Friday, January 11, 2013

Aging aunt seeks answers

You might recall a month or so ago when I wrote about my nephew's baby, Alexandria. She was welcomed to our world three months before she was due, and sadly she left us as quickly as she arrived. She died yesterday, in the arms of her dad.

As a tiny preemie, she developed an infection in her intestines that her little body just couldn't fight. My nephew Alex, and his girlfriend Cameron, had only about six weeks to be parents to this precious child, and I am proud of the parents the became during that time. I'll be honest: I didn't have a lot of faith in that. They are so young - still teenagers, forgodsake. What are they thinking?

So I went about my business, in my own judgmental way. See, that's the thing with judgment: you don't always realize you're doing it until you're proven wrong.

If you know me at all, you know that admitting I am wrong is my least favorite thing to do. I would rather have a simultaneous root canal/mammogram than admit I am wrong. But when it comes to this ... this precious life and these young but wise parents ... I got it all wrong.

When the time came to make tough decisions - choosing to let L'il Al go rather than keep her hooked to machines that might allow her to live but would most definitely result in a short, painful life - Alex and Cam chose to let her slip away. I admire them for that, because I'm not sure I could do it.

And here's where I divulge my own feelings, because it's my blog. First, I feel ashamed. Ashamed that I didn't trust Alex and Cam to be parents. That I was angry with them for getting pregnant in the first place, and for not putting Ali up for adoption in the second place. I'm ashamed that I didn't walk my own talk; I didn't lead with love.

I feel guilty. Guilty because I didn't meet her. I saw photos, I kept up to date on her growth, but I couldn't work my schedule around to make it up to Park Ridge to meet my own great niece. In order to go, I needed to be with either Alex or Cameron, and it was hard to make that happen. I should have tried harder, because when time ran out I was sick and couldn't go. I had a song picked out to sing to her, I knew which book I was going to read to her, but she died before I had the chance. I will need to find a way to make that right in my soul. I have no idea how I'm going to manage that, and I fear I will always feel broken because I failed her.

Sometimes, I feel angry. Why is it that things that seem to come so easily for others come so hard for my family? A man as young as our Alex should never have to be as strong as my nephew is having to be. We lost mom before we were ready; two of us sisters experienced the heartache of divorce; my twin brother has cerebral palsy; now this loss? Yes, it makes me angry. And, as my sister Jenn reminds me, cancer rears its ugly head for the Bieritz clan more often than we'd like. Mom dealt with it twice and it killed her. Dad and Jenn have both gone the chemo route to hold leukemia at bay. Anyway, I'd like our family to catch a break, thankyouverymuch. And yet I know that's ridiculous; it seems like we have a lot to bear, but I'd still not trade it for another life, or another family. It's made us who we are, and we are damn strong.

I also feel an intense gratitude for my family. I have always said that when the chips are down, you should never bet against us. Over the past month and a half, I have watched my family become even more amazing than I knew. I've watched Alex manage his work, his spiritual growth and being a father. He has done it mostly with grace, and I'm so proud of him. I've seen the rest of us become more accepting, and rally behind one another.

I don't know what I'm supposed to learn from all of this. I may never figure it out. But there is something I know for sure. L'il Al is already having a ripple effect. The people who know her story are living in the moment, with the realization that nothing is guaranteed. The moment may be all we have.

I will always wish that I had made an opportunity to have a moment with her. I take comfort in the knowledge that while she was on the earth, she knew great love from great people. And when my days on earth are over, I will finally have my chance to sing to her.
In happier times, Alexandria JoyAnne Adams rests in the arms of her father, Alex.


J Early said...

Aw, Mags, I don't know what to say. You will need to forgive yourself for not seeing her. The grief process is long and arduous let it happen. Remember we love you.

Maggie said...

Thanks, Janie. I will get there, eventually. In the meanwhile, it's good to remember that I am loved even as I'm flawed.