I can't believe I didn't write about this before. It won't be poetic or lyrical, this re-telling, because I'm trying to remember the details, but I feel like it's important-- I've gotten notes from people who have wondered about when to break down the nursery and how to do it, and I want to address the way I did it. There will be holes, but this is what I remember (I should add that the initial taking down of the nursery was forced upon me because we moved about eight months after he died. All his stuff went into the attic. If we hadn't moved, I don't know how long it would have taken me...).
At the beginning of the summer, I decided that it was time to make some space in the studio above the garage. It was time to begin to really use it like a studio.
I opened the door to the room and was greeted by two things: a blast of 100+ heat and a pile of baby stuff.
Baby stuff. Ben's stuff. Precious gifts from friends who fully expected to hold my son in their arms, but which now sat unused and unopened in a blazing hot attic.
I've known the stuff was there for a long time, but I haven't wanted to think about it. Since moving out of the old house, those things have been sort of my last link to my son-- and I know that they're just things, but...how do I explain that I held those things in my hands while he was with me? That my husband loaded the car up with those gifts while I waddled behind him, carrying our son. That those things were his, not mine, and his name is attached to every piece in my mind. I know that those things don't bring him back, but they sort of bring me back....
But I stood there, hands on hips, and I knew it was time. It was like a peace and a resolve came over me and I simply felt okay about it. It was like, all of a sudden, the thought of doing it didn't make me want to throw up. I needed to do it. I wanted to do it, and fast. It wasn't a feeling of desperation-- it was like I was just rolling up my sleeves and ready to get down to it.
So I called my friend Miki. Miki always knows what to do. If you have a crisis or a dilemma, she's the go-to girl for the solution or at least fantastic ideas on how to find the solution. I've called Miki in moments of crisis several times over the years and she has never failed me. She's a genius. And a precious friend. And as much like a sister as anyone I know-- we've been friends since infancy, and to me, that's as good as blood.
Of course, Miki knew exactly where to go.
"Miki, I want to donate this stuff. I have piles of diapers, wipes, bottles..."
It was a Thursday and she was out of town. I wanted her to go with me, so I loaded up the car while my heart was still in it and I waited until her return-- which was kind of funny. I drove around all weekend with loads of baby things shoved into my station wagon-- my car smelled like a baby every time I got into it and I was able to think about the fact that someone who desperately needs this stuff is going to be blessed and that I was sad that I had hoarded it all this time, but at the same time, I had needed to...
I'm so glad I have a huge, loving, caring, thoughtful Father in heaven.
So Miki and I drove over to Refuge Pregnancy Center in Conyers that following Monday morning. Walking to the door, she looked at me and said, "You wanna drive or you want me to?" I told her I wanted her to, and I am so glad I did.
The place was really beautiful. The office is a former doctor's office with a skylight and comfortable couches in the antechamber. We went to the front desk and Miki asked to speak to one of the counselors because we had a donation and would like to speak to someone-- proof number one that Mik was the person for the job on this mission. I don't know what I would have done. I think I would have just said that I had some stuff to donate and then would have just lugged it inside, leaving without a word and with no sense of closure at all.
But instead, the woman at the front window was so nice. She went and got one of the volunteer counselors (whose name I have forgotten, and I so wish I had not!), who brought us back to a counseling room. It was small with a small TV and VCR, a comfortable couch and a couple of chairs. The counselor, a gentle soul, told us that she was happy we were there and asked how she could help. I nodded at Miki and she gave the most beautiful rendition of Ben's story that I have ever heard. My friend of 39 years told this woman how much we had longed for Ben, how we had loved him, and how senseless the thing seemed, but how we have asked the Lord to somehow be glorified. The counselor and I both cried. I felt so deeply honored to hear my story told so generously. The counselor shared her story about the passing of her daughter (as an adult-- I cannot imagine) and the three of us shared a good cry together again.
We prayed together and then she gave us a tour of the place. There's a little "store" where the moms can use the points they earn from classes to buy maternity clothes (they love donations, if you're ever trying to figure out what to do with yours!), formula, baby clothes, shampoos/lotions/diaper ointment,etc., car seats, tubs-- you name it. If it's for babies or moms and it has been donated, the girls can earn them. They have bags of diapers that the girls can earn and an emergency supply that they have limited access to. The center wants to aid the girls in becoming independent, but also wants to support them as much as they can without crippling them. There's so much wisdom in what they do there.
After the tour, Miki and I brought loads and loads of stuff inside. I wish I could describe how right it felt. I'm usually pretty good at describing stuff... this one is tougher.
After lunch, Miki gave me a gift: a set of wind chimes for the front porch for remembrance. It was perfect.
For me, giving Ben's things away wasn't an act of "giving up"-- that's sort of what I had been afraid of before. I was afraid that giving the things meant for him was an act of wiping my hands and saying, Oh well, no babies for me! But that wasn't what it meant. In fact, my main thought-- the one that really did it for me-- had to do with other babies. I looked at my gigantic pile of Huggies and I remembered children I have seen who live in poverty. I thought of students of mine who have had children, with no money to pay for the things they need. I thought of little ones who get rashes because their diapers aren't changed enough. I thought of the expensive creams and shampoos my friends had blessed me with, and I thought of the girls who don't have adult friends who love to go to baby showers. When it was time to give up Ben's things, it wasn't about giving them away... it was about giving them to....
I am so thankful for the friends who have been walking this long road with Don and me this last couple of years, and so thankful for their support in all kinds of ways-- flowers to remember Ben and bless our family, donations of money to organizations in honor of his memory, and truly sympathetic companions to cry with us (and sometimes speak for us when it's too difficult).
We're not done with this road, but I feel like the load is lighter now in many ways. And I love the thought that there are some sweet-smelling babies out there who are benefiting from the fact that Ben lived for 9 beautiful months and was expected by a community of generous people.
If you ever want to donate to Refuge Pregnancy Center (time, resources, money), please head over there. They are some of the nicest people you could ever want to meet.