I am not a twitterer, nor do I read many "Mommy Blogs", but somehow I found the sad news about Madeline Alice Spohr. I can't describe the unrelenting sadness brought about by news of her death. It lingers with me days later as I worry for her family and think about the services held in her honor tomorrow.
I did not know her or her parents. I hope they won't mind me writing about them and their precious daughter (or borrowing a picture). Their names are Heather and Mike Spohr. They are beloved by their community, "real life" and Internet alike. Maddie's mother has been blogging about her family's life since her daughter's premature birth. Maddie must have possessed a tenacious spirit. She was born 11 weeks early and was not expected to survive, but she did survive to go home, to grow and make friends, to have swimming lessons, and watch softball games with her mama.
"I went back to that park today, where I spent all those hours practicing, playing, and watching softball. My old high school had a game, and Maddie and I watched the girls play. I remembered the pressure, the agony I put my young body through, and the HOURS of practice. And I remembered the chants, the camaraderie, the thrill of victory. And then I looked at Maddie, watching the Big Girls play…and I realized I’ll be spending a lot more time at parks just like this one."
Oh my. Such are the dreams of parents. We expect the future because we must. How else can we possibly survive the exquisite, poignant reality of life. It ends, sometimes so soon.
I often worry that in some way I held a part of myself back from that overwhelming love for my child because I was afraid, because I knew how essential his life was to my own. Kind and wise people, like my own mother, tell me that is a natural response to parenthood. How can one meager heart be a vessel for such great love?
There is a vast network of parents of premature babies who share their love and challenges and hopes and sadness online. Their courage, strength, and love are beautiful. Many of Maddie's friends will join her parents tomorrow to say goodbye. There are links to support the family and to support the March of Dimes in Maddie's honor here and here.
Intellectually, I know too many babies die each day. Emotionally, I can't bear that truth. Like most people, when I think about such loss, I just want to hold my own child. I feel foolish for letting a day pass without appreciating the great joy of being his mother. I breathe a sigh of relief that I can put my arms around him. Even at 21 he indulges me sensing that I need the comfort.
As I thought about Maddie and her parents I was thinking about the words Mother and Parent - both as much verb as noun. We are changed by our children. We can become something great because we have the chance to mother, to parent. Where does that go if your child goes? And, is my grief for one child really grief for all life lost too soon? Tears for the great beauty of the young, the new, the precious, all that potential, all those dreams parents dream, all our time so brief.
I wish. I wish and I hope there is comfort for Maddie's people. There are no words that do justice, that properly say how sorry I am for the loss of their beautiful child. For the heartbreak of any parent what can be said that isn't a platitude? I am so very sorry. I will remember Madeline Alice Spohr.