Talking to Berney about his twin brother Andrew…
For me, the experience of losing one of my twins happened very fast. One Monday (April 7, 1986) I was lying in bed as usual, listening to my husband clean up after a project of putting up stair railings (I’d asked him to stay home and finish up, since the babies were so close –they were due between April 8 and 15). That afternoon I had my next doctor visit, which would include an ultrasound, and before it we were scheduled to talk with the anesthesiologist at the hospital about the delivery, in case a cesarian was needed. My head and tummy felt a little strange, a little different but nothing I could put my finger on; and I remember thinking that I didn’t feel my usual enthusiasm for everything that day and telling myself that it would be normal to finally feel a little “blotto” after being so pregnant for so long. But once we got out, I enjoyed perching up on the edge of the anesthesiologist’s exam table, with all 50 pounds of my tummy, and talking happily about my twins and the upcoming delivery.
The next Monday, my husband was headed back to work (after a week of being gone), and I was at home alone, caring for a 6-day-old baby, my surviving twin Berney. His twin brother, Andrew, had been buried on Friday, three days after they were born. When we had gotten to the doctor’s appointment – after a wait during which I was watching them both be super-active and wondering if they would ever slow down, and even laughing at loud at what I thought were Andrew’s antics – the ultrasound showed that Andrew (we’d just picked that name officially the night before) had died. At first I couldn’t hear or comprehend what the doctor started to say about how one baby had no heart activity or independent movement…then I couldn’t believe that it was the baby on the right, who had just been moving so actively. I knew the big ultrasound at the hospital would prove the doctor wrong. When the twins were delivered 8 hours later, I still hoped that he was alive, just in trouble, and could still be saved by medical means. He was the first baby of mine that I ever saw (and fittingly since he’d been the first to kick) – the delivery room staff placed him in an isolette that happened to be in the only place I could see from where I was on the operating table. I saw him and said to my husband, “Oh, look, there’s the living baby – he’s sleeping!” A minute later, Berney screamed an incredible scream that made everyone laugh in relief – there was no doubt he was healthy.
We did take Andrew home. I’d told the doctor when she had started talking about having to bury him, to send the social worker to see us the next day. She, in turn (a twin herself, as she told us, and clearly not wanting to talk about any of it) sent the man from the local mortuary. My husband listened politely and then asked me if he could look into some alternatives. Later on that day (Tuesday), after somehow talking to a kind and helpful nurse, he proposed and I agreed to one. The nurse volunteered to transport Andrew’s body into Anchorage for the autopsy (which we’d requested – no reason for his death was found). On Wednesday, my husband arranged with the mortuary to purchase a plot in the cemetery near our home, and a casket; and to have the gravediggers come at 11 on Friday. He also went to the local courthouse and obtained a Transport Permit from the judge (a routine thing, though not that easy emotionally). On Thursday (after putting the people off for a day), he went himself to Anchorage to pick up Andrew from the coroner. He later said that the very worst part of his whole experience was going into that big, bright, unfamiliar hospital looking for the one little door behind which was his son’s body in a box.
That night, we had our “champagne dinner” in our room, with Berney – and when we left the hospital to go home a little while later, Andrew was with us too. It was very hard to leave him outside in the car when we came home, but the cold spell meant that we could do that in order to carry out our plans. Early the next morning, my husband prepared Andrew for burial in the casket, putting with him all the special things that I had chosen and laid out. (I wish now that I’d helped him do all that, and looked at his whole body; but my husband had told me that while I could, the effects of the autopsy might bother me.) We placed him on the special table in our front hall, and to this day that is his place in our house, with special flowers that match those at his grave. My husband called me down in time to say goodbye to him before we met the people from the mortuary at the cemetery. He looked totally normal, and with everything arranged so beautifully around him. The shock was wearing off and it was terrible to kiss him and know that he was a real baby who really should have been there with us like his twin. Little Berney screamed the whole time I was saying goodbye, even though he’d been very good-natured and only screamed after birth and while getting a bath. Later he screamed at the cemetery. I had to be the one to say, “Okay, you can go ahead now” – but have always been glad that I and we had as much control as possible over everything that happened. We had no relatives living anywhere near at the time, and our friends at the time were farther away, so meeting the needs of anyone else but ourselves was not an issue.
