Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Smiling through the tears

Yesterday was a blistering torrent of problems, meetings to overcome problems, meetings to become aware of problems, and meetings about things beyond my control. I found out that I was a 'sporty red coupe' in one meeting, then crashed that beauty in another. And on top of it all, I missed my husband. We're beginning Week Three and I think the first day he is out of town, might become known as The Day to Get Through.

And on top of it all, I met J.

A friend had referred her to me because I scrapbooked. Of course, never denying a chance to talk photos and stories, I chatted with her about why she wanted to begin. Her answer dropped me to the ground. She wanted to scrapbook to remember her baby girl who passed away a year ago. Before that moment, I only knew her by sight and could not tell that behind that sweet smile was a woman in deep pain. Her baby had passed away at five weeks old after a freak accident involving another family member. She had not done anything with the photos since that moment but her sister had suggested she put together an album this week. Tomorrow would have been the baby's first birthday. We decided to meet today at lunch to look through her purchases and go through some of my albums and books to get her started.

Today J and I met at lunch. I showed her some simple ways to tell her baby's story suggesting that she celebrate her arrival and remember on page that her baby was incredibly loved. She has an older son and this book will be healing for him, too, and will serve as a wonderful memorial as he grows older. A fast formula concept that I suggested was to use a two-up album with simple, designed pages placed throughout where she could write the birth story, the details, how J decided on her name, who was waiting for her, and even some notes from family members sharing their love. Not knowing how many photos she had, I thought that it would give her plenty of space.

She was beaming the entire time and we got inspired through conversation. We are both mothers and could share our own versions of the births of our kids. We laughed about how neither one of us were planning on buying preemie clothes, but did out of necessity. Later as we started to pack away my stuff, I realized that there was a packet of photos sitting underneath some books.

Are these your photos? Yes, she said smiling.

As I opened the packet, I cried inside. Here was a stack of prints only about an inch high. The life of one tiny baby that fit in the palm of my hand. The pictures were too close and pixelated and blurry and there were far too few. One of baby and dad. One of baby and mom. One of baby and grandma. A bunch with big brother. I exclaimed over them as if I was holding that baby in my arms and could smell her newness. Look at her feet! I love that little tiny dress! Aren't babies funny when they make that face? I think she liked her brother alot. And look at him hug on her. Love that. I looked at her face and she was beaming again.

She didn't care that there was only a tiny stack. She had pictures to cherish her entire life. She didn't see the blurry shots or see the awkward angles. She saw her baby who has a name and a birthday. She could hear that cry and smell her newness and feel the softness of her cheek immediately after she was born.

I can't wait to see what she will create. And I know that no matter what, it will reflect her. She will have begun a different stage in her grieving and will have something tangible to hold in her hands. Documenting the stories of our lives, both bad and good, is important. Whether we have a camera that is from the dark ages or a slicked up 2009 model, it is vital that we record snippets of the day to day. We never can tell what lies around the corner.

I was listening to Christine Dente's Out of the Grey album today (yes, that is OLD!) and I heard this...

If I know you
You will turn this day
Into a perfect surprise.
If I know you
Like I know I do,
The worst of times
Will work out right

And I smiled.