Those of us who have been through child loss know as well as anyone the power of a moment in time. Grasping those moments with the child you know you may not have long, and trying to survive in the meantime and the after. It’s so easy to slip into a depressive cycle after losing your…
I sat at my friend’s computer hitting the refresh button. I tried shutting down the page and reopening it. Nothing would work. I felt frustrated and annoyed. On the last 3 flights I was able to reserve my seats. Why was it so hard to reserve this one? I had a window seat for my flight from LA to Sydney but I couldn’t book one from Sydney to Perth. I knew how exhausted I was going to be and I desperately wanted that seat so that I could curl up in a ball and go to sleep. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do this if I didn’t get that window seat. I called my Dad back home and asked him to try to book it for me thinking it was an issue from my end in LA. He couldn’t book it. The website kept shutting down. I called my husband. The same problem. So then a change of inner dialog of my mind began… “Carly, stop being an entitled princess! Be thankful that you are in a position to be on a plane.” And so I let my pettiness go…
Thankfully I slept for probably more than 8 hours of the 15 hour flight from LA to Sydney. I did not feel nearly as bad as what I anticipated. I arrived safe and sound in Sydney and caught the bus over to the domestic airport. As I walked onto the next plane I realized I was not going to be able to have a window seat. I was cool with that, still holding onto my state of gratitude for this experience and I knew my bed was only 6 hours away. I could do 6 hours. I found my seat. I was in the middle of the plane in between 2 people. A fly in fly out worker and a lady who looked to be in her early 70’s. I sat down and got myself comfortable. Sometime after the plane took off the lady sitting next to me introduced herself (today I will just refer to her as Jane) and we started having a chat. Jane had just arrived in Sydney a few days beforehand from Oregon, USA. She had bought herself a one month tour of Australia with 25 other people who she had never met before. She seemed excited and could not believe the Australian airlines offer meals and dessert on their flights. I learned that this doesn’t happen so much in America. We had a good laugh. Jane asked me what I was doing in America. I took a deep breath in. I always find it a little difficult to explain my work to strangers because I never know how they are going to react and in this situation I was going to have to be seated next to this woman for another 5 hours. So with a deep breath I explained to her that I had visited LA to speak at the OC Walk To Remember and that I was being interviewed for a documentary called STILL. I told her that I had experienced the stillbirth of our son back in 2007 and that my heart has led me into this corner of the world to help other people heal from such a loss. Jane’s eyes welled with tears.
“I know your pain”. She whispered.
Jane went on to explain to me that she had 3 children. Her first child, a son, was stillborn at full term. Her second daughter died at 8 after living a tortured life from a condition that she was born with. If this wasn’t enough devastation to live with, Jane’s third child – a son, died in a house fire when he was 14 years old.
I had no words. I sat there and held her hand and we cried together. We spoke about her children and my children. We spoke about our friends and family. We spoke about all the different comments that people have said to us over the years. We spoke about our healing. I think I cried most of the way home. I could not and still cannot even comprehend the pain that Jane has been through in her life. All of this which happened so long ago. She spoke about how she was nervous about telling the group of people about what she has been through in her life. So far the conversations have revolved around their work, but nothing about their families or children. It occurred to me that it does not matter how much time passes, I am always going to have to face the “How many children do you have” question.
I listened to Jane talk about her children and her life without them. I admired her deep passion for living her life to the fullest. There was a gentleness that surrounded Jane. She is a very peaceful soul. But I could tell that she had experienced a tremendous amount of sadness in her life. I imagined the nights that she cried and screamed herself to sleep. I saw her standing in the burnt out ruins of the house. I saw her burying her children at 3 separate times. I felt all of the unfairness of her situation. In her eyes I saw all of my friends who have no children here on Earth to parent. They were all there looking right back at me. I think the mothers who cannot conceive children and the ones who struggle to conceive must feel so segregated in our community at times if not always. With all the talk of new pregnancies and births. I can only imagine what that must be like to just be a witness to it everyday. To watch everyone else get another chance but them. How do you go on with the knowledge that it may never happen for you? How do you accept that? I asked Jane. She said that she had a couple of options. She could let her sadness and anger overcome her being and destroy her life or she could create meaning in her life by helping others. She believe the urge to reach out saved her. Jane survived by living a life of service to others. Somehow Jane found a way to accept her reality. I thanked her for sharing her story and children with me. I told her that I would now carry them and her with me everywhere that I go. Jane wove a new appreciation into my heart for the childless parents of the world. I see you. I hear you.
I got off the plane to the smiling faces of my 3 precious daughters and my loving husband. As I embraced them all, I cried tears of gratitude. I introduced Jane to my family. Sam knew by the look on my face that this woman was someone who was very precious. We exchanged email addresses and I hugged her goodbye.
I was meant to sit exactly where I sat on that plane that day. The universe worked its magic even though I was trying my best to work against it. Jane and I were pulled together in mid-air, in between the Heavens and Earth and it all happened in an unexplainable way. I am not a believe in ‘Everything happens for a reason’, but I I do believe that some things are divinely orchestrated. If I had of been given my window seat I would have missed out on meeting such an incredible woman. I would have missed out on that life lesson. This experience has taught me that at times when things are not working for me, maybe I should just let go a little sooner. Struggling is pointless when something is meant to be. I have learned that no matter how rough my situation is there is always someone doing it harder. (I think I already knew that) And the most amazing thing is that I am going to be learning these lessons for the rest of my life. I will never have all the answers and I think I love that. I never know where this road is leading me or who I will meet along the way and that is exciting to me. Our stories are meant to be told. No matter how hard they are. Stories heal, so never stop sharing yours for you never know who they will help.