I awoke this morning before the sunrise, well before my 5:30 alarm. It took me a while to figure out why, but as I drank my coffee and my head cleared a bit I remembered. I think my body recalls the trauma before my mind does. That’s why some weeks and months bring a sadness that I can’t explain until I think about what was happening at that time in the past.
It was seven years ago today. It was early in the morning. I was in the hospital on bedrest, and I went into labor, delivering my identical twin daughters at about 5 a.m. Fiona was stillborn and Brigid was very premature.
Today, I can’t help but feel like I’m trapped in a choose-your-own-adventure book that I don’t get to choose, wondering what else could have been, should have been.
What would life be like if you were with us today (and dare I imagine you both here)? Lanky-limbed with gap-toothed grins, would you be hovering around me as I put the finishing touches on your birthday cake? That would be my best possible outcome, I imagine – that when your big brother Jack boggled my mind and whispered a prayer for twin sisters as he cuddled ten-week-old Thomas, God would have chosen to answer with an unqualified “yes.” And you’d be here today, celebrating your seventh birthday with the rest of us. All of us, Maeve and Brendan, too, because I can’t fathom the idea of a trade-off. You for them. I just can’t. The best thing would be to have you all here with me, surely. Wouldn’t it?
What if we had gotten to have just Brigid? What if she had stayed healthy and grown, and God had chosen to answer that child-whispered prayer with, “Yes, but only one will live”? It wouldn’t have been my ideal, but it would be better than not having either of them, right? Better than visiting them in the cemetery each May instead of eating birthday cake together with pink balloons. Maeve would have a sister to play with and, our hearts would not have been completely devastated. Even I, in my limited understanding, can see that that would be better, right, God?
Or what if we hadn’t ever conceived twins? What if God had simply chosen to answer with “no,” as he’s done so many times before and since. What if it just weren’t a part of his divine plan and we didn’t ever have to resign ourselves to what happened because it was never an option. Wouldn’t even that have been better than this?
But God chose to answer that prayer with, “Yes. But then, no.”
After I write out these thoughts, I’m headed over to read Brigid’s eulogy again, because it’s the only way I can make sense of it. Because my wheels start spinning, and I’m distracted all day trying to understand.
But this much I do know: I am not the me that I was before their deaths. I am healthier. I am stronger. Braver. It’s hard to fathom that something that literally made me wonder if I would need to be checked into a mental institution after it happened, that shook me to my core and made me doubt I’d ever stand up again, has made me emotionally stronger, has strengthened my faith, has increased my compassion, has made me a better wife and mother and friend.
And for this reason, I can trust that it is God who turns the pages of our story, and that though the path he takes may not be the one we would choose for ourselves, it is always the one that is best for us. His ways are not our ways, but he can see the end of the story.
So even though they are not here with us to celebrate their seventh birthday, I know that our precious twins are before the throne, witnessing his glory, and somehow that is so much greater for us all.
Our God is in control.