After the burial we drove as far north as we could before finally having to come home. Saturday, we got back in the car again, and spent part of the day trying to return the second car seat and some other things, and anything else we could think of not to be at home. Sunday, I spent time writing and mailing notes to send with Berney’s picture, telling everyone what had happened, and getting more phone calls from friends and relatives asking about the birth of the twins, and having to explain. Later on Monday, we had an appointment with the pediatrician for an extra check-up for Berney, and saw friends from our childbirth class who called out, “Wow, the twins must have been born, where are they?!” (Meanwhile, that was the day the United States bombed Libya, and that seemed extra-scary.)
In the hours before the twins were born, one of the things I kept thinking was, “Gee, I bet it could be hard to love the living baby – that would be understandable – I wouldn’t be surprised.” After they were born, and Berney was finally placed in my arms (and recognized my voice and snuggled up instantly), I could feel myself totally fall in love with him, and thought, “Well, I’m in for it now, there’s no choice now!” I already knew that loving Berney so much would mean grieving just as much for his twin whom I loved equally, feeling all the pain of his loss, and really fearing for all the things that could still happen to Berney. Thank heavens that happened – I’m forever grateful for not having “lost” Berney too, by holding back or letting the fear rule. I was grateful, too, that the nurses had helped me learn to nurse him, and this became a major bond between us and something so special, as well as a great comfort to me – even though it should have been two.
After my husband went back to work, things were supposed to be back to “normal” – whatever that was. With no relatives in the state, and most of my and our friends in Anchorage, and no older children, it was pretty quiet most of the time. Berney was a very good baby, and it really bothered me that I was getting more rest and quiet than at any time in my whole adult life (the day of the burial was my 37th birthday) at a time when I’d expected to be totally flat out busy with two new babies, up to here day and night. I had very few people around to talk to about what had happened – although some very nice exceptions stand out in my mind, including my childbirth instructor and some of my doctor’s nurses. The contact for the local loss group was a mom who had twins (age 10) but her 5th child, a son, had been stillborn and her tubes had been tied at the delivery. When we met, she envied Berney so much and I envied her twins so much. When I went to the group in Anchorage, everyone was very nice, but no one wanted to (or ever did, over the next two years) ask me about what had happened or how I felt, always seeming to assume that I was really okay because I had another baby.
Someone told me about the Centering Corporation’s pamphlet, “The Death of an Infant Twin”, and it was like a bolt of electricity – something that really related to me. I’d assumed that I was truly the only one. The same feeling came from a longer pamphlet on the death of a twin by the Canada national twins group, POMBA, which I’d obtained after a very difficult experience with those whom I’d had to deal with to do so. More than anything, it was several passages in the Centering pamphlet that gave me the support to go ahead and mention his twin to Berney, and not be afraid to talk about him. One was about a little girl who knew, in a very sweet way, that she was a twin; and the other was by a mom who told her 18-month-old son about his twin brother as a sort of bedtime story, and always told him how sad they were to lose his twin, how glad they were to have him. From that time on, whenever we talked about Andrew to any extent, I’d always end by giving Berney a big hug and saying that “…we’re SO sad that Andrew died, and we’re SO glad that you’re here!” To this day, if I don’t do it first, he always gives me a huge hug and says, “Mama, you’re very glad to have me! – and Alexander too!”
As strongly as I felt about wanting Berney to know about his twin, I felt equally strongly that while it was one thing for him to know, and to know my feelings, it was another thing how he felt about it himself. I wanted him to know – but how strongly he felt about it, or how much it mattered to him in his life in any way, or what he felt about it, I felt needed to be up to him. Actually I didn’t want him to feel as I did about losing Andrew, and catch the brunt of my pain and loss; I didn’t want it to be as important to him as it was to me. I hoped that he would understand, and love Andrew and accept him as part of our family – but not at the risk of him having to be in effect told how to feel or relate to his and our loss, or encouraging him to feel that his life would always be sadly incomplete. He’d had enough of a loss already – and was a whole child with his whole life before him (much as I was so afraid that something would happen to him too).
