I enter our kitchen after a long day’s work. It’s a cold November night, already dark outside. My phone starts ringing – I can feel it vibrating in my purse. I fumble for it, finally finding it. I glance at the screen. I’m relieved to see that it’s Mark. He’s in Minneapolis on business, doing audit work for one of his many Minnesota clients. His schedule is demanding when he’s out of town. So I’m glad for the opportunity to talk to him – the days are long, and the nights are longer sometimes in my state of intense grief, especially when Mark’s away.
“Hey hon,” I answer.
“Hi. How was your day?” Mark asks.
“Fine,” I reply, “How was yours?”
“Good. Busy… And now I’m headed to a client dinner. So I can’t talk long…”
“Oh, okay…” I’m disappointed, “When do you think you’ll finish up with dinner?”
“Wait just a sec,” Mark shifts his attention to the driver, “Sir, I think we were supposed to take the exit we just passed.”
I hear muffled voices, some debate about whether the destination is north or south, “What’s going on?” I ask Mark.
“I’m using Uber. I don’t think this guy knows where…” Mark begins to explain in a hushed voice but quickly shifts his attention again, “Sir, I think we need to find a way to head north! The restaurant’s north. We could have taken this exit too. Ugh – now we need to find another one to take.”
I hear more muffled commotion, more discussion regarding the direction of the restaurant. I know what’s happening. My heart’s beating out of my chest. I can feel my blood pressure rising, my pulse racing, “What’s wrong?!” I demand to know.
“Nothing,” Mark whispers.
“What’s wrong?!” I demand again.
“I said nothing. I think we’re going the wrong way,” Mark sounds exasperated.
“What’s wrong?!” I plead yet again.
The phone goes dead. I throw myself onto the couch, dissolving into a sobbing mess. I know Mark’s being kidnapped, Taken-style, but without the Liam Neeson-type combat skills necessary to defend himself, of course. He was fooled into getting into this car under false pretenses of receiving an Uber ride, and now he’s being driven off to some remote location, only to be robbed and then possibly murdered, after which his body will be weighed down by concrete and dropped into a lake somewhere in the state whose motto is, “the land of one hundred fucking thousand lakes” – no one will ever be able to find him.
I frantically pick up the phone and call Mark. It rings the usual number of times before going to voicemail. I call again. Same. I call again. Same. I call again. Same. I call again. I’m sent straight to voicemail this time.
“Oh my God, oh my God. Nooooo!!!” I wail, desperately through tears.
I picture a struggle over Mark’s phone at 70 miles per hour and the phone eventually being tossed out the window, onto the highway. Now nothing can save Mark. I ponder calling 911. I can’t. I imagine how it might go…
“Hi, I think my husband is being kidnapped in Minneapolis.”
“Because he won’t answer his phone!”
I feel so helpless. I call sixteen more times. I picture Mark’s funeral and how life will look from this day forward. I can’t believe I’m about to lose someone else I love. I call one more time out of desperation.
“What?” Mark picks up.
“Are you okay?!” I scream.
“Yes, what’s wrong?!” Mark’s obviously alarmed by my apparent panic.
“Where were you?!” I scream again.
“I just had to get myself to the restaurant. The guy was a total idiot and had no clue where he was going. What’s wrong?” Mark asks again.
“Nothing,” I’m slightly embarrassed, “I was just worried something had happened to you…” I downplay the emotional turmoil I’ve experienced in the last ten minutes.
“Okay, well, I’m outside the restaurant, and I have to go in now,” Mark explains.
“Okay. Love you. Bye,” I end the conversation.
“Love you too,” Mark replies.
And I’m so relieved, at least momentarily. But since Matthew died, this type of scenario has played out in my mind far too many times. I’m so terrified of losing someone else I love. I’m also terrified of someone I love losing me. I had these fears before. I knew tragedy could strike me at any time. But it never actually had. I guess there was some level of reassurance that came from this, no matter how illogical said reassurance was.
The thought of how quickly life can change continues to rock me to my core almost daily. There’s a difference between knowing this intellectually and experiencing the brutality of it – experiencing all being right in your world one second, and then, all being wrong, completely shattered to smithereens, in the very next second. Life is irrevocably changed, and so are you, with no warning signs whatsoever. The power and impact of the terror and the trauma and the suddenness of this cannot be explained using words.
Now, literally, anything seems possible. I’ve experienced the worst and have thus lost many of the protective mechanisms which enable most to insulate themselves from regularly entertaining such dark thoughts.
There is no more, “Well, maybe tragedies only happen to other people,” when you’ve experienced a tragedy first-hand. When you truly know how fast events can materialize, seemingly out of thin air. And when you truly know that nothing could have protected you from any of it. When you truly know that nothing protects anyone from any of it, really.
So now, it seems, if my perfectly healthy, perfectly beautiful child could die suddenly during week 32 of my textbook pregnancy, then yes, my husband could also be kidnapped by an Uber driver, his body dumped in a lake in Minnesota. Or the swollen gland on Mark’s neck (from a month ago, which has since returned to normal) could be something more ominous than the cold that apparently caused it. Or Howie’s failure to respond to my call could mean he jumped the fence, was hit by a car, and is lying dead in the middle of a street nearby. Or Jay’s few minutes of quiet could mean his heart’s beat for the last time.
I have these thoughts all of the time. I also have flashbacks of my night in the hospital, of being rushed into emergency surgery, and of the moment I learned Matthew died. And the nightmares… They involve all of the aforementioned and also include creative new ways I, or other family members, could perish.
In relation to this rainbow pregnancy with Jay, I try to think positively. Just as there are times I’m sure there is no way he will make it here safely, there are other times I find myself thinking that he will indeed make it here safely. Though these thoughts come and go at random. And most of the time, my thoughts/feelings lie somewhere in the middle.
I’ve had a few attempt to reassure me, “You’ve just gotta have faith…”
And, though I appreciate their sentiments, it is so damn hard to have faith in anything when maybe you had some faith before you were struck by tragedy. When you know “faith” didn’t protect you before, and that, technically, it won’t protect anyone, ever.
I’ve also heard a few other baby loss moms (Nora?) refer to a rainbow pregnancy as a “prove it” pregnancy. And I like this better. And this concept also seems to apply to life after loss in general…
Because I’ve been through the improbable and the worst. So it’s easy to imagine some other version of the improbable and the worst happening again. It’s incredibly difficult to believe in anything good when not long ago, I was so badly and irreparably burned. I need life to “prove” it can be good again, not just once, but repeatedly, over an extended time period, before I’ll start to believe it, before I’ll have a snowball’s chance in hell of recovering from any of these post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms I’m experiencing.
So I’m waiting, hopefully and skeptically, thinking, “Okay, life, prove it.”