I would have found someone else to officiate at the funeral after the pastor spent valuable time in a theological debate with me the morning Mirinda died, but time was of the essence and we used him. He droned on about this and that. I was well drugged to keep from going to pieces.
“In days to come,” he said, “Julie will truly be able to comfort those in need. We can say we know how she feels and offer comfort, but we don’t. Only someone who has been through this knows. Julie will see those who are hurting as she is and give them aid. She will say she knows how they feel.”
If I hadn’t been so drugged I would have crawled over the pew and attacked him. I would have beaten him to a bloody pulp. How dare he put such a curse on me! I didn’t even know how I was going to survive. How would I help anyone else? Why on earth would I even want to be around someone who hurt as badly as I did?
One of Vickie’s friends came up to me at the cemetery. “You should thank God for this. It means she would have grown up to be an outlaw and God is saving you the pain.” Don grabbed my arm and led me away.
Don returned to work after a few days. I found a job three weeks after Mirinda was born.
The days were bearable. I could pretend I was normal. I forgot things, but I passed for sane. A friend might call and ask me to lunch. It started me to thinking about food. When did I eat last? Could it really be three days? I survived on candy bars and coffee. When Don came home, I cooked, but he wasn’t home very often. I went from 145 pounds after Mirinda was born to 87 pounds. I normally weigh 130 pounds when I am muscled up.
At night I took care of the animals, cleaned house and did laundry. One night I went to our bedroom to put up laundry and opened the door to see Mirinda’s body lying in the middle of the bed in her long, white gown and the little lace cap. I screamed and threw the clothes in the air then jerked the door shut as fast as I could.
The bathroom was next to our bedroom. From then on, I went to the bathroom before dark and never went to that end of the trailer again until morning. When Don was home, I was safe and things returned to normal, but he was a long haul truck driver so I wasn’t safe very often.
When I was in the hospital, I kept crying I wanted my baby. For whatever reason that became the stuff of nightmares. No sooner would I close my eyes than the dream would start. I answered a knock on the door. Three old crones stood there. The middle one held a bundle wrapped in a dirt-covered pale yellow blanket just like the one I had tucked around Mirinda. “Here’s your baby, dearie.” Then they laughed and she held the body out to me. I screamed and slammed the door shut, but I could still hear them laughing on the other side. Sleep is another thing you can do without for longer than you thought.
When I did try to rest, it was usually in the chair in the corner of the living room. I could sit in it with my legs curled under me. Nothing could get behind me and I could keep an eye on the front door. Sometimes I slept on the couch. I still had something at my back and I could watch the door. Very occasionally I slept in the guest bedroom in the twin bed.
The doctor was very good about prescribing sleeping pills. If I took several, I could manage to knock myself out.
One night I was sleeping on the couch when I heard the safety chain rattling on the door. The television had been advertising a horror movie called The Creeping Flesh for days. One scene as of a hand reaching around the corner with the flesh dangling in bits from it. I awoke to see a hand reaching around the corner just like in the movie. It was fumbling with the safety chain, trying to open it. I screamed like a panther and the hand jerked back, leaving quite a bit of flesh behind. Don had come in unexpectedly and decided to try and open the safety chain rather than wake me up.
He chewed on me about not sleeping in bed where I belonged. I lied and told him I just fell asleep on the couch.
Then there were the suicide attempts. The first time, I got enough prescriptions to knock an elephant out. I took so many sleeping pills my stomach rebelled and I puked them all back up. The second time I was going to use the gun, but I couldn’t find the bullets. Being the considerate type, I was going to do it outside so no one would have a mess to clean up in the house. The third time I finally had it figured out. Just the right amount of pills. I had just dozed off when someone knocked on the door. I roused enough to giggle. I had fooled the crones. I wasn’t going to open the door this time. The knocking continued. The door opened. Some of our friends still had the key to the house because they had removed all the baby items while I was in the hospital. Three couples were going out to eat and on a wild hair, they decided to stop by and see if I wanted to go. I spent the night being forced to puke, walking and drinking coffee.
A few days after that, my dad sent me a box of books he bought at a flea market. Most of them were historical books, but there was also one by Edgar Caycee. I didn’t particularly believe in him, but I opened the book anyway. It opened to a chapter on suicide. It described a bleak gray place these souls go to. Then they must be reborn and face the same situation that made them take their life the first time. I thought, “Oh, hell no. I can’t do this once. I am certainly not going through it twice.” I called dad later and thanked him for sending me the Caycee book. He said he didn’t send me one. I said it was in the box of books he sent and he figured the woman added it by accident because he didn’t buy it.
I was lying in bed one night and started crying. I was so tired, but every time I closed my eyes that same nightmare started. I had taken ten sleeping pills and still couldn’t get out enough to shut out the nightmare. Without even thinking about it, I said, “Jesus give me peace.” I was instantly filled with peace. It spread through me like warm honey, filling my body and I immediately went to sleep. I had no intentions of praying. God deserted me when I needed Him and He let my baby die. In desperation, I said it again the next night and I was filled with peace and went to sleep. Even though I had turned my back on Him, He had never left me.
Over the years, I ran into women who had lost babies, just as the minister had predicted. Once I was at the mall with Brandon when he was just a few months old. For some odd reason, I felt compelled to go into a boutique with all kinds of hair bows and scarves and earrings. The woman kept looking at Brandon. That wasn’t unusual. He was a beautiful baby. This was different. I knew in my heart she had lost a baby. Please, God. Don’t make me do this. It hurts too much.
“How old is your baby?”
“He’s two months old.”
“Ours was almost three months old when he died.”
Then I told her about Mirinda.
“Does it ever stop hurting?” she asked.
“No, but it does get better. Time will take the edge off the pain and you will live again.”
She wanted to have another baby, but her husband refused. He said he couldn’t go through it again. I told her another baby was exactly what they needed. It wouldn’t take the place of the one they lost, but it would fill their hearts with love instead of pain.
God is real. He takes us through the hard times. The path we travel isn’t always easy, but it is never so difficult we can’t get to the end. The journeys we take are what make us who we are. The hard times make us appreciate the good times. Life is a gift from God. What we do with it is our gift to God.