First Negative First


It’s funny how we can wish for something to be true even though we know it won’t be but it doesn’t stop us from wishing it anyways.  Repeatedly I’ve read or been told by those who are further down this path than us that the second year is not a whole lot better than the first.  But there were enough ‘oh it hasn’t even been a year yet’ comments that it was hard not to hope that the one year mark held some magical power in the sense that things would be different once that one year mark came and went.   Another shattered hope.

Today was eye appointment day.  I’ve been taking the girls yearly ever since we learned that Johanna had a lazy eye back when she was eleven.   The optometrist said that it was hereditary so to keep an eye  on the little girls (no pun intended) and hopefully if they have a lazy eye too he can catch it early and fix it when they’re little.    So every year we go.   We missed our regular appointment last year because they’re generally in January/February and for obvious reasons we were too busy to worry about eye appointments.

I was bracing myself for a difficult time only because I knew the appointment would bring back so many memories, all of them negative; but still I was hoping that it wouldn’t be as bad as other firsts just because we’ve endured so many that what was one more.   Only this one was our first negative first in the sense that it was something we all did together but it was an activity Bernadette hated.  She never cooperated with the ladies taking the eye pictures or with the optometrist.  So on the one hand, I kept thinking that she’s probably happy she’s not here and I’m not fighting with her to get her to do what the ladies needed her to do;  but on the other hand I kept telling myself that I’d have been more than happy to put up with an uncooperative little girl than this internal pain.   Bernadette’s discomfort throughout the appointment would be temporary and quickly forgotten.  This pain is permanent and not easily forgotten, if at all.

As Zoe and Catherine played in the little house Bernadette loved to play in I fought back the tears with every ounce of strength I had.  In the examination room we had a heck of a time keeping Zoe from getting into everything and I couldn’t help but wonder what it would have been like if Bernadette had been with us too.    All the while the girls had their appointments the tears threatened to get the better of me.  It was like Bernadette’s presence filled the little room and I couldn’t ignore it no matter how hard I tried.  In the end as we left I felt utterly drained and emotionally spent.  So much so that I almost walked out forgetting to pay!  oops

It’s funny how we anticipate things will go a certain way due to our past experiences and they turn around and take us completely by surprise.  Happy firsts are hard enough, negative firsts are twice as hard.    Who would have thought.

I think the hardest part though is that there really is no way to prepare oneself for such pain and there is no way to prevent it.    In a sense it’s the ‘new normal’.



By Fr. David Purcell C.Ss.R.
I am sorry it hurts so much. I am glad that tears come forward. I pray that through the tears and through many other ways, you can also experience some changes in that pain. Peace,

By John Rabarts
Thinking of you Patti. Your pain will never be gone completely. Bernadette’s is gone forever. She is waiting for you with joy, and patience – not wanting you to join her for a long time yet. Take care. John.




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