Submitted by Paul Sharkey, Founder, TODAY is a Good Day
I don’t talk about it a lot. The death of my daughter Mary on November 28, 2010. Why don’t I?
- It is awkward. When asked how many kids do you have; it is much easier to say “two”. It is harder to explain “three and one is in heaven”. Most people are looking to hear “two” and move on with their day. Once you say “three and one in heaven”, it leads to more questions and the inevitable “I am so sorry for your loss”.
- It is emotional. As a man, I don’t usually talk about my emotions often. Sometimes I will with my wife but even that is rare.
I feel guilty not speaking about Mary more. It is something I am working on and trying to do more. Mary lived for only two weeks. But her life was important. It had meaning. It had a purpose. I have learned to talk about Mary more from my seven-year-old daughter, Claire. This is Mary’s identical twin sister. Claire talks about Mary all the time. She mentions Mary at the dinner table, when we are walking somewhere, and when we are playing games. Claire is a great teacher for me to not allow perceived awkwardness or emotions to keep me from talking about Mary.
I have started small and in safe spaces to talk about Mary more. I have started to speak more with Claire and our other daughter, Martha Rose. A few weeks ago, I took Claire and Rose to Dunkin Donuts after church on Sunday morning. The girls asked for Munchkins as we went through the drive thru. As we drove away from the Dunkin Donuts, I thought of Mary. I thought about how it was sad that she was not in the car with us. I thought about never being able to take her to get a treat at Dunkin Donuts on a random Sunday morning. Right then, it hit me. We needed to spend time with Mary.
I told the girls we were going to go somewhere special to eat our Munchkins. We were going to eat them with Mary. We left Dunkin Donuts at drove to the cemetery. I had tears in my eyes as we drove there. I didn’t let Claire or Rose see my tears. But I was sad thinking about Mary and how unnatural it is to eat treats with a seven and three-year-old at the cemetery on a Sunday morning. The girls lifted my spirits immediately. When we got to the cemetery, they talked to their sister, they ate their Munchkins, we played with toys, we played tag.
It was a healing experience for me. It was the first time in a long time that I felt close to Mary and felt that I was honoring her short life appropriately.
Just as Claire is teaching me lessons to speak about Mary. Mary is teaching me lessons as well.
In the late spring of this year, my wife, Martha, and I learned we were expecting baby #4. Unfortunately, there were abnormalities detected during the first ultrasound. Upon further testing, we learned our baby boy has Trisomy 18. Once you research Trisomy 18, you will learn that it most commonly associated with the following statement: “incompatible with life”. Most Trisomy 18 babies pass away in utero, soon after birth, and 90% within the first year of life.
When we were at the cemetery, I told Claire and Rose about their new brother, Baby William, as well. I let them know that Baby William will most likely join their sister in heaven. I let them know that everything would be okay and how nice it will be for Mary to have a playmate. We are taking it “one day at a time” with Baby William. We are trying to enjoy the time we have him while Martha is pregnant. Claire and Rose talk to and about their brother. They include him in their play and look at him as a true member of our family.
I am grateful for my beautiful wife, my three wonderful daughters, and my son who will arrive in January. I am grateful for Munchkins with Mary and the lessons learned from it.