There Was a Caesar Salad, But This Time, No Breakdown. And the Grief? I’ve Been Noticing How the Landscape Has Changed.

WED/ /
So I went to Olive Garden with my husband and son tonight… to celebrate our fourteenth wedding anniversary. This might seem like a strange place for an anniversary dinner. But we had just received a gift card for that restaurant in the mail earlier today, inside a “happy anniversary” greeting card that someone remembered us by, and we hadn’t yet thought about what to make for dinner when it was opened… nor did either of us feel like making dinner. We had just spent money a couple of weeks ago on sushi for my birthday, and we knew it would not be prudent to go and do anything quite so lavish tonight. So Olive Garden it was. Izzy loves their bread sticks, making it easy to assume he’d be on board with our choice.

As soon as our decision to go there was made {which took all of three seconds… it went something like this… “Wanna go to Olive Garden?”…”Yes”…”Okay.”}, my mind immediately took me back to January 17 of this year… just nine months ago. It had only been one month since we lost our baby girl, and we were still reeling in the loss. Actually, loss then felt much more like a fog. And it also felt like exhaustion, defeat and, for me, like I was constantly in one-day-before-the-worst-period-of-my-life mode. The drop of a feather could make me weep. I was a mess… understandably.

The reason my mind was taken back to that night tonight was because we went to Olive Garden then, too. Same thing. We had a gift card. Neither of us felt like making felt enough strength to make dinner. And we just needed to get out. Our office then—where the decision was made, just like it was tonight, because that is the room we spend most of our time in {as it also doubles as a TV/play room}—looked 100% different from how it looks now. Like the landscape of our grief, this room has changed so much. But the change of scenery in our grief has been quite a bit more gradual than the much quicker transformation that our office saw.

I won’t retell the story of that tailspin-of-a-night at Olive Garden months ago, because I already wrote about it {here} once before… that same night, before going to bed. But I bring it up tonight, because if you were to read it {or if you already have}, you’d see just how different things are now from what they were that night. And making such a point in my anniversary post tonight comes for two very specific reasons that are very much tied together.

First of all, I just found it ironic that we’d be going to Olive Garden again tonight… the first time we’ve been back since our patronage on January 17th. It’s ironic because, not only is today our wedding anniversary, but today is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I remember last year, while pregnant and just a couple of months away from meeting Anysia, finding out that this day of remembrance falls on our anniversary. I felt it cruel for a moment… that a day my husband and I celebrate and find joy in would be the same day that is a reminder to not just the pain of our loss, but also the pain so many experience. But then I began to see it as a comforting thing. When I married Mr. B, it was the start of a family… this family. There were years when we thought that it would only ever be just the two of us to call “the Family”… when we couldn’t seem to get pregnant. But then we were surprised by Laughter, after suspicions and strange symptoms led to a pregnancy test… a positive test. Two of them, actually. And then, eventually, led to Isaac.

Two years later, we would choose to have one more. Well, I believe in a sovereign God, so ultimately, He chose. But we too made a tangible choice that day… on April 6th, 2013… Let’s do this parenting thing one more time. Let’s give Izzy a sibling and companion. We’re pretty darn old and probably quite crazy to consider this, but let’s just do it!

And so, we made Anysia. Even before we lost her and went through what we did, we knew that she would complete our family… it’s the meaning of her very name. She would be our last, and with her, we’d wrap it all up… or shut down the factory, as they say. It wasn’t even over concern about the high risks that come with having a child so late in life. It was just that we were done. Physically, emotionally, financially. We looked so forward to experiencing again all that we had experienced up until that point with Isaac… for a second time. And even more than that, we looked forward to him having a baby brother or sister. But then we were just done.

Satisfied {another meaning of her name}.

Content.

Finished.

Done.

We could envision finality in that sense. Just never in the sense that was to come. But I won’t go into that here, because I’ve done that many other times in many other ways here in this space.

Back to my point. It almost feels, in ways, as though these two days being together… sharing the same square on the calendar… makes sense out of something where sense can not be found. That probably sounds weird. Don’t get me wrong. Losing my daughter… holding her for only six hours when I should have held her for six years and more… there is no sense in that. And if I ever look for sense in all of this, I try to go first to God’s word, because it is a much bigger picture I see there, and the senselessness of all this is washed away by that hope. But aside from that, there is just some sort of comfort in the fact that we share our wedding day with a day created to remember Anysia and the babies like her who have died too soon.

