At least it's not intended to be.
I feel like I need to start with that disclaimer since I will be mentioning loss, and sorrow, and grief, and falling into pits and stuff.
But I swear, it's not sad.
It's more of an explanation. And maybe a bit of an encouragement. If nothing else, it's something to read on Sunday afternoon instead of doing laundry and I can promise it is at least as good as that. Maybe.
You see, this week will be the 13th birthday of our two little ones who never came home.
Thirteen years is both long and short. Say, if you were talking about how long it has been since you had a really good homemade chocolate chip cookie, thirteen years would be a loooong time. (A criminally long amount of time, if you ask me.) But if you were talking about how long you'd like to spend with someone you love, we'd all agree that thirteen years is but a blink.
In terms of loss, thirteen years might seem on the outer edge of how long it is socially acceptable to speak of such things. I mean, at least out loud. Or in writing. Ahem.
And in truth, I do get that. I don't enjoy dwelling on despair or feeling as though I'm dragging anyone into a well of sad feelings they really didn't ask for. And it's a conundrum because while I might have melancholy feelings, and wistful feelings, and, yes, sometimes even weepy moments every now and then, I'm really okay. I choose to remember because I'm not really sure how I couldn't and because that's how we continue to love those whom we have lost.
We remember them.
But I could do all of that without putting it into words and making my story public. I could opt to remember privately. There is nothing wrong with that and many, many days that is what I choose to do. In fact, that might suit me better given my reclusive tendencies.
However, there is a reason that over the years I became more and more open about my experience with infertility and loss, and I can tell you why in two stories.
(If Tracy were reading this over my shoulder, and she might be, she would break in at this point and say, "Tom, I can name that song in two notes." Because she just would.)
The first involves my cousin Tracy and her legendary ability to make a friend of anyone. Waaaaay back when we were both in our 20's and early years of marriage, she became pregnant and had a baby. At the same time, I tried to become pregnant and couldn't. She was having trouble with some aches and pains related to pregnancy so she started seeing a massage therapist. I, on the other hand, was seeing a fertility doctor because of that whole not getting pregnant thing.
As was Tracy's way, she became quite friendly with her massage therapist, learning all about her life. The therapist had twin toddlers who were the happy end result of a difficult run with infertility. This lead Tracy to tepidly open up to her about my struggles and her concerns with how to offer any support. The therapist asked her lots of questions about my doctor and my treatment, none of which Tracy had good answers to since she didn't really have all of those minute details. But her massage therapist friend would not be so easily dissuaded. See, she'd been there and she'd be damned if she was going to let someone else flail around on their own.
Finally, she said to Tracy, "Do you think I could just call her?"
A total stranger to me, connected only through another friendly acquaintance, refused to stay in her own happy bubble world of a successful pregnancy and birth and motherhood because she knew there were people on the other side. She not only wanted to help, she had to help.
She did call me. We talked for an hour that one time. She gave me information I had never gotten from any doctor. She gave me encouragement to make changes I didn't know I needed to make. More than anything, she gave me hope and she made me brave. I never spoke to her again other than through Tracy who would report back to her my own happy success. But because of her, I changed doctors and was pregnant two months later. I'm not exaggerating when I say I believe she changed my life.
(And by extension, of course, Tracy also changed my life with her fantastically friendly ways. But the list of ways in which Tracy changed my life is long and deep and will require a lifetime of blog posts to capture.)
The second story is not my own and not at all original. It's a modern day parable of sorts and I'm sure you've heard it before. But it bears repeating because it speaks to my larger point of being vulnerable enough to share our stories, to the extent that we are able, for the good of those who might be standing on the outside.
A man was walking along one day when he suddenly tumbled headlong into a pit. He hadn't seen it coming. It was dark. It was lonely. And he had no idea how to get out.
He started calling up from the pit, yelling for help.
First a doctor walked by. He peered down into the pit, tossed in a prescription, and kept walking.
Then, a priest walked by. He looked down at the poor man, offered him a prayer, and then he too kept walking.
Finally, a friend happens by and hears the man's cries for help. He thinks for a moment and then without hesitation jumps into the pit with him.
The man looks at him astonished and says, "What are you doing?! Now we are both stuck down here in the pit!"
His friend answers, "I know. But I've been here before and I know the way out."
And I would add that sometimes we may not even be able to show someone the way out of the pit. But a friend jumps in and says, "This is awful. I'm so sorry. But I'll stay here with you until you can find your way out."
So, that's really it. That's the answer.
I keep telling my story and being honest about who I am and where I've been, because you never know who might be in a pit needing someone to jump in with them.
I'm grateful to every single person, whether they be close friends, family, or momentary acquaintances, who ever jumped in with me.
And because I'm always ready for a little Christmas, I'll leave you with this thought:
Happy Sunday, friends!