I stared into the back of our SUV. My mind told me that there wasn’t a reason to be crying, yet my eyes didn’t agree. I quickly wiped away a tear and pulled down the hatchback. Its thud echoed loud in my ears. Finality has a sound. I’ve heard it a few times in my life.
As I walked toward the driver’s side of the car, my emotions switched to guilt.
What was I doing? Was I just going to erase everything? How could I possibly care? The thoughts collided with one another.
I shook them off, opened the door and sat down. I reached up and turned the key. I backed out of the driveway. I looked back towards my house and saw my wife standing in the front doorway. She waved goodbye. Somehow I knew the wave wasn’t for me.
10 miles away, a man walked through his house. As he did, his wife spoke.
“Just make sure it is in good shape!” Her small voice demanded
He turned to walk out the door.
“No more than $40!” she instructed one last time.
“Yes sweetheart.” He responded while laughing.
He got into his car and pulled out of the driveway. He looked back towards his house. His wife was still standing there. She lifted one hand and signed ‘I love you’, while her other hand rubbed softly over her stomach.
I pulled into the parking lot still battling my feelings. I made eye contact with myself in the rearview mirror as I continued the mental argument.
A car pulled up beside me. It matched the description of the vehicle a man had described an hour earlier during our phone call. Knots immediately formed in my stomach. I was on edge again.
“Here we go.” I whispered under my breath, stepping out of the car.
I popped the back of the SUV as the man circled around to join me. He extended his hand – I shook it.
“So this is it.” I motioned towards the contents.
He looked on – investigating. He began to reach out and touch the items. I felt a surge of anger swell up, I pushed it back down.
“There was no reason to be protective.” I told myself.
He took a step back. We both stared at the matching swing-set and bouncer. These were the last of items that my wife and I had been given at one of her baby showers. These were items that had never held the baby girl that they were intended for.
Two fathers stood there. One father looked on as he anticipated his soon-to-be little girl swinging in the soft pink flower-themed design – his face carried the slightest hint pride. The other father looked on as he remembered his little girl never did – his face carried the trails of ever-flowing tears.
“So these were never used?” the man asked with a hint of skepticism.
My defense and anger arose quickly. I felt my fist clinching. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to bring it back down this time. Every part of me wanted to reach up, slam the trunk and drive away as fast as I could.
How could he be so insensitive? Was he challenging the fact that my little girl was gone? Did he really think I would lie about her heart stopping one week before delivery?
The anger continued until I reminded myself that he simply didn’t know.
Should I tell him? Would that change his decision to purchase it? Did I want him to change his mind? The onslaught of thoughts overwhelmed me.
“No sir. Never used.” I finally spoke. My words flat and uninviting.
“So what is this from?” he challenged once more as he rubbed at a small scuff mark on the arm of the swing.
“Well, we moved it….from the bedroom to the back closet and it has….been there….we never used it….so maybe while it was in…..storage? My words fumbled over one another and ended with a question that I knew he didn’t know the answer to.
He continued to inspect the small mark on the otherwise brand new swing. He pulled out his phone as he took a step back.
“So what is the lowest you can go?” He asked while pressing buttons on his phone.
I hesitated as I realized the question had no answer. He wanted to know how much the item was worth to me, yet I was evaluating its intended purpose. My mouth was dry as I struggled with trying to put a price tag on one of the very last items that belonged to her.
“Can you do $15 for the bouncer? I think we will pass on the swing.” He spoke before I could answer.
Now he was rejecting my daughter’s swing? I was angry. I knew it wasn’t his fault. I knew he didn’t know but I still couldn’t stop the emotions.
“Let me check with my wife.” I finally muttered.
We both worked the keypad on our phones as we walked away from one another. After a few minutes, we reunited back behind the car.
“Yea…I’ll do $15 for the bouncer.” I forced the words out between tight lips.
He picked it up and looked it over.
“So this was a smoke-free house?” He asked without looking in my direction.
I finally gave in to the feelings I had been fighting all morning.
“No sir. None of us smoke. It has only been in storage. It has never been used.” I paused. “It was going to be for our daughter but…we lost her.” This caught his attention. He looked up at me for the first time since he had arrived. Our eyes met for a brief moment.
“Oh, I’m so sorry.” He responded.
I broke the stare and forced a smile. Two fathers on completely different sides of the journey of life and death stood silently in a parking lot for a couple more minutes. For a moment I worried that I may have introduced a possible outcome that he had not considered. I instantly regretted my words.
He reached into his wallet and handed me the money.
“Thank you.” His words carried more meaning than the exchange of goods required.
He turned and walked away. I did the same.
We have spent nearly two years letting go of the things that were for our little girl. Slowly, one or two items at a time, we have said goodbye. Each time we do, it feels like we are giving up a part of her. We have stored away a box of dresses, bows, blankets and other precious items that we will never part with, but even knowing that, it still hurts every time I load up the car.
How have you handled the baby items that were never used? Do you still have them all? Did you get rid of them all? Did you do it all at once? Did you do it a little at a time? No matter your answer, however you did it was the right way.