We started our family today, fourteen years ago. Today, also, we remember the one {along with so many others} who we lost too soon, but who still completed this family… completes this family.

On our first anniversary since losing our infant, with the vivid reminder of where we were nine months ago, simply as a result of going to the same restaurant we had gone to nine months ago, I realize how different things are today.

And quite honestly, this isn’t just something that popped into my mind today. There have been several days lately when I thought about how almost-“normal” life seems now. Not without pain. The pain these days is a sneaky one. It can come up on me with such stealth-ness when I least expect it… while I’m doing menial things like walking around the house cleaning or doing some other mundane task, and then WHAM… it just crushes my heart out of nowhere. And I feel this desperate, sharp ache that seems somehow foreign, because it’s been so long gone and replaced by a duller ache. As with any pain, over time, it begins to be replaced by a numbness your body creates to protect you from agony.

But I’ve noticed a change. In fact, without those little tiny out-of-the-blue bursts of heartache at the thought of her, I wouldn’t realize just how much things have changed and how different the landscape of my grief is. This is not to say that I don’t ever still have tough days… for longer periods like I had a few weeks ago right before we planted Anysia’s tree. But even those times are a testament to the landscape and the changes that come in grief and pain.

I’ve often referred to those tough relapses as waves… as have my counselors and a dear friend who’s been through what I have {about five years ago} and has told me I can expect these waves, speaking out of her own experience.

So when another friend sent me an e-mail today to tell me she was thinking of me and also sent me a link to this blog post by Shauna Niequist, I was touched by Shauna’s use of words {which is the other reason I made the point about how different our last Olive Garden meal was from tonight’s} to describe how the pain and grief subside, or at least change… for the better. She used the word recedes. Immediately, I pictured those waves, just like the picture my friend and counselors had planted in my mind, still coming in… even sometimes threatening to topple me. But I pictured the bigger picture, too. When looking at just the waves, all you’ll see is waves. But in panning out and looking at the entire landscape… or seascape, if you will… you can see that the water as a whole has receded.

Waves still come in.

But the water is further out. And my footing is a little better. More sand is visible, and less of it weakened by the rush of water that is grief… or tears.

One day—I pictured this, anyway—the water will be still. It will never dry up and go away… the sense of loss never really does leave. But I see stillness. Even in receding, there is movement. So it might not be that true stillness comes on this side of eternity. I just don’t know. But the storm I felt last June 28th is long passed.

I no longer look for such a day of stillness. If I try to, then the waves that come tend to do more harm. Not only are they a surprise I’m not prepared for, but they also create disappointment and a feeling like man, I was just so wrong about where I thought I was by now. So, instead, I just trust that such a day will come, and simply wait for it to appear. Looking for it is too tricky for me.

That said, tonight at Olive Garden, I didn’t lose my composure, because that’s just not where I’m at anymore. {At times, I feel that perhaps burying Anysia’s ashes brought us some healthy closure… but that is for another post at another time, and not to be confused with me declaring that I think our grief is over, because I know without any doubt that it’s not.} I didn’t fall apart because they didn’t have lettuce for their signature Caesar Salad. {They did have lettuce, and I did order and consume one. But even if things had gone just the way they did nine months ago, I would not have fallen apart.} Our spirits were high. We got out of the house without feeling that sense of defeat that threatened to keep us home and cloistered away right after Anysia died. We laughed a lot. We poked fun at ourselves {eh-hem… myself} for how our last visit there went. And I never even had to apologize to our waitress. Not even once.

And best of all, I did not embarrass my poor husband… and that is a very good thing when you are trying to say “I celebrate you today… I celebrate us.”

But to that point, this man has endured so much with and for me… the least of which is the grief he’s watched me go through in all its many forms.

Ten months out, fourteen years in, I love him more than ever.

I grieve the fact that a little person we created will never know him the way I have or the way our son does. But I celebrate that he is our husband and father… and a truly great man.

Happy anniversary, Mr. B.

Here is a picture of the water at the lake where we spent my birthday recently… a day that always precedes our anniversary by exactly two weeks. I had never seen Lake Michigan so still as it was that day. So I thought a photo from our time there would go perfectly with what I’ve written here.

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