Nature Walked Away

Lynda Waddington

I can remember the weather on every significant day of my life, except the day I lost my son.

Some people will tell you that they have a soundtrack for their life. They relate certain experiences or events with this song or that artist. I'm not one of them. My life flips through my mind as seasons.

I can tell you the weather on every significant day of my life in vivid detail. For instance, I remember the exact glare of the ice on the side of the road just before my oldest daughter was born. If I pause a moment, I can still see the billows of my own breath as I walked into the hospital and feel the sting of the cold on my eyes. I know every snowflake that fell outside the hospital window as my second daughter was born. In contrast, I watched trees and shrubs renew their commitment to life as I sat in the hospital, on bedrest, before my youngest son arrived.

This relationship with nature hasn't just been limited to my children. I can tell you how tiny, thin clouds sprinkled the sky when my friends and I crossed the stage and received our high school diplomas, how the rain spit in my face the last time I spoke to my father before his death, and how the grass-dotted mud slithered from under my feet at the cemetery the day I buried my mother. If I breathe deeply, I can still smell the crape myrtle bushes the wind pushed through my hair the first time I fell in love and how the sun heated the rock beside the lake the first time he kissed me.

So, you'll no doubt find it strange that I have no memory at all of the nature of the weather on this date nine years ago. On that day — the day my son was stillborn — I couldn't tell you if it was warm or cold, rainy or sunny. For me, it was as if nature walked away.

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The few people with whom I've shared this observation have replied that I must have been in shock — that the trauma of what happened was so great that my body shut out everything else around it. Others believe that I couldn't have concentrated on nature when I was obviously so focused on God. Nine years later, I still think that nature just couldn't bear to watch or provide a memory access point over which I would have no control. I think nature understood that there are some memories that shouldn't be allowed to sneak up on you.

I have very few memories of that morning at all, despite the times I've sat up all night trying to draw some to me. I do remember how it began — the dizzy, sick feeling and then crawling on hands and knees to my husband and telling him something was wrong. I remember driving to the hospital, although I don't remember getting into or out of the car. A nurse helped me out of my night clothes and into a hospital gown. There were tests — a check for a heartbeat, an ultrasound. Although I knew something was terribly wrong, I just kept telling myself, "It's OK. We're full term. They can fix it." I've since learned that death, much like life, can never be fixed.

There were IV fluids and more IV fluids and a doctor, covered in blood, whom I didn't recognize. Someone kept yelling at me to push. I didn't want to. Since my prayers weren't being answered — the ones screaming in my head to please take me instead of him — I mostly just wanted to die along with him. But I was too weak to follow-through, and he was born. Then silence and emptiness swallowed us all in one moment.

Nature returned days later at the funeral, sending warm beams through stained glass in an attempt to warm me. I could see, but not feel. So I watched as the leaves grew brittle and danced in the wind. Snow came and went and then came again. Cardinals darted dizzily outside my windows, confused by the empty feeder.

I felt guilty those few times that I could detect the sun warming my arm or leg while I sat in the car, watching a much-too-fast world speed by. I'm not sure how long I went through life like that. But there did come a day when I felt the sun on the top of my head and I didn't resent it. There came a day when my daughter took me by the hand and led me into the rain and we danced — slowly at first — and then laughed in amazement as the raindrops soaked our clothing and streaked our faces. I don't think she could tell which ones were my tears.

I sat outside last night although it was much too cold and I had to coerce the dog to be a foot warmer. I had hoped to see a shooting star, spot some out-of-season wildlife or otherwise witness some unique event so that I would know I'm on the right path. I didn't. Our lives, although full of drama, aren't a Hollywood production. Sometimes, on the best of days, it rains. Other times you feel warmth radiating from your bones while it snows. Still other times, like last night, you just get a clear, star-filled sky.

At the end of the day, I don't think it is important for us to know what was playing on the radio or whether the sun peeked through the curtains. What's important is that, regardless of the tune, we sing along. What's important is putting your toes in the mud, feeling the heat of the sidewalk and, yes, even getting drenched in the rain.

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