So somehow, whenever I talked to him, I always seemed calmer than I really was! I got used to getting the words out of my mouth, while Berney was just a few months old. It wouldn’t be that much, but to tell him that he had a twin brother Andrew, they were born together, Andrew had died just before they were born and we don’t know why, but we’re so sad to lose him and so glad to have you…etc. Sometimes I told him about how they’d played together in my tummy. That was enough to break the ice, get used to saying and have him get used to hearing Andrew’s name and a little of what had happened. It also helped me get through the day by breaking the “spell” when we were rocking and there wasn’t anyone else to talk to. It helped me keep in touch with the reality of what had happened and not have it seem so much like a bad dream. I also put up some pictures of Andrew, and of me holding both of them back in our room after the birth, in a frame between the crib and the changing table, so we all got used to seeing the person whom we were talking about. We also visited the cemetery quite a few times that summer, and I’d tell him why we were there. He has turned out to be an extraordinarily understanding child, and sometimes I wonder if this wasn’t part of it – and I do think that children understand so much more than we realize, so much more than just what adults put in words.
Of course I also wondered what if any effects his brother’s death had on him directly – just from the fact that they were twins (although fraternal, not identical) and had been together for 9 months before birth. Andrew’s personality before birth was much like Berney’s before and since birth – very happy, playful, lots of enthusiasm for every-one and everything, and very loving. The two of them really did seem to play together (and then would quiet down if I asked them to, while still playing). We have a great ultrasound photo (which I still haven’t looked at) of the two of them hitting their heads together just as fast as they could (and probably laughing). We always joked that they weren’t premature because they were enjoying themselves so much – and even the ultrasound technicians commented in no uncertain terms on their love for food.
So, while I had no way to know, and had kind of a stake in thinking that it wouldn’t be too difficult for Berney, I figured that at least he was used to being very physically close to someone else – and that was all the further “excuse” I needed to keep Berney very close to me at all times. (He still is the most snuggly child you can imagine, and still loves nothing quite as much as going off to sleep cuddling in my lap.) I did notice that – from the very first night we came home – he had a very peculiar fear of the dark, and cried in an odd way that he never did otherwise (he almost never cried at all). We got used to leaving a light on at night, and it doesn’t get that dark here in the summer – but in the fall, it came back, when we were out in the car. A friend who is a social worker suggested that it could be his memory of right before he and Andrew were born – knowing that something had changed, something was wrong, now that Andrew wasn’t moving, but not understanding it, all he knew was it was dark. It’s possible – I think he can remember some-thing from before he was born, because whenever he did get fussy, all I had to do was hang him upside down off my lap and knees, holding his hands tightly, with my legs firmly against him and bouncing him, and he’d be suddenly utterly happy and refuse to come up. At a few months old, he began throwing himself over hard and demanding I do that. That was his position the whole time before birth – packed in tight, head down, and bouncing. And he had recognized my voice instantly when I first said hello to him.
As Berney got a little older, having my husband’s support in relating to the situation really helped. Although his grief did not effect him nearly as much as mine did me, he missed Andrew and our twins, while delighting in having Berney (his first child ever, too, at age 47) – and the more precious Berney was, the more he could see what we also missed. We made an unspoken agreement at the beginning not to judge each other, and that worked fine (even though we often disagree about just about everything else in our lives!) He agreed completely with my need for Berney to know about his twin, and one of his roles was in helping Berney learn about death. My husband has some animals, and periodically one of them dies and he has to bury it (lovingly, since he’s very much an animal-lover). Starting when Berney was about 2-1/2, he’d ask him if he’d like to help him bury the kitty or doggy who had died – no pressure at all, but of course Berney always wanted to. Over the years, he had a chance to observe death and ask questions. When he was younger, he usually said something about how the kitty would be back later. Last year or so, I overheard him say to his little brother, “No, Alexander, the doggy doesn’t come back – it’s very sad, he’s dead and we miss him, but he doesn’t come back.” You could tell that he meant it.
