There’s a part of me that feels a little conflicted when I say that I wrote my book for Ethan, our son who was stillborn over 16 years ago now. After all, the book isn’t non-fiction, it’s a novel. Arguably a murder mystery even, although I’ve resisted calling it that. I don’t want anyone who has suffered a similar tragedy to read this book with the thoughts that it’s a memoir, because they’re sure to be disappointed. While rooted heavily in all the non-fiction that has been my life experiences, the story itself is fiction. So let me explain what I mean when I say I wrote it for Ethan…
Ethan’s sister Chloe was born a year after we lost him. It’s fairly safe to say that there is no Chloe without an Ethan. She is a Goodness that came from him. So is Quinn, who came along two years after Chloe. So are the new friendships we made and the old friendships that were strengthened. What I want is for this book to be another Goodness that Ethan gives to this world.
This need to find some Goodness has been with me since almost the very beginning. I say almost the beginning because those first several weeks were just filled with grief and guilt and a special kind of insanity. But at some point in the months that followed losing Ethan, I created a memorial site for him on the web. I told our story, shared the poems I had written for him, and posted pictures of Ethan with Tammy and me in the hospital. I also created an online guestbook where visitors could leave comments and condolences or share their own tragic stories. At some point, Yahoo bought Geocities (where my page was hosted) and Ethan’s memorial page was gone – along with thousands of other pages. I’m sure I probably received some emails warning me that the pages were going to be removed, but I never saw them. I just went up there one day to check on the guest posts and it was all gone.
Fortunately, I would periodically save the guest posts on my local PC, so I had most of them which was the main thing I cared about. I found so much comfort in the messages people left for us. It was probably the single greatest thing that helped me through those dark days. But there was one particular entry that really moved me. It was from a young college student named Diane and this is what she wrote:
I am truly sorry for your loss. I have a one year old son and if i lost him id be devastated. I can try to imagine how it feels to lose a child, but could never come close unless ive experienced it. So i dont want to say i know how you feel because i dont I just wanted you to know i am a person who cares. The reason i read stories like these is because i am in school to be an obgyn and to specialize in infant surgeries, the studying of sids, and cord accidents. maybe one day i can write you back and tell you that i found a cure, and to apologize that i could not save your baby, but ill, promise you that ill save someone elses. take care, and know that you have the best gift of all. an angel who will love you for all eternity
Six years after posting that on Ethan’s memorial page, Diane lost her own son – not the one-year old she references above, but her second child. His name was Derek and he was three years old when he wandered into his neighbor’s backyard, fell into their swimming pool, and drown. I looked up Diane just last year and thanked her for the note she had left for me back in 1998. I told her how many times I had cried over her words and the hope that they had given me. She made me believe that Goodness would come from Ethan.
Who knows, maybe there is no novel if some young mother hadn’t taken the time to write what she wrote almost 16 years ago. I don’t know why her message had such a deep impact on me then, but it did. And I don’t know what it means that the son she lost she had named Derek – probably nothing. But there’s one thing I do know. When I reached out to Diane, I gave her a Goodness back.
And it felt good.