I’m going to take a little break from Luca’s story for today to tell you about my wonderful weekend! First off, if your weekend starts with a baby elephant, then you know it will be a good one!
On Friday, my friend who is a zoologist took me to the Okinawa Zoo and we got to pet and feed a mommy and baby elephant! It was so amazing! The baby’s name was Ruby and she was absolutely the sweetest thing ever! My friend had her son with her who is just a few months old and Ruby was so interested in him – it was adorable to watch. Ruby was very eager to interact with us… until the zookeeper put on her Halloween costume and she became very shy and embarrassed and hid under her mommy!
Elephants just seem like such intelligent, emotional, and gentle animals. It was so special to interact with them. That morning I had been in a terrible mood. I felt really sad and anxious, and was really missing my son. Seeing the animals and having that time with Ruby was so calming and really therapeutic. I’m so thankful to my friends for including me in this special outing!
The next morning on October 31st, I participated in the 7th annual Walk to Remember at Torii Station here in Okinawa. The event was hosted by the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa (USNHO), the Okinawa Nurses Association, and the Angel Babies neonatal loss support group. The Walk to Remember is typically held in the month of October, since October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Many of these walks or vigils take place across the U.S. throughout October, so I am glad that I will hopefully be able to continue this tradition wherever the military sends us. I had been helping some of the USNHO staff plan this for weeks through the Angel Babies support group that we are a part of and looked forward to having this special event to honor Luca and all of the other beautiful babies who have been lost. A week prior, I posted the event info to my Facebook page to see if any of my friends might want to join me. My husband was away for work and unfortunately would not be able to come to the walk. I was a little anxious at the thought of going by myself. I wasn’t really sure about posting it, because my friends have already done so much for us and I didn’t want them to feel obligated or uncomfortable at the thought of going. The response was overwhelming – I seriously have the best friends in the world!
The morning started out with a service at the chapel on Torii Station. It was so good to have my friends beside me and also to see the familiar faces of the hospital staff who helped to deliver Luca. I read the following poem, “Gone from My Site” by Henry Van Dyke, which has been very comforting to me:
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone.”
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me — not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”
And that is dying…
After reading the poem, I took a minute to thank the USNHO staff who had helped us plan for Luca’s birthday and who were there to deliver him. The Walk to Remember was not only for the families who had lost babies, but also for these medical staff members who help families every day – whether that is trying to save a baby’s life, help someone through a miscarriage, deliver a stillborn baby, or a healthy baby. They are there for the good and the very bad and they grieve for these babies too. Because of their care, compassion, and professionalism, my husband and I can remember the day we had Luca as the best day of our lives. Even though it was also incredibly sad, these doctors and nurses made sure we had everything we needed to be comfortable and enjoy that peaceful time with our son to the very fullest. I will spend more time in future posts talking about these special people, but I can never ever thank them enough for what they did for our family.
Towards the end of the ceremony, we lit candles in remembrance of our babies.
Then, everyone gathered to write messages on balloons and we walked down to the beach.
My friend Randee made me this amazing shirt for the walk, and my friend Erin made everyone beautiful stickers to wear, so everyone knew that we were walking for Luca – so thoughtful! When we reached Torii Beach, we had a moment of prayer and then released our balloons into the sky. It was so peaceful to watch them slowly float away into the clouds. I pray that Luca received all of our messages – that we all love him so much!
After the balloon release, we enjoyed a picnic lunch. All in all it was a great day. I was so happy to have time to chat with the few people who met our son in person – our midwife, nurse, and chaplain were all at the event. There are very few people who actually got to see my baby and hold him. It is incredibly comforting to see those people again who understand how beautiful and peaceful our day was with Luca. They were there to help us care for him, dress him, sing him happy birthday… they helped us to give him a bath and prayed with us… those are all priceless gifts that will last a lifetime in our hearts.
And again, I cannot thank my friends enough for joining me on such a special day, and my friends and family who I know wanted to be there, but couldn’t – you were there in spirit! I can only hope that I can be half as good of a friend as they have been to me. We live thousands of miles away from our families (7602 miles to be exact!), yet it is hard to feel lonely here among our “Okinawa family.” Everyone truly supports each other and I believe that the steps forward that I have made in this grief journey are largely thanks to these wonderful people in my life who have patiently walked beside me.