Another thing that helped to lay the foundation for his understanding was my having his little brother Alexander, born 22 months later after what was fortunately an easy conception and perfect pregnancy (except for being told after amniocentesis that he was a girl, only to be told a week later that was a clerical error!) Having Alexander showed me that Berney was not a “fluke” – that maybe the norm for me was to have living, healthy babies and not the other way around. The whole first year of Berney’s life, I’d been so afraid of SIDS for him, and even now there is part of me that is still waiting for the other shoe to drop, in some mysterious way. (There was part of me also that was waiting for Andrew to suddenly come back, as mysteriously as he’d disappeared.) Having Alexander also eased my being so acutely aware of Berney’s oneness – I could hold a child on each arm, even change two diapers at a time, and when my husband took Berney for walks his other hand wasn’t just dangling. It also made it even more tantalizing and frustrating to think of what Andrew would have looked like and would have been like – both Berney and Alexander were so beautiful and happy, so alike in some ways and different in others, and Andrew had had their same basic looks and personality – it made it real that Berney really could have a brother who was just as special (which had been hard to imagine before). Driving past the cemetery on the way home from the hospital, and not being able to put Andrew in a car seat in the back too, was probably the hardest thing of all.
For Berney, having Alexander gave him the idea of “brother” – it would have been hard to really understand about Andrew otherwise, I would think. As soon as Alexander was able to crawl, he and Berney became very, very close, and are to this day. They squabble, but are utterly compatible and complementary and wouldn’t know what to do without each other. Berney tells me that he’s loved Alexander ever since the very first minute he saw him, and is very highly dependent on him, even more so than Alexander is on him. I feel good that he’s been able to have a close relationship with a sibling even though it wasn’t to be with Andrew. I do think, too, that because of Alexander Berney has seen even more of what he missed with not having Andrew here.
In preparing for Berney to having a fuller understanding, I felt the other important ingredient was his understanding something about pregnancy and how babies are born, and twins. He has always been an insatiably curious child, and I’ve been around many pregnant women, so that part was pretty easy; and my friend and colleague at the twins club, Patti, has identical girls who are a year older than Berney (and one of whom he has a real crush on, totally uncharacteristically) – though I’ve explained that not all twins look exactly alike, and that he and Andrew were not identical. When Berney was about 4 -1/2 he began asking a lot more about Andrew and saying a lot more about him, and one of the first things was (as I was heading into the copy shop): “Mama, you know some people have birthdays very close together, don’t they?” After asking him if he meant him and me, or Alexander and their father and grandmother, he saw it wouldn’t upset me and said, “I mean, like Patti’s girls, Jamie and Kelley, they were born together and have the very same birthday and the same age!” We went on to talk about “if” Andrew we here, would they have had the same birthday cake or two cakes, would they each get the same presents or different ones, would Berney get as many presents as he does, and so on – just enjoying wondering.
He didn’t say the word “twins” even then, and actually I don’t think that he ever has – not surprising since his father and I often call them “the t-word”, and when he hears me talking about all the problems with twins, and about “twin encounters” (“Oh, guess what I saw – ” etc.) Once when he was younger, I referred to him as “my twin” and he got very upset and told me he didn’t want to be a twin – not surprising after everything he hears me talk about, where twins are always in some way the problem. Now that he’s older it doesn’t bother him. A major irony has been that for various reasons, Berney and Alexander have been often taken for twins, for several years now. When we’re out I’m often asked whether they are, and sometimes it’s assumed that they are – I could tell quite some stories (where the people I was avoiding turned out to be me). At first it was like a knife in the heart; then I got used to it and even enjoyed it some. My husband and I both always respond, pleasantly, “Well, actually he is a twin, but they are not!” One day, both boys had insisted on buying purple sweatshirts on sale at Sears, and I was using the stroller with an extra seat in back borrowed from a friend (who had girls close in age, then lost a son to SIDS)(I could never face buying or using a double stroller). For the whole length of the mall we found out exactly what it was like to receive the attention given to twins… yikes…and towards the end, Berney said, “Well, Mama, I guess if Andrew were here we’d have to be triplets!”
It was when he was between 4-1/2 and his 5th birthday that Berney started coming out with a lot of comments and questions. He has always wanted to know exactly why Andrew died, and exactly what he would look like now if he were here. It took him a while to figure out the sequence of events – he’d tell me, “Mama, you had three boys, and then there were two”; and for a while he thought that Andrew had been here for a while with us before he died. He liked to ask questions about when they played together in my tummy. It seemed strange to him that a baby could die in its mama’s tummy.
Even the little one, Alexander, got in on it. He was still 2 at this time, but seemed to understand in his own way. After they get out of the bath or shower and wrap up in towels, we call them “wet puppies”. Berney gets out first and says, “Here comes wet puppy #1!” When Alexander would get out, he’d say “Here comes wet puppy #3!!” When I asked why he’d say #3, he said, “That’s because if Andrew was here I’d be #3!” and gave me the nicest look. (Now Berney tells him he’s really #10!)
