Just so, you might say to them: "The proof that the little prince existed is that he was charming, that he laughed, and that he was looking for a sheep. If anybody wants a sheep, that is proof that he exists."
-The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Today was a little rough.
It was the day of the regular staff meeting, where I was finally face to face with everyone for the first time. Everyone goes in order to speak about what is going on briefly, so we all talk. There are people I have talked to already, people who know the whole story, people who have not brought up Gabriel at all but have said hello or acknowledged that I was gone and now I'm back, and people who had not yet looked me in the eye or given me even the most basic courtesy greeting.
I briefly mentioned what I am working on, thanked everyone for their thoughts and prayers, for picking up my slack while I was gone, for the plant they sent. I said I wasn't ok and would not be for some time, but was glad to be back and have something else to think about.
I realized later that I had not said one word about Gabriel, including his name - which I know not everyone knows - and I had just given the impression that I did not wish to talk about him. I could've kicked myself. It did have the effect of unfreezing some people who presumably hadn't any idea what to say. But it feels like it also had the effect of shutting the door on the subject of my son. I do not always wish to speak about him, but I usually do.
It comes down to a matter of great importance for me, which is acknowledgment that my son existed. That he lived, however briefly. That he deserves as much respect and dignity as any other human being who draws breath on this earth. In short, that he mattered, too.
I crave that validation. I need that reminder, both that he lived and breathed and that I am not crazy, that this has not been some horrid nightmare that I invented to torture myself in some psychotic break of epic proportions.
And I shut the door on it today, unconsciously, inadvertently. I understand why people don't know what to say (and so do entirely the wrong thing by avoiding me), that they are afraid of upsetting me or ending up in that social hell of seeing me cry and having no clue how to stop it or help. I understand how difficult it is to let me open up and take off my mask of Normal Person, and let the anger, the sadness, the loneliness, the rage, the depression, the bewilderment, the bafflement, the sheer volume of strong, unfettered, ugly emotion out and be strong in the face of it all.
But it doesn't make it hurt less when someone completely sidesteps the issue or does not acknowledge me at all. It doesn't hurt less when my son is not mentioned or avoided.
I needed to know today that Gabriel matters, that his existence is noted and acknowledged, outside of my husband and me.
I was trying to explain that to a friend.
She responded with the following:
"Ever since I saw Gabriel's pictures, I have been searching for a stuffed toy kangaroo for him. Why a kangaroo? Because of Gabriel's FEET! I keep thinking of him as "kangaroo boy."
The kangaroo should have a cream-colored ribbed corduroy belly, with the rest of it a soft sage green cloth. I checked Etsy for one, but the only halfway decent ones were knitted, and that's no go.
I have never wished more that I knew how to sew, because if I did, I would sit down right now and start that damn kangaroo for Gabriel. Not only does he exist, I know exactly what his baby present looks like."
Thank you Kate.
Thank you for reminding me of The Little Prince. I wanted to read that to Gabriel. I started with Winnie-the-Pooh, the day before his birth, because I couldn't find my copy of The Little Prince, and hell, I love Pooh. Gabriel moved and kicked and we enjoyed it while I waited for DH to return with lunch, and I regret that I didn't start it sooner and that I never finished the story for him. I've read The Little Prince again since losing Gabriel and it is even more poignant and heart-breaking than when I read it the first time.
But it had reminded me, as Kate has reminded me of what is important.
The proof that Gabriel existed is that he had long arms and legs and his mother's lips and his father's face, he had big kangaroo feet that kicked his mother when she read him a story about a bear who loved honey, and my friend wanted to give him a baby gift of a soft stuffed kangaroo that was sage green with a cream colored corduroy stomach. And if anybody wants to give a baby a soft sage green kangaroo with a cream colored corduroy tummy, then that is proof that that baby - my baby, my son, my Gabe - exists.
And if he existed, if he exists, he matters.