Over the next few months I hope to have a few people contribute posts to the blog that offer a different perspective on our journey with Arthur. Anencephaly affects 1 in 1000 pregnancies. All forms of child loss affects 1 in 4 women. Even if you never walk the road we’ve walked, chances are someone you know has. My hope is that by letting other people share about their experience with us as we carried, loved and said goodbye to Arthur, it might help and equip you as you possibly walk alongside someone you know and love through the dark valleys of life.
My first post is from my best friend of over 10 years. I wrote about her friendship early on in the blog. It’s easy to be a good friend when life is going well. When tragedy strikes, it’s not so easy.
Hi to all Kittery’s readers! My name is Kim, and Kit asked me to guest blog this week. This is the first time I’ve written anything publicly other than a scholarly paper or a Facebook status, so my apologies ahead of time.
Eleven years ago, Kittery and I were paired as roommates at Davidson College. I’m not sure what it was exactly that made the folks there think we would be a good fit. Kit decorated her half of the room in Florida Gators football posters, and my pink duvet cover matched the bright bulletin boards I packed along. She played FOUR (ask her for the soccer story if you haven’t heard it) varsity sports at Davidson, and I was the nerd. But the things we shared quickly outweighed the differences between us. We are both feisty and frequently teamed up against my then-boyfriend-now-husband, Andy. We preferred dumb movies, singing ridiculous songs, and laughing hysterically at the party scene at Davidson. We even married a pair of roommates (Artie and Andy are also friends-for-life and roomed together in college). But more than any of this, we share faith in Jesus Christ, and a devotion to one another.
Kit and I shared the mountain top experiences best friends share with one another. She was my maid of honor, and I was hers. Hours after Adele was born, I was in the hospital room, and Kit was our first visitor when our baby girl was born last year. Birthdays, first dates, graduation, weddings…all the things you hope to share with your best friend. As sweet as those moments were, nothing was as unifying to our friendship as Arthur’s journey. Kit asked me to share about how to be a friend to someone facing the loss of a child. I’m so honored because in the darkest moments, doubt and lies crept in and I wondered if I was any support at all. As always, I struggle for the right words. But as Kit can attest, I do always have plenty of words.
- Be you. One of the bravest things Kittery said to me was, “Kim, the people who loved us all along will be the ones who get us through this.” I have never experienced infant loss, and often wondered if someone else should’ve been Kit’s first call. But she didn’t want someone else…she wanted me. Even when I said the wrong thing, even when I wanted to cry when she wanted to laugh, and even when I called to ask, “WHY IS MY CHILD’S POOP THIS COLOR?” in the midst of her grief. Kit gets the best of me and the worst of me in this journey, just as she has in our entire friendship.
- Your grief is real. But it comes second. Andy and I were at the hospital when Arthur was born, and Andy was sitting with Kit and Artie when he died. We both had our own grieving and processing to do. I have friends in my life who did that with me, in a different space and time than when I was supporting Kittery. I wept with her, and sat with her, and prayed with her. I didn’t hide my grief from her, but Kittery was not, and should not have been, my primary support.
- Get on your knees. I know this is probably obvious, but it was really hard for me. I am a DO-ER in every sense. As soon as Kit called me with the diagnosis from the doctor’s office, I cried for about 3 seconds, and then my brain went into hyper-drive of all the things I wanted to DO for them. This was good, but I needed to be tempered. My dear friend Maria, who lost a baby boy hours after his birth, cautioned me that prayer was my greatest gift to give. Well, that sucks because I’m not very good at being quiet and praying when I can be talking and doing. But while still being ME (see #1), I force myself to my knees and to my Bible again and again.
- Be a point person, or find out who the point person is. Kit’s mom and I were in communication a lot in the final weeks of her pregnancy. Kittery has a pretty high capacity, but lots of people funneled communication through us, and that freed her up to focus on being Arthur’s mommy.
- Be specific. If I had a dollar for every person who told me, “Let me know if Kittery needs anything,” I wouldn’t have to write my upcoming book (“I Love Jesus But I Cuss A Little: A Pastor’s Wife Confessions”). Kidding. Kind of. Once again, so well meaning, but not helpful at all. Ask, “Does Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday work better for me to babysit your other kids?” or “Is there a meal signup or can I start one?” or “Give me 3 restaurants where you would like a gift card.” One time Andy called Artie and said, “We have lunch in the car for y’all and all the visiting family and are bringing it now. If you already have lunch, save it for dinner.”
- Be in it for the long game. The image of Kittery and Artie, with Kittery’s hand on Arthur’s coffin is seared into my memory. When my days got back to semi-normal a few weeks after Arthur died, I couldn’t shake that image. As tragic as that moment was, I’m grateful to have it. My best friend has buried her baby…and her life will never be the old normal again. That incredibly poignant, tragic, and hopeful picture reminds me of how the Van Scivers are tethered so tightly to heaven, and it colors my prayers for them. Five months have passed since baby Arthur was born and died, but there is still grieving to be done.
Arthur, thank you for teaching me so much. I can’t wait to see you again soon, to watch you play with your sister, to read to you, and to worship our Lord with you.