There was one day around this time when Berney and Alexander both insisted on seeing photos of Berney’s birth, and hearing about Andrew. We looked at them all and really talked for as long as they felt like it – I guess it was the first “major” talk. A little while later, my husband came home from work and took them for a walk without knowing about it yet. When he came home he looked really rattled and asked me privately what Berney had been hearing me talk about on the phone or wherever. He was so relieved when I told him we’d just been looking at the birth photos and talking. Apparently, halfway down the road, Berney had suddenly gone over to a big rock, looked under it, and said, “Well, no dead babies under there!”
Not too long after this, I was talking on the phone one day to a mom whose surviving twin was almost at his first birthday, and she was having a really hard time. We talked for a long time about all of it, and finally the boys got fussy. Once I was off the phone, they stopped fussing and Berney said, “That lady was really sad because her baby died. We’d better send her the newsletter right away.” Alexander said, “Yeah – the baby was in her tummy, and she went to the hospital – and the baby dropped out of her tummy, but it died!” Berney said, “Yeah, but it’s OKAY to feel sad for babies who die!” Alexander agreed and they headed back into the living room to play.
That’s another thing, of course – because of what I’ve ended up doing with the newsletter and network, and local loss support, both Berney and Alexander have heard me talk about what happened with Andrew, my feelings about it, other people’s losses, and any number of related things many, many times. Many of our friends are families who have lost babies, and their old friend Sophie is a surviving twin. Berney often gets little letters and postcards from my friends’ surviving twins, and really knows that there are lots and lots of other boys and girls who have lost their twin. Also, he turned out to be a very early reader, and at the age of 4 he was actually able to read Our Newsletter, every word, and liked to play a game that we called “Tormenting Mama” – he’d tiptoe down and stand behind me as I was writing letters to readers, and read every word back to me as I was writing it and then ask things like, “What is a miscarriage, really?” One morning he actually said, “Tetralogy of Fallot – hmmm, that’s a weird French word. What is it, and did the baby die?” His precociousness (which of course I can’t help being extra-proud of, and wondering what it would have been like if Andrew were that way, and what if he weren’t) has made it even more important to be honest with him – you simply cannot keep anything from him, or keep him from asking the tough questions.
Just before kindergarten started, one day he insisted that I tell him Andrew’s full name (even though he knows what it is). He got their toy telephone, and talking very loudly and clearly into it, addressed Andrew by his full name. It was like he was calling to wherever he was, and wanting to make sure he heard him. He talked to him for quite a while. It was hard for me to listen to it, but it had to do with their birthday. Berney was inviting him, really, really nicely, to their birthday, and telling him that if he would come, he would share his birthday with him and it would be really nice. It went on for quite a while, and it was like he was trying to talk him into being here, or giving it his best shot to find out if he will still come here or not. He was so totally sincere. After a while he stopped and waited for Andrew to reply. When he didn’t, he turned to me and said, “Well, I guess he’s going to have his birthday outside!”…and went off to play. (I had needed to talk to his teacher ahead of time anyway, and had an appointment that afternoon; that nudged me into telling her about his being a twin, and knowing it. She was extremely understanding, and that made what was otherwise a difficult landmark much less so.)
Another thing he would wonder about was how many toys they each would get on their birthday, and whether they’d share. I was very relieved when he had the confidence to bring up what he considered the negative things that would have happened had Andrew lived. The main one was, “We wouldn’t have enough money for enough Ninjas!” and the next was, “Maybe we wouldn’t have had enough money for us both to go to preschool”. Earlier this year, as we were riding on an airplane, he suddenly said, “Mama, I can think of two bad things if Andrew lived – not as many Ninjas, and how would we all sit together on the plane?!” Another thing he likes to tell me sometimes is, “Mama, if Andrew were here you’d have three fussy boys today, and three boys fussing for Ninjas when they’re not on sale!”
