I don’t always know the right thing to say. Sometimes, I say something so idiotic that for the next week I replay it in my mind, and wish I would have been swallowed by a sinkhole before I could say that dumb thing. Sometimes, in my attempt to be funny, I say something horrible or mean and undeserved. There are even times when I’m stuck in that middle school mentality and I cut someone down or laugh because I’m trying to make myself feel better. Wrong? Totally. I mess up sometimes.
But, I apologize. I explain. I try to make it right. There have been times when people (and people totally out of the blue-a parent from my school whose daughters I didn’t even have, a co-worker and friend who just ghosted me with no explanation) have made it impossible for me to make it right, and it haunts me. Years later, I still think–what could I have possibly done? Their names weren’t even on my lips, did I agree with something or laugh about something that I didn’t realize?
Maybe, though, I said something that I had NO idea that cut them right down to the core.
Maybe I shared something about myself that unknowingly made you hate me. Perhaps I didn’t react in a proper way and I didn’t realize it.
But then… then sometimes I get it RIGHT.
Sometimes I get it so right that it will stick with me for the rest of my life.
I was in a business meeting, with the director of a local business whom I had never met before. In the middle of pitching my project idea, the topic of my book came up.
I explained that my book is about my premature twins dying, and about how I just wanted to write a book that was raw and real and honest. This woman, this stranger, she looked right at me and said, “I lost a baby the day before she turned one.”
Tears sprang to my eyes. She had mentioned her other children were grown and out of the house, so I assumed this happened long ago. And it’s funny because I write magazine articles, and blog posts, and books, and go around speaking about what to do in these situations, but it still kicks me right in the gut when someone tells me that their baby died.
Their baby died.
I looked up at her and gathered my voice, and I asked, “What was her name?”
“Julia,” she answered.
She paused. Tears sprang to her eyes.
“Thank you so much for asking,” she said. “No one has ever asked me that, in my entire life, since this happened.”
Sometimes we get it right. Be the person that you needed, y’all.
Christy Wopat is a 4th grade teacher and writer. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and who hilarious, energetic children, and without her boy/girl twins, Sophie and Aiden, who lived for a very short time in 2009. She is honored to share her words in hopes of breaking the stigma surrounding infant loss and grief.