For the past two years, Heartstrings' Walk Committee has reached out to a parent in our community, asking them to write an official poem for the Walk. This year, Heartstrings Dad Chris Ward will present a poem at the 11th Annual Walk for Remembrance & Hope. Last year, Katherine Hill-Oppel honored us with her original work, “And I Replied”. She beautifully and tragically captures an experience all loss parents will know at some point.
And I replied.
-by Katherine Hill-Oppel
It was a simple question.
I had heard it before.
But today, it meant something different.
“How many children do you have?” she had asked.
How to reply?
Such a simple question.
But it turned my heart inside out.
No simple answers.
Years of medical visits, shots, medicines, ultrasounds,
ER visits on weekends, late night doctor calls,
Blood tests, xrays, this test. that test.
Doctors, PAs, specialists, technicians, receptionists, nurses
Compassionate voices with good news and bad news.
The worst news.
Having to share the worst news.
Feeling your dreams evaporate, holding the hands of those who cannot understand.
Walking alone, truly alone on a path you cannot comprehend.
Pain and anger, loss and regret, life and nightmares
It all feels the same.
No words can help, no one knows what to say.
The world moves on.
While you are stuck in that place.
And become that person.
Do I share my grief with this person?
The discomfort I feel, the uneasiness she will feel.
Maybe she knows.
Maybe she doesn’t but worse
Will pretend to understand.
Pearls before swine?
Leading an authentic life?
When is it safe to share?
Why does it feel like a denial of a life?
I fight so hard to have their name said and remembered.
Still, only I can protect that memory
And hold it close, giving it the reverence deserved.
I loved my child.
I love my child.
And the question remains, as she patiently waits
“So, how many children do you have.”
And I replied.