.  She was 24 years old and she died of meningitis while her parents were traveling abroad.

* * *

You have seen our whole voyage.  You have seen us go to sea, a cloud of sail--and the flag at the peak; and you see us now, chartless, adrift--derelicts; battered, water-logged, our sails a ruck of rags, our pride gone.  For it is gone.  And there is nothing in its place.  The vanity of life was all we had, and there is no more vanity left in us.  We are even ashamed of that we had; ashamed that we trusted the promises of life and builded high--to come to this!

I did know that Suzy was part of us; I did not know that she could go away; I did not know that she could go away, and take our lives with her, yet leave our dull bodies behind.  And I did not know what she was.  To me she was but treasure in the bank; the amount known, the need to look at it daily, handle it, weigh it, count it, realize it, not necessary; and now that I would do it, it is too late; they tell me it is not there, has vanished away in a night, the bank is broken, my fortune is gone, I am a pauper.  How am I to comprehend this?  How am I to have it?  Why am I robbed, and who is benefited?

* * *

I still marvel at the fact that we thought Eliza was such a sure thing.

Yes, I worried.  But I never really doubted for a moment that at the end of my pregnancy we were going to go home with a beautiful baby girl.  She was a sure thing.  My baby showers, our decorated nursery, the clothes and diapers we bought, all of these things were proof that she was to be ours.  Like Mark Twain and his wife, we trusted the promises of life.

I did know that Eliza was part of us; I did not know that she could go away.


  1. Beautiful and so very true. After Sam's death, I cringed at how certain I was that he would come. It seemed so foolish in hindsight. My husband and I refer to that time as "the bubble".

  2. I'm so glad I have you to point these great quotes out. It is so very true.

    When we first got to the hospital because I was in such bad pain with Olivia, they tried to find her heartbeat with the belt thing, and they couldn't, because she was too small. I remember seeing the nurse give the doctor "that look" while they were getting the ultrasound machine, and I was so totally convinced and assured that she was just fine in there, I'd just seen her on an ultrasound the week before, so of course she was okay (in my mind.) And she actually was okay in that particular moment (although by the next day she was gone). But I still shake my head at that confidence I had, I was so sure she was okay. I guess no one expects the horror stories to happen to you, until it does, and then you realize it can happen to anyone.

  3. So true - I always knew he was a sure thing. Always. I did not know he could go away. Like Monique says, I too cringe at how confident I was, how naive...and at the same time, there is such a beauty in that confidence. I don't know that *not* having it would have made his death any easier, that's for sure.

    A friend of mine just posted something on facebook to the extent of "We're going to have a healthy baby boy joining us come May..." after getting their amnio results and I wanted to write, "No, actually, this is not certain. What is true is that your wife has a male fetus with no obvious chromosomal abnormalities in her uterus right now." While getting a pedicure a few weeks ago, I was sat next to a very pregnant woman. I kept fighting off this horrible impulse to say to her, "You know, your baby could die. Right now, your baby could die. Or in birth. Or the day after his birth. Your baby could die."

    I don't like that this is how I view the world of pregnancy and birth now.

    Everything is changed.

    Sending love to you, Brooke.

  4. It was the same for me. We were 3 weeks away from my son's due date. We had all the baby stuff, had had a baby shower, and I had just finished washing all his clothes. It never occurred to me that anything could go wrong. How wrong I was.