For Camille, a Thanksgiving, May you Rest in Peace and Never Know Hatred

A letter to my to-be-third-born, lost in utero last month.

Dear Camille,

Thank you. Thank you for doing what you did, even by just being for a short amount of time. You shook off of me a great deal of complacency and shone a light on my life. You showed me my frustration and dissatisfaction. Through this revelation, I have discovered my gifts and have renewed my ambitions.

I have learned how easily and unquestionably I am able to leave the church. For that month that you were here, it was clear to me that your mom and I were unable to support you and your sister and brother on our current salary. It was clear that something…a lot of somethings…would have to change. On the day that we learned you were not living, I told your mom “This baby was causing a lot of challenges, but I was willing to meet them all”. Two weeks later, I learned that I was sad that I won’t have another to love. It’s tough, because you came and went so quickly, we weren’t even used to the idea of you. But you were real nevertheless. Your coming was scary and wonderful. Your going is sad. We’ve returned to “business as usual”. But I am not letting go of your memory.

I thought of you as I sat in the “Transitions” seminar, my third in four years. And your impact could not be any more prevalent. I see the futility of a lot of my life in the church. I love parishioners. I even love Sundays. I loathe the institution, even though I owe a lot to it. I have this photo of your sister in the nursery at Sunnyside. The room is big and poorly lit. The toys are all decades old. Anna is beautifully aloof and playing nicely, alone. One day she will ask “Daddy, why do you spend your time in these old, empty buildings?” I don’t know how to answer that question. While that’s been a lingering dilemma, with your arrival Camille, the embarrassment and futility of my current life could not be ignored.

Missing_brickI was hoping to have a moment on a Sunday to announce our good news: that a third life has barged into our plans and messed things up in a fabulous and scary way. Your mom even picked out a minivan for us to have to have. I don’t know how we’d pay for it. But I was willing to work overtime to make your life better. When you left us, your Mom and I had a moment of realization that, before you, we were quite happy as a family of four. But these weeks later, a dullness lingers in my heart. I am still looking for more work, but admittedly I’ve been less ambitious about it. When you were with us, it was a necessity and one I was determined to realize. Now I’m looking for work to get out of a no-future-in-sight career.

So instead of announcing a new life, I have this strange secret that I have yet to share. I guess I’m cracking the shell on my silly little blog. Select people know, since we had to tell select people about the pregnancy. So there is this little club out there that knows something deep and personal. Recently, someone I barely know let me know that she knew. And she let me know by not using words, only gestures and strange facial contortions meant to convey sorrow. I don’t actually mind that people know. I mind that I haven’t been able to tell them yet.

Last week felt like a big week professionally. But now, I have to admit that nothing really has changed, which revives my distrust of church. First of all, I learned of a possible appointment. It should make me feel great. But I know that I’m the last in line and I am being offered “what’s available”. And there is still a whole bundle of uncertainty about it. I also learned that I am out of the running for another position. I didn’t even get an interview. I now understand that I really wanted you Camille so that I would be wanted. I feel so unwanted most of the time. I know you’re not supposed to put much emotional stock in your kids, but I’ll admit I look to my kids for affirmation and connection. I have always called Ollie “Buddy” because I do genuinely want us to be friends. I guess with all the stuff going on professionally and all the stuff I feel I have lost in coming here, it would be worth it if I gained a great little friend out of it.

I’m not sure what to do with the memory of you. My memory of your existence is in its most elementary form. I never saw you or heard your voice or rocked you in the big brown chair. You never became a fetus, much less a child. But I know that it mattered that you were. Your being brought so much into focus. I am sad but grateful but sad. I wish you were here. Right now, even though I am sad, I am not disappointed. I know that many fertilized eggs never see the light of day. And our experience is like many others’ experiences. But within my particular collection of experiences, your arrival and departure has meant the world.

I write this on the 1-month-iversary of your leaving us. It’s a tough, ugly world at times. But I fully expected you to provide beauty and sweetness to the world. You have to my world, if only in my hope for who you would have become. Your mom and I still love our family. Your brother is talking so brilliantly. Your sister will start kindergarten soon. They are both charming and smart and true joy. I know that my love and appreciation for them is illuminated by my love and appreciation of you. And I know that my love and appreciation of you is illuminated by the joy and inspiration I have for them. So you are a part of me, a part of us, forever. I wish you were here.


Image: “Missing brick” by Mateus S. Figueiredo – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Missing_brick.JPG#/media/File:Missing_brick.JPG

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