Weep with Those Who Weep

Weep with Those Who Weep

From A 6th Bowl of Chicken Soup for the Soul

Weep with Those Who Weep

In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.

Flora Edwards

The first time we met Ginny, we were sitting around a conference table. She arrived late and waddled into the room, followed by her husband, Bob. I say she “waddled” because Ginny was in the sixth month of her pregnancy, and it was the only way she could enter a room. Bob sat down to join us, and Ginny attempted to sit down gently and gracefully. Instead, she had to move the chair away from the table and then did not have any lap in which to fold her hands.

We had never seen a pregnant woman at our bereavement support group before. I watched the faces of our elderly widows soften as they smiled at Ginny and Bob and tried to make them feel welcome. Our group had been meeting for several months, and I was the facilitator for the group. In addition to me, the group consisted of eight widows, all senior citizens. As Ginny told us about their loss at the first meeting, tears ran down the cheeks of everyone in the room. She and Bob sat with their hands clenched together as they related the details of the day their daughter died.

Ginny told us it had seemed like any normal day. She and little Shawna had gone shopping and stopped for a hamburger on the way home. Shawna was a perfectly healthy, normal two-year-old who got a bit cranky as nap time approached. After Ginny unloaded the packages from the car, she settled Shawna down for her nap. Ginny gave Shawna an extra hug when she felt Shawna’s chubby arms clamp around her neck.

A few minutes later Ginny heard Shawna cry out. It was a sound unlike any she had ever heard before, and goosebumps appeared on Ginny’s arms as she told us about it. Ginny is a registered nurse, so she went into action immediately to check for blockage in the throat and then took resuscitation measures. When Shawna was again breathing on her own, Ginny called the paramedics.

The medical reports showed that Shawna stopped breathing repeatedly in the next few hours, but she was resuscitated each time. At last, she seemed to be out of danger and was placed in a special unit in the hospital. A few minutes later, she stopped breathing again and could not be revived. The entire episode took about four hours.

Bob was out of town at the time. Ginny was not able to contact him during the emergency because he was on a plane returning home. Later that night, Ginny went to the airport by herself to meet Bob and break the news to him. Neither of them could describe their agony. They said no words were available to adequately express the devastation they felt that night.

It was interesting to observe the changes that took place in our group in the following weeks. The widows no longer focused on their personal grief. Instead they were all reaching out to Ginny and Bob. One woman began to knit a pair of booties for the new baby, and another embroidered bibs. We began to have nutritious snacks instead of the usual brownies and cookies the women had been bringing.

One evening, Ginny mentioned it was almost time to have the new baby. She confessed she was filled with fear about having to return to the hospital where Shawna had died. She had even considered having the baby at home, but her doctor had discouraged it. Bob just shook his head sympathetically.

I noticed other group members exchanging words and I felt a special electricity in the room. When our meeting ended, nobody got up to leave except Ginny and Bob. They were barely out the door when conversations began to buzz all around me.

“What can we do to help?”

“Ginny must get over this fear so that she can enjoy the birth of her new baby.”

“Let’s take Ginny over to the hospital in advance and help her get over her terror.”

“Can we pray for Ginny and Bob?”

We most certainly could, and that’s just what we did, right then.

The following week I spoke with several psychologists and physicians. They all agreed that going to the hospital in advance would do no harm. I called the hospital, explained the situation and was granted free access to all areas.

I called on three of our widows who had shown special concern. If Ginny agreed, we would meet at the hospital, return to the rooms where Shawna had been, and then go up to the maternity ward and look in the nursery window.

I phoned Ginny and told her about our idea. There was a long silence. Then I heard her sniffle, and she answered me in a very small, choked voice.

“You couldn’t have made that offer at a better time. Today would have been Shawna’s third birthday. I’ve been praying all day long about the new baby and asking God to help me look forward to his or her arrival.”

When we met the following day, Ginny was extremely nervous. We walked up the stairs into the lobby and had to stop before we got much farther. Ginny said her heart was racing, and she felt as if the walls were closing in on her. We left the building and bribed her with an ice cream cone if she would come back a second time. I have never known a pregnant woman to turn down an ice cream cone, and Ginny was no exception. The cone became our standard bribe each week.

We met once a week for our hospital walks. Ginny was courageous. At times she clutched my hand, and I would see the perspiration bead on her upper lip. But after the first trip, she never made us turn back. I know it was more than the ice cream cone that kept her going!

Eventually we came to the day when she didn’t grasp my hand quite so hard, and then one week she even smiled. That day, we let her have a double dip of chocolate mint, her favorite.

The following week Bob came to the meeting alone, proudly carrying a bouquet of white roses tied with blue ribbon and a large color photo of his new son. He told us Ginny had gone confidently into the hospital the night the baby was born. He felt a miracle had taken place, and so did we. I was the only one who realized two miracles had taken place.

Our group continued to meet for a few weeks after that, but I knew it was needless. Our widows’ wounds had been gradually healing as they reached out to Ginny, bringing about healing in their own lives, too.

June Cerza Kolf

[EDITORS’ NOTE: The names in this story were changed for confidentiality.]

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