A whole genre dedicated to stories comprised of only 6 words…oh my! A story? How could emotion, fright, happiness, love, deceit, etc. be conveyed in six simple words. Yet, once I read a few of these stories, I too was hooked. I realized that emotions and events can be told in letters strung together that create six words which tug at the heartstrings.
To recount history, or some will say urban legend, Hemingway was at lunch with friends when he bet that he could pen a story in 6 words. As men tend to do, a challenge was set…it was on! The pot grew and quickly from pen to paper came these words…For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” It was if I had been punched in the gut. Those 6 words screamed heartache, life lost, intense sadness.
It is an urban legend because some say that Hemingway was not the first person to write a story in 6 words or even this 6 word story, per se. Yet, it was these 6 words that always remained with me. I thought about this mother, the shoes the baby would have worn, the father that worked hard to earn the money for, what might have been, a luxury, the siblings that would have helped tie those shoes and the beautiful first steps the baby would have taken in shoes that would now never be worn but rather sold.
Several years ago, my sweet almost 5 year old, was in the back of the car as we were driving by St. Raymond’s Cemetery in my hometown. It is where many, if not all, of my family find their final resting place. It is expansive and through a child’s eyes must go on for miles and miles. Headstone after headstone with flowers adorning many of the ornate structures. At this time, we had recently lost yet another pregnancy. This pregnancy was different though…or so we thought. Our numbers were great, the baby was measuring appropriately, heartbeat was strong…we believed this time would be different. We had the confidence to sit the kids down and share this great news. There were happy tears and hopes of a sister and one hold out for a brother.
Within days, sadness struck. We had lost the baby. What had we done??? We told our children that God had given mommy and daddy a baby and now we would need to tell them that the baby was gone. To put it mildly…it sucked! The long term repercussions were devastating. Most days were good but at night during prayers there were so many questions about the baby, why the baby wasn’t coming, where is the baby, who is caring for the baby, is the baby with Tiger the cat, why did Tiger die, does Jesus pet Tiger…the list could go on. At times, the question and answer challenge was comical. I’m attempting to hold it together and not to become a blubbering mess in front of my kids and next thing we’re taking about whether our deceased cat is eating yummy food and getting along with birds. Yet when you can barely figure it out as an adult, you know there must be so much confusion…and a myriad of questions…for a little one.
So a we drove past the cemetery on that blue skied day with billowing white clouds, I heard “momma”. Anyone with kids or who have ever been in the presence of a child for more than two minutes, knows that they can rattle off about 3 million questions within the lifespan of a Mayfly…sometimes without coming up for air!
From the backseat, my Ruby asked/told her six word memoir that had been weighing heavy on her mind… “Does our baby have a stone.” Instant tears, I actually whispered to my husband that he would need to momentarily field this question. Did our baby have a stone? No, our baby didn’t have a stone. We did not leave the hospital with our bundle. We asked that our doctor use the holy water we brought to bless our baby but our baby would never have a burial or a stone. Yet how do you put this into words for a little girl who is obviously hurting herself? We needed her to know that this baby was so loved yet there was no stone.
Loss is earth shattering difficult. There are good days and bad. Times you feel that you can conquer the world, while other moments you want to snuggle up and hope a nap will take away some of the sadness. As a mom, I don’t have the answers. I rely on my faith to teach my children and hope they will understand. I tried my best to come back with a light response to her six word memoir…but I’m sure I failed miserably. I know that our children will one day be adults and realize that we never had all the answers. We did our best to ease their pain and explain life in their words on their terms! So my sweet Ruby, in response to your profound 6 words that will always remain the most memorable memoir, our baby might not have a stone in St. Raymond’s Cemetery but she will always be safely kept in our hearts.