AN UNFINISHED SYMPHONY (Part 2 0f 3)
A Grandfather’s Thoughts on Sudden Infant Death (SIDS)
A Guest Post by John K.
We were blessed to have Kadence for the weekend before her death, Friday and Saturday nights. Memories of her are more recent and real. Sunday we took her to church, and it was the best I had ever seen her. She was so bright and alert, babbling away during the hymns and choruses, looking all around and smiling at everyone she saw. Everyone could not help but smile back at her. She had a nap during the sermon, but as one friend said, tongue in cheek, “She may not have been the only one.”
Friday night she had slept in another room. Saturday night my wife said she would feel more comfortable if we moved her playpen into our own bedroom, so we did. Kadence was a little restless during the night and I found I heard every little fuss and whimper. At about I could not sleep so I got up and went into the spare bedroom. Still, I could hear intermittent cries coming from our room, even through two closed doors. I lay awake until probably about , feeling guilty for leaving Kadence in Eva’s care, so I got up and went in. Eva had Kadence in bed with her, but the baby was still fussing and not sleeping. We tried offering her a bottle, but she did not take it. I thought the husbandly thing to do was to let my wife get some sleep so I took Kadence into the spare room with me. I tucked her in, lying on her back beside me in the double bed, with the covers under her arms (she always liked her arms free, so it was no good to try to cover them, she would just throw off the covers).
When I was a little boy, I remember my mother telling me that if I couldn’t sleep, to recite the twenty-third Psalm from memory. She always said that I would be asleep before I got through it twice. Funny, as much as I like the more modern translations of the Bible, the twenty-third Psalm just sounds better in King James English. I lay down beside Kadence in the dark, gave her her soother, gently placed my hand upon her tummy, and began to recite softly;
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
By the time I was finished, she was asleep. I didn’t even have to say it the second time. I suppose that because she was so tiny, she didn’t need the full dose.
* * *
It is Friday night, the night before the memorial service. I am sitting in my study staring out the window. People are passing by, walking, jogging or walking their dogs. They don’t seem to care. Don’t they know what has happened? Don’t they know there is grief here? Life has no business going on as normal. I am thinking about what I have written; about tucking her in that last night with her arms over top of the covers when suddenly I can visualize the scene so clearly. I can see here little face and shoulders above the blankets and her little pink sleepers. It’s as if I’m right there. And it hits me, “God! Kadence isn’t here. She won’t be with us anymore.” I curse myself for all my intellectualizing. For all these words I’ve written. What business have I, feeling pain. It is Kadence who is gone. She won’t be with us any more, ever. O God!
* * *
C.S. Lewis, in “A Grief Observed:”
“There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in... Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”
We were extremely thankful for people’s presence and calls. Even if it felt awkward and people didn’t know what to say, it was nice having them there. There were times when we merely sat in a circle on chairs in the living room, no one speaking for minutes on end, but I am still thankful for their being there. It would have been unbearable to be alone. People sent notes with names mis-spelled. People stammered, not knowing what to say or how to react or how we would react. It didn’t matter. The mistakes were somehow most precious of all because it showed people willing and wanting to help regardless of appearances. The faux-pas made it seem almost more genuine. I will try to remember that if I ever have the opportunity to comfort someone in a similar position. One might think, “I should leave so they can be alone,” or, “I won’t call because I don’t know what to say,” or, “They’ve probably had too many calls already,” but that is not the case. A grieving person needs the company, and to know that others are caring, even if they can’t say so.
* * *
Christians say, “I will pray for you.” Non-believers say, “I will keep you in my thoughts.” What an incredible difference there is between the two! How sad not to know the power of prayer. Even though the heart is in the right place, and those thoughts are much appreciated, that is all they are; thoughts. They are so ineffectual, compared to the mighty power of a believer’s prayer.
Who will ever know the effect in all of this of the prayers of our brothers and sisters in the faith. As excruciating as the pain was, what would it have been like if not for those prayers; some of them from people we did not even know. People came up to my wife in the mall, saying, “We’re praying for you.” Psalm 124 begins: “If the LORD had not been on our side ...” I wonder… what would it have been like if He weren’t. I think of it often.