There’s something odd that happens to you when tragedy strikes. You realise you need to disseminate the information to your family and friends. You know they need to know, and they would want to know, but part of you can’t bear to tell them because you know it brings them pain too.
When I was pregnant, and for the months after Eva was born, it felt like all I could tell people was bad news. I would call my parents, already in tears, and choke my way through the latest piece of news. First the initial blows. She was blind. She was deaf. She had missing parts of her brain. She may never walk or talk. When those first pieces were over, it was the later emotional hurdles: her eye operation wasn’t going ahead, her father was leaving us, she wasn’t being allowed to eat orally at all, she needed multiple surgeries.
Even when I had no specific news to declare I would call in tears and hold the phone away from my mouth so it wasn’t quite so obvious, even though it was always clear to everyone involved that I was crying.
I felt like every time I talked to my family and friends I was loading them up with more bad news. I wanted to spare them the worry, and it felt like in telling them I was retelling myself. I was delivering the blow again. It got to a point where I almost laughed when I told them the next thing. My life felt farcical, absurdly disasterous.
A colleague asked me if I felt cursed. It felt like nothing would go right again. That I’d never have good news on the end of the phone again. Every time I delivered another piece of bad news I saw a puzzle board filling up with the most depressing painting you could imagine. A Goya print delivered in small puzzle piece portions, one by one until you could see the image in its entirety and weep. I would have pitied myself if I wasn’t already living it.
Things got better of course, the bad news became good again with phone calls about Eva’s cochlear implants and her rolling. But then they got worse again. I wasn’t the one who called my parents to tell them Eva had died. I don’t think I could have got it out of my mouth. But I called her foster mother and told her. It felt like I’d finally put my head above the parapet and was being punished for my confidence.
It’s been 20 months since Eva died, and in the last few weeks I have found myself calling home with good news again. News to be celebrated. News that still connects to Eva.
Today I had more to tell.
I got to phone home today and tell my parents that I am a finalist in the AMP Scholarship Awards. I am one of 12 finalists, chosen from 3,500 applicants, who will go to Auckland on October 20th for the awards evening.
It feels good to have good things happening in my life. It feels good to be doing something in Eva’s name and have that thing be productive and successful for myself and for the people who are involved. It feels good to call home and hear not worry in my parents’ voices, but happiness and relief.
I know full well, that there is no rhyme or reason in how our lives are going. Good luck and bad luck are made up ideas we tell ourselves to make us feel better about the way things work, and I know that the impossible years and love and grief I experienced with Eva and since her death don’t inoculate me from other tragedy and grief. In fact, having her and losing her only makes me aware of just how fragile my life and those around me are. But it also means I will enjoy the hell out of moments like these, because you never know what’s around the corner and I don’t intend to pretend that my days of delivering bad news are over.