Death is suddenly everywhere I don’t mean to look.
We watch the movie Labor Day thinking we will be watching a steamy love story, but no, it is really about babyloss. Stillbirth. Miscarriage. Accidental drowning. I hold onto A’s shoulder, appalled that I talked her so unwittingly into watching this movie with me.
My dad comes to visit and we pick that old classic, Stand by Me. I think it will be good to watch with my dad, like getting some small glimpse into his 1950’s childhood. I hadn’t remembered the whole premise of the movie is that the boys are going into the woods to see the real dead body of a boy who went missing. And that the movie is actually about the main character’s grief—his brother has just died—and he doesn’t know what to do with his brother’s sudden, enormous absence.
I take my fifth graders to Washington, D.C. for two days of sight-seeing and civics education and find myself standing in Arlington Cemetery listening to the tour guide tell us we are about to see the Kennedys’ graves, which include Jacqueline Kennedy’s son who lived two days, and an unnamed daughter who was stillborn. Catholics, the tour guide says, don’t christen babies who are stillborn and so they don’t get named, and I think, How cruel. The Kennedys were already deprived on their daughter, and Church tradition deprived them of her name.
And then, ten pages into the novel A lent me to read on the long bus ride, there is another baby dead before it was born.
I know these storylines were always around me, and I just never noticed, didn’t take them in, but it feels like they are multiplying. They are anywhere, everywhere.
I want to cry over these real and fictional deaths but I’m afraid that if I start, I’ll never stop. The ghosts of dead babies and children are everywhere. Where a few months ago I felt Joseph’s death had given me a greater capacity to handle the sorrows of others, now I don’t want to hear about them. I don’t want to handle them.
Do you watch movies or read books where babyloss is a theme? How do they affect you?