I went to Ruth’s today. I was nervous to go, not knowing if I would be able to somehow help, or if being there with Jonah would hurt. I am so glad I went.
Ruth has been my friend for a few years now. We met at a support group I host for women who have experienced a traumatic birth. Last year when Guy and I experienced our last miscarriage, Ruth had one a week later. Ruth and I became pregnant again just 10 weeks apart, and had enjoyed sharing our pregnancies; complaints, joys and all.
A few days before her due date, Ruth came to see Jonah for the first time. She was round bellied, tired, excited, and counting the days till she would finally meet her baby, who she had named Rhys (pronounced like Reese).
On the 15th Ruth called. Her hello didn’t sound very good, and I figured she was just plain exhausted from being 4 days overdue. I asked if she was ok.
“Rhys went to live with Jesus” she said, softly beginning to cry. I barely comprehended her. What did that mean? I tried to put it together in my mind, while my voice blankly responded to her, asking questions and echoing over and over, “Oh, Ruth, I’m so sorry…”
I hung up the phone, and sat in the studio for several minutes repeating her words in my mind. Then I looked down at Jonah, asleep in my arms, and it hit me. I burst into tears and sobbed endlessly. I called Guy, crying, and told him. His sincere shock came to my ear in a whisper, “Oh, no!” I didn’t have any answers for his questions of why, because I realized I had not heard a word of what Ruth had said after telling me of her agonizing loss. I told Guy of my lifeless response to her news, and decided I must call her back. Certainly she must have been pained by my distant response. When she picked up the phone, my voice tried to reach out to her through my tears, “I just realized, I am so sorry, I didn’t understand!” We talked and cried.
Ruth had gone into labor, and was excitedly looking forward to meeting her wee babe soon. She called the midwife and prepared herself for her homebirth. After a few hours Ruth realized that it had been some time since she felt the baby kick. When the midwife arrived, no heartbeat could be found. Ruth was hurried to the hospital where her worst fears were realized. Baby Rhys was born at 2AM, and Ruth and her husband Steve met their baby, then soon said goodbye.
I hung up the phone, weeping. I have wept, and at times sobbed, in the days since.
At Rhys’s memorial on Friday, I was so touched as Steve bravely stood before a room filled 300 strong, and spoke from his heart. “I refuse to let Rhys become a tragedy in my life.” He said. He spoke of the amazing outpouring of love to their family, of how relationships were being strengthened, friendships rekindled, all because of little Rhys. He encouraged us all to reach out to someone in our lives from whom we had grown distant. I came straight home and made a phone call to someone I deeply miss. That was what Steve asked from us as Rhys’s legacy, and I wanted to make that legacy start in my life.
So today I spent the day with Ruth. We cried a lot. We laughed quite a bit, too. She shared with me the beautiful portraits that had been taken for them by Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, a group of photographers who donate their time to take the tender images of stillborn babies for their grieving parents. I tidied the house and fed the kids, but my small efforts seemed so weak in the shadow of my friend’s loss. Ruth held Jonah while he slept, and by some small miracle, he slept for hours, seeming to soothe her aching heart and empty arms. Small miracles are welcome in this home.
So this is my simple tribute to Rhys. I never was blessed to meet him. But I know that God knows him, and knows his mother and father. I know we will not understand why this sweet angel didn’t get to stay, or why his mother has to say goodbye in this life, but I know she will hold her son again, because I know God loves his children.
Ruth is in all of my prayers, and I know she would welcome your prayers, too.