Looking back, we have experienced many children's deaths through the years. Maybe more than most? Maybe I'm just more in-tuned to them now? Or, maybe all of those precious souls were put in our path for what we would someday face.
One of my best friends from school was pregnant the same time I was with Austin. Sadly, she lost her baby. We grew apart after that, mostly my doing. I felt guilty because my child lived and I feared that every birthday he had was a reminder to her of what she lost. I missed her over the years and longed for the friendship we once had. We talked occasionally if we saw each other out but the connection was broken. However, when I lost Austin, she was right there. And she seems to know just when I need to hear from her now, as a message will be in my inbox from her, just checking in on me.
Shockingly, several of my classmates from high school have lost children. In my graduating class, I can think of at least five classmates who've suffered this loss. One lives down the street from me, in my same neighborhood, and experienced this horror just a few short years ago. Another, who's son was a friend and neighbor to Austin when he was around five years old, passed just a few months before Austin. And while I was in the midst of this pain, yet another classmate's beautiful daughter left this earth, also too soon. None of us would have ever imagined we'd be connected in this way when we graduated together.
Austin's babysitter when he was a toddler, passed away while giving birth to her baby. I think she was the first child's funeral we attended. They were friends of our family and Tim worked with her dad. Tim recently reconnected with him, I'm sure because he needed to talk to someone who knew what he was going through.
In my job, I've also been blessed with friendships from couples who also have experienced this great loss. Some of them I knew about before losing Austin and were an inspiration to me even then. Some of them, have come forward with their story, now that they know I'm walking this painful journey too. They all somehow know just when to call, when to hug, when to check in. They are ones whom you don't have to fake an "I'm good, how are you" to, as they know.
And just a couple of months prior to losing Austin, I was in one of my all-time favorite plays, "Steel Magnolias". In the story, one of the main characters loses her daughter. I formed so many wonderful friendships with those women during the course of that season. Strangely, those lines I had memorized and rehearsed so often, came back to me during the funeral. They were a comfort to me, as was seeing all the ladies come as group and surround me in one big hug at the service. Never would I have imagined that any of us would experience a loss similar to what we shared in that performance.
All of these relationships have been tremendous strength for me through these past eight months. While I would give anything not to have the connection - or rather reason for us meeting, I can't deny their power, or wish their friendships away. Each of them came into my life when I needed them most and many have continued to be a source of inspiration, motivation, and peace to me. They are like my angels, appearing to me along this path, each leaving an impact in my life and making me better because of it.