Talking to William

The following article was published in Her Voice magazine, a Brainerd Dispatch publication, in 2010.

Talking to William

I’ll never be able to tell William Patrick he’s Grandma’s boy. I’ll never hear him giggle or see him chase a butterfly. William Patrick was stillborn on October 29, 2009. But if I could, I would tell him, “You were loved even before you were born, you’ll be missed and never forgotten, and St. Patrick’s Day, the day destined to be your birthday, will never be the same for any of us.”

Nine months isn’t such a long time to wait, unless you’re waiting to find out the sex of your baby. For your parents, the temptation not to wait proved too great, so four months before you were born, they scheduled an ultrasound test.

Earlier, on the day of the appointment, your father promised to call with the news, but when he did, it wasn’t the news I expected to hear. “They couldn’t find a heartbeat,” he said. In a split second, anticipation and joy turned to shock and disbelief. Plans crumbled and in their rubble only questions remained. Your parents turned to their parish priest and the hospital staff for answers to those questions.

At your parent’s request, I made the trip to Bremerton, Washington, and upon arriving was met by your father who drove to the hospital where your mother waited for us and for what was to come. I hugged her, offered words of encouragement and felt her pain.

When this long day ended, I lay in bed snuggled next to Destanie (10), Maddie (3) and Lillian (2). Their dog, Jackson, lay at the foot. During the night, I received the news from the hospital. You were stillborn, you were a boy and the cord that had sustained your life had taken it.

In the morning, I made another trip to the hospital, and upon entering, I couldn’t help but recall that only two years earlier I had been in another hospital witnessing the birth of your sister, Lillian Therese. A much more somber juncture lay ahead for me.

At the end of the hall in a special room, we found you lying peacefully in a bassinet next to your mother’s bed. You were wrapped in a blanket and upon your head was a tiny knitted bonnet in the color green. Your name was William Patrick, you weighed 6.6 ounces and you measured 7.5 inches in length. So tiny, yet large enough to fill our hearts with love.

William, I want to tell you that the world is filled with wonderful people, and it’s when you need them most they reveal themselves. So it was for us. With the help of caring people, a memorial service was planned and held in the Chapel at Holy Trinity Church. PTA moms along with the good women of the church furnished a luncheon afterward, and your family brought a cake, decorated in your name.

But what I really want to tell you is how proud I was of your family. During the service, your parents courageously shared the letters they had written to you. It was difficult, but the tears helped wash away the sorrow.

Your big sister, Destanie, read the prayer of St. Patrick and did such a fine job. I was so proud of her. I was even proud of Maddie and Lillian, rascals that they are, who made us smile, even when we didn’t feel like smiling. But what I am most proud of, William, is that your family recognized you for who you were, and not just for who you would have been.

Many beautiful words were shared that day, and many more tears, but through it all I came to realize more than ever this fact of life. Pain is not selective. It touches us all. No one is out of its reach.

When the day finally arrived for me to return home, I said my goodbyes, boarded the plane and buckled my seat belt. En route, I reached into my bag and drew out the prayer card that had been printed in memory of you. I sat transfixed by the last line: “We’ll forget you never – the child we had, but never had, and yet will have forever.”

Two months later for Christmas, Grandpa and I sent your parents a wind-chime engraved with your name and date of stillbirth. It is called “Whispers from Heaven” and features an angel. We thought it would make the perfect gift.

Now, when the wind blows and those chimes begin to tinkle, I don’t have to tell you who they’ll be thinking of. They’ll be thinking of you, William Patrick.

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