Strength in WeaknessTuesday, July 07, 2015
He stands at the stove with his shoulders shaking in sadness, as he recalls the few moments he spent with our sweet baby girl.
"At least I was able to see her smile. Twice."
We've never spoken about what happened in those minutes between when she was born and when he brought our swaddled daughter back to me. I know that he was left alone to watch while doctors frantically worked to save our daughter's life. He was also alone when the decision to remove life-support had to be made. I would imagine that in those moments, he felt more alone than he ever did, or ever has since.
Yet after they informed him that there was nothing more they could do -- an event which I did not have to experience -- he handed her to me with his own smiling face telling me only, "here's your daughter."
Most women respect the work and dedication which their men expend on behalf of the family. They love their men because of the reciprocal affection he shows to them every day. They view the kindnesses that their husband exhibits when dealing with their children and see an echo of the boy who was before he turned into their man.
I look at my husband and I see so many things. He is the man who smiled when smiling was the last thing he wanted to do. He is the man who set up a shield for me, keeping the world at bay while I descended into the abyss of grief. He is the man who tended to my physical wounds when there were complications from her delivery.
In the grand scheme of things, my husband would be given an award, and some air time on local TV. Instead, he stands with his shoulders hunched, talking about the smile of a girl whose entire body fit perfectly in the crook of his arm.
Sometimes, we forget that men have the ability to feel deeply. We see them portrayed as buffoons in slapstick comedy, and listen to their bravado in action films, and we imagine them without the emotional capacity to experience loss as the life-altering event it is for us.
We view stoicism as strength.
However, his strength lies not in how little emotion he shows, but how much gentleness he displays to others. What could convey gentleness more clearly than a man holding his newborn daughter? What could be stronger than handing your child over to someone else when you understood that her time was limited, and you may not have the opportunity to hold her living body again?
My husband may never earn a prize in this life. He may pass into his own death unrecognized by the world at large. However, the depth of his feelings for his small daughter will continue to inform the decisions he makes, in terms of strength and gentleness. The tremendous gift of his strength, exhibited through this gentleness, will continue to make waves far into the future, for as long as we are still counting time.
Some men make marks on famous documents, and some leave footprints on the moon-- mine handed me my little girl, smiling as he said, "here's your daughter."