Saturday, September 10, 2011

Stacy and Amy

The routine at David's grandparents' house is to get up in the morning and have breakfast in their sunroom that overlooks the lake.  This weekend is cool and gray, but the view is lovely and the breeze feels good.  This morning, we carried out there the big plastic folder with all of the information that his grandparents had gotten from the Chemo Information Meeting at the hospital, and the breakfast table was strewn with brochures and pamphlets detailing all the miserable side effects, posing questions for your oncologist, listing caregiver support groups.

David and I paged through these as we drank our orange juice and tea.  He used a highlighter to mark the questions or information he wanted his grandma to be sure to read carefully.

It wasn't long before his grandma got her coffee made and came out to join us.  She was carrying a greeting card in her hand, and she pulled out a letter that was folded up in it and said that she wanted me to read it.  Gene has gotten tons of "Thinking of You" cards in recent weeks--they've filled up a basket in the dining room and it's always nice to see how many people care about his grandparents.

So I unfolded the letter, expecting to read a funny story about Gene.  This letter was sent by a good friend of theirs who had attended church with them for several years, but had been away for last year or so, acting as a caregiver for someone in her family.  She'd recently returned to town and heard about Gene's cancer.

She writes in the letter that she's thinking of Gene and keeping him in her prayers.  That they miss him at church.  And then she writes this:
I hope you won't mind my sharing of my personal experience in a very sad time in my life.  My first children were precious twin daughters.  I wanted children more than anything.  I was advised not to have children as I have only one kidney.  I am sure you and Peggy know I am a very determined person.  I decided to have a baby anyway.  My twins were born prematurely.  Stacy lived 2 days, Amy lived almost a week.  My heart was broken, and I sought comfort from my church friends.  But they said all the wrong things to me in trying to offer comfort.  They said, "You're young, you can have more children" and worse yet, they told me it was God's will.  I spent 2 years mad at God, stopped going to church, and wondered how the God I had loved and had worshiped my whole life would allow my babies to die.  My Christian parents were devastated, no only by my loss, but not knowing what to say to help me.  But what my Mother did say to me repeatedly was that God had not deserted me.  She told me that life is not sustained on mountaintops.  It is in the valleys that true growth takes place.  It is there where we find God most easily.  
She's not offering platitudes, or vague well-wishes, or promising Gene that everything is going to be okay.  But she is telling him from personal experience, that even in the darkest moments, faith and friendships can sustain him.  She can say these things with honesty and authority.  She had two baby girls who were so wanted, and so loved, and in the wake of their loss, she found a way to go on.  And I'm so grateful that she felt compelled to share this with Gene (and with us).  I hope she realizes that her kindness is a beautiful tribute to Stacy and Amy.

I should add that, as far as we know, she has no idea about Eliza.  She's been friends with Gene and Peggy for several years, but she's never met David or me, and she wasn't in town at the time of our loss, having only returned a couple of weeks ago.

She closes the letter with this:
I have never shared my story with anyone, but somehow it seemed the right thing to do.  I hope it was.  We will continue to pray for you, and are here if you need anything.
I can't believe she's never shared this story before, but it's obvious that her girls have still been a part of her life at every moment.

This lady has no clue how much we really needed that story.  She just felt that somehow it seemed like the right thing to do.  I'm so honored that she found the courage to tell Stacy and Amy's story, and I hope someday I have the opportunity to tell her how much it meant to all of us.


  1. After we lost Cale, I always felt touched when people would reach out and share their story of loss. You immediately know how genuine they are in their words and actions and it really did provide comfort on a different level. Thank you for sharing this. It reminds me of one of your older posts that I was just stalking the other day - about how e are all connected by grief, but also by love. This is a good example of that.

  2. I'm always so baffled to hear stories like this. The woman lived in silence with her grief and never shared her heart? It makes me feel sad for her-- despite me being more recent in our loss and obviously experiencing the raw pain more intensely. We all need that outlet to grieve. I'm just so beyond thankful I have an outlet.

    Totally off topic since this is about David's grandpa... so sorry about that. I love what she said about how growth occurs in the valleys. I've noticed this within myself, despite all the dark and ugly pieces that have worked their way out during this process of longing and grief, too. I'm so glad she felt compelled to share her story. Cards like this meant SO MUCH to me in the beginning stages of loss. I never really liked the ones that just said, "Thinking of you" because I felt like they didn't have a clue what it felt like to be in such agony... but I loved the cards where others shared their souls. It made me feel normal and whole-- when the rest of my heart felt empty and weak.

  3. I too can't believe women of previous generations literally had no support. None. And that they never, ever shared their stories. In so many ways, we are the lucky ones, despite how bloody unlucky we've all been. I must have told Hope's story a million times now, at least. The connections and the sharing is what sustains me.
    Thinking of you guys.

  4. Oh gosh, I had to read this post a couple of times, and had tears in my eyes. How sweet of her to share her story in order to give some perspective that she KNOWS grief, and challenge, and heartache, and she knows how hard it can be. I love that she shared this story. And I truly, truly hope that you reach out to her, even if it's by mail in a card, to thank her for her story, and share yours, and tell her how much her words meant not only to David's grandparents, but to you as well. How amazed she will be when she finds that her comforting words and her touching story reached past her intended target and reached you as well.
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story.

  5. That story definately had God in the middle of it. I am so sorry to hear about Dave's Grandpa. The grandparents sound like wonderful people. Thank God they have you and Dave. What a wonderful story this lady shared with you. It brings tears to my eyes. I think it would be wonderful if (sometime in the future) you were able to talk to this sweet woman. Sending hugs to you and yours.

  6. Beautiful story. The way women know these things--when to share their stories and with whom--always takes my breath away. It also mirrors so much of what I feel. Beautiful woman. Sending love, and much gratitude for sharing this today.

  7. We're everywhere, aren't we? She had no idea jus how much she was helping, & not just David's grandparents.