Special Note: It is an unusual phenomenon that many bereaved parents share. We can almost see our age-adjusted children in our sukkah or running up to us during a family simcha. As quickly as they come, those visions seem to disappear as we go through the life cycle. They are hard moments made harder by the thoughts of not only what could have been, but what should have been.
What follows is probably the most emotional piece I will ever write about the loss of my dear children. I have talked about trying to create a legacy for my children as I think what could have been. This week would have been my daughter’s Bas Mitzvah. I would have played the part of the doting father, accepting mazal tovs and hosting guests. I can almost see my daughter Devorah and the smile that would have been on her face. And yet, I will spend this Shabbos in shul alone, without mazal tovs or celebration, accompanied by an intense feeling of loss. Happy Bas Mitzvah my dear Devorah. Abba STILL loves you more than anything.
Looking back with the value of hindsight writing this story has provided me, I can’t help but wonder at the source of my initial hesitation to commit this experience to paper. Being forced to confront and relive the pain that has become a regular part of my existence since that fateful day is difficult enough, but I think my real fear was that no matter what I would say, there was no way to express the feelings and emotions my wife and I experienced. There are no words, in any language, to describe what we went through, and I still fear that no matter how hard I try, I can never do this, and by extension my children, any real justice.
I can only pray that the words I choose provide some inkling of the unimaginable and indescribable pain that only parents who lose children can comprehend.
I think the best way to capture some of the real, raw emotion is to copy a piece I wrote the day after our twins death, knowing that there are inconsistencies and stylistic issues:
I am sitting in the second bedroom in our new apartment. It is a nice new place, bigger to accommodate our incoming twins. But alas it shall remain empty, a constant reminder of what we lost.
Two days ago, the doctors told my wife it didn’t look good, a few hours later they told her it was over. Yet my wife still had to do the unthinkable, go through full labor and delivery knowing she would not bring her babies home. They were just under 21 weeks and would die soon after birth. We wished it would be quick but it was not. Her water broke at 2:00 a.m. and she did not give birth until 4:00 p.m. the following afternoon, 14 hours of knowing this process would kill our children but knowing there was nothing we could do to stop it.
They were born within minutes of one another, my daughter, my first born, was 13 ounces. She came out gasping, trying to breathe but her lungs could not.
My son was born soon after, 12 ounces. He came out moving his left arm in a flailing motion. My wife and I both held each child. I then held my daughter, cuddling her, telling her how much I love her until she died some 20 minutes later.
My son was more complicated. He would convulse, opening his mouth in a desperate attempt to breathe. He tried so hard, his entire back would jerk, but it could do nothing. He died in my arms soon after.
After a while, my wife and I asked to see them once more. The boy is a carbon copy of me, from his lips to his face to his stumpy legs…and he’s gone.
My daughter looks like my wife. They have the same face and head…and she’s gone…and I, as their father, failed in my most important task, I could not protect my own children from their fate.
Today the boy had a bris. His name is Asher. He is buried next to my daughter Devorah. They are gone, never knowing what it would mean to live and be loved. We both tried to tell them how much we loved them, yet they never saw us as their eyes were fused closed. And I know they couldn’t understand…and there was nothing I could do to save them. Good night my sweets. Forever is a long time.