One of the most sacred moments of my life was the very first time I held Matthew. The environment and his lifeless body, neither were as I had planned, but they were what I had. This was my hello and my goodbye. I sat in my black dress in a chair just a few feet from his little white “bed” and was surrounded by flowers, not happy flowers, but the flowers that make your heart hurt. Soft music along with a slideshow of his photographs were bitter reminders this was real. This was death. This was my life. This was my son and he wasn’t breathing and I didn’t want to either.
Because of the emergent situation with me after I delivered Matthew, I was rushed into surgery and would not be coherent for days to come. Matthew was held at the morgue until I was released from the hospital. Everyone in our family had held him, rocked him and loved on him while I was in the operating room. They had some time with him. I never did. Not until his funeral. It was two days before his funeral that I had the strength to ask to see his picture. I saw only the bottom of his feet before I was unconscious.
I was so scared to see him in the photograph… and when I did, I melted and died the rest of the way. The day of his service, three weeks after his birth, I was escorted to him. I cannot adequately write words for the feelings and emotions I had within. I was so scared to touch him but when I saw him; I couldn’t hold him fast enough. I was HIS mother. I was finally with him. And in that moment, the only thing that mattered to me was being his mother.
The room was full of family, my husband right beside me as I held Matthew for two hours during the viewing. The long line of visitors came in and out, hugging me and my family and I am sure giving me some verbal love of encouragement. I wasn’t really “there” though… I was too busy being a mother to my beautiful baby in my arms. I spoke softly to him about many things, softly because I didn’t want anyone to hear what I was saying. I studied his face, his hairline, his fingers and all of the beautiful features he had.
During this time I had with Matthew, I kept focusing on his little chest… it wasn’t moving. It was still and silent. I just kept looking at him and praying he would wake up, praying he would breathe. I pulled him tightly to my chest and whispered these words in his ear, “just breathe.” As I stared again at his chest, lifeless, still, tears engulfed my eyes as I realized no matter what my plea was, what my prayer was, he wasn’t coming back to me. He wouldn’t be breathing while he was in my arms.
There are many things I don’t remember about that day, or that time in my life, but I will never forget the precious moments I had with Matthew. And I would never forget that he didn’t breathe.
“Just Breathe”~ the very words I spoke to my son would become a daily echo in my life.
I had no idea that the words I spoke to my son would be words I would speak so often to myself or hear so often from my husband. “Just breathe!” I would lose my breath, and my strength to obtain it would cycle away. Panic attacks, yes, they are real, they are devastating and they happened to me more often than I had ever imagined they could or would. Ronnie would painfully sit at my side and hold me as he calmly reminded me to breathe. In these moments, it would have been easier to give up than to fight. Truth. A terrible truth.
Learning the truth about panic attacks helped me to cope with them. If I was alone, I would look in a mirror and say out loud “just breathe” and focus on an object while repeating in my head “just breathe” over and over until it subsided. Not an easily learned task, but one I had to face.
During several of these panic attacks, when my breath would become so shallow or almost non-existent, I would think of Matthew and I would wonder about his first and last breath here, was he in pain, did he suffer?
I cannot help but want to know that.
I wonder what his first breath of Heaven must have been like!
I cannot help but want to feel that.
When I hear the song “Breath of Heaven” by Amy Grant, my heart can literally feel the agony that Mary must have felt, but at the same time I am also enveloped in peace as I hear the lyrics and the melody, it is just beautiful. The chorus speaks volumes to my soul…
Breath of Heaven, hold me together Be forever near me, breath of Heaven Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy
Breath of Heaven, hold me together Be forever near me, breath of Heaven Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness Pour over me Your holiness for You are holy Breath of Heaven, breath of Heaven Breath of Heaven
Isn’t that beautiful?
Every day the breath of Heaven is holding me together and is present in my life. I recognize the moments I need to hear His gentle voice instructing me to “just breathe.” I recognize the need I have is great and always will be. I hope I am never too proud to admit that. I admit life is hard after losing a child, really, really hard. And forever different. I admit some moments are really agonizing to get through and that it takes crazy centered focus on breathing and a big, big God to get me through them. I know I couldn’t live without God’s presence in my life and in my heart. Not for one second could I survive without my faith that I will be with Matthew again. I am pretty sure when I get to Heaven I will hear these words, “Mommy, just breathe!” Oh breath of Heaven… be forever near me!
One line in the song really sums it all up for me… “But I offer all I am for the mercy of Your plan Help me be strong, help me be, help me.”