It is Valentine’s day and I’m in a hotel surrounded by diapers, juice, Tylenol and clothes. Ellis is sick and I’m trying to make her nap. Jude is in the adjoining room playing with Dave. They are both laughing a stuffed puppy. The Olympics are on. We are all tired. We’ve been snapping at each other. But all I can think about is how much I love them.
We are in Omaha to visit the girl who was my maid of honor, and I was hers, we’ve been friends since sixth grade. She’s always been the Anne to my Diana. She’s always the one who had the guts to do what we both thought about. When I just talked about it, she dyed her hair black. While I just dreamed, she got dread locks. In high school, she pierced her own belly button. I still am too chicken to get any other piercings besides my ears.
I’m here because she lost her son this week. He was only 11 months old and he didn’t wake up from his nap. Just like that. So, simple and yet so confounding. I never met her son. But in the past few days I’ve been learning about him. How he was a snuggler. How he was almost walking, not yet, but close. How his sisters loved to pat his head so much they rubbed off his baby hair. He loved cheerios and a was a first-rate food spitter. They were going to go to Disney World in two weeks to celebrate his first birthday. The snacks for the trip have been sitting on counter. Everyone who flows through the house has been eating these snacks–whittling away at the supply, a bag of chips, some crackers, a candy bar, skittles.
I can’t be here forever, even though I want to be. But this isn’t about me. I can escape and she can’t. I can sit in this hotel room and get surrounded by other cares–are there crackers? Is Ellis well enough to swim? Should I curl my hair? Who thinks about curling their hair?
I’ve been cleaning her house. Making people eat.I can’t fix things so I make a sandwich. I can’t make everything better, so I clean the floors. It’s a cruel symmetry. When you have a baby people come to hold the baby, clean your home and make you food. This is what we are all doing now, but our arms are empty and we are all one hug away from a sob.
My friend was telling me the story. Of getting the call at work. Of going to the hospital. Of seeing her child surrounded by doctors and nurses. She said that she went to him and said, “This is a child who is loved. This is a boy who is so loved.”
I don’t know what I am doing here, really. I don’t know what to say. No one really does. All we do is walk around and talk of movies, where are the paper towels, has everyone eaten, is everyone drinking water, he looked so cute in that hat, and I love you, I love you, I love you. Over and over and over.
It’s Valentine’s day and all we have here is just love–love to pour into that big empty place.
If you’d like to help. My friend’s church is collecting donations for the service. Here is a link to an email her church sent out. At the bottom of the email is more information about where to send donations.