I’ve always been glad that he has the confidence to say things like that – I’ve always felt strongly that it was so important that he not “idealize” what life would be like if Andrew were here, and think everything would be just perfect “if only”. The fact that he can feel that way, and that he knows I can “take it”, is very, very reassuring in that respect. Sometimes, though, I do tell him that we know families who have three children and they still have a lot of toys (in fact, they might even total to more), and they manage to go on trips and do a lot of things. Lately he’s coming to the conclusion that maybe there would be even more Ninjas around, and that it might be fun to have all 5 of us go on trips, all things considered.
Earlier this year, I was driving the kids and myself down a very busy freeway to the San Francisco Airport when Berney suddenly said, “Mama, there are two things I really want to know about Andrew. One is, exactly why did he die, and the other is, exactly what would he look like.” We have always told him that we don’t know why Andrew died, but the time around when babies are born is actually a very dangerous one, many different things can go wrong, and in fact there are so many things that have to go just right that it’s special when it all does; and that this is especially true for twins, many things can happen even when the babies are big and ready to be born. He told me this time that he has an idea about why he died, that it was something very unique that happened and that it is really something, but we just don’t know how to figure it out yet, and he’s going to do it when he grows up. It’s hard to put into words what he said, but he was so intent and involved in what he was thinking, and so totally sincere.
The discussion reminded me of something else, and after a little mental debate, I decided he could handle it since it was on my mind, which he can “read” anyway. I told him that for many years I was a heavy smoker, and that I threw every cigarette I had away about 5 minutes after learning I was pregnant the first time (with what turned out to be him and Andrew), and never smoked again, but that I had always wondered whether the smoking had in some way influenced what happened to Andrew. (And I even did have some fairly strong premonitions while I was pregnant.) I told him that of course he himself was totally healthy, so it was hard to say, but I had always wondered about that since smoking isn’t good for babies. He listened, and said, “Well, but Mama, you can’t change! you can’t go back and change! You did your best throwing away all your cigarettes right away, and that was a long time, almost 6 years ago now and you can’t change what happened, you can just be so glad you have me – and Alexander!” He said it so sweetly it blew me away. Later when I told my husband and it made him start thinking of his own favorite “guilt” items, I told him, “Talk to Berney – you’ll feel better.”
I wish I’d jotted own all the things he’s said, and asked, but what I’ve mentioned covers many of the highlights. (I did just remember the time, when he was 4 and really wanted something, that he came up on my lap and said sweetly, “Mama, I’m your surviving twin!” He tried it on his father later that day too – he’s not above trying to take advantage, as long as we’ve insisted on giving him this knowledge to deal with!) Another help has been having Andrew’s grave so near to our house. He’s used to passing it whenever we go anywhere, often throwing over a kiss, and he helped us put in the marker and trees and flowers, and take care of it in the summer. Now he always makes really sure that the marker is completely clean, not a speck on it, using his hands. It’s too icy from October till about their birthday, but over the summer we stop by when we can and trim the grass. I’ve always been careful to be aware of whether he thought Andrew was really there or not, thinking that maybe he was there just needing to come out or whatever. Sometimes he does comment about it, and seems to know now that it is just whatever may be left of his body (which he’s curious about). My husband and I don’t specifically believe in any kind of life after death (although as he says, it could be a nice surprise), so we have never encouraged him to think that his brother is somehow anywhere else, watching or waiting for us, or that we will ever see him again (and this of course makes many of the ways that people often relate to children about death not an option for us). Berney has accepted this pretty well, and the idea that Andrew is in our hearts and our memories, and a special place in our family history.
What has been harder for him, and for all of us, is on one hand his total appreciation for life, and totally loving life and being alive – and then being aware of his own mortality, and ours. I remember being that way myself at a few years older (and in a family that did believe in heaven) and he is faced with it now because of his special circumstances, and his brightness. For a while, he was always wanting to be younger, and his biggest wish was “to live on and on through all the ages”; his biggest fear was each of us dying, in order of age, and then all of us being gone once Alexander is. (His grandparents live here and are 88 and 92 so it’s not like he thought it was around the corner, but still.) Now we’ve all sort of compromised on the idea that since we are a family and love each other totally, we will always be together in some way, even though we don’t understand it, and life is too precious to worry too much about things which no one really knows at this point. He wants to be one of the people who discovers “what’s past Pluto!” – and can define his own beliefs as he gets older.
Recently, he’s told me several times that the time that was the most scary for him in his whole life, was when Andrew was buried (and he claims that he remembers it). When I said something to the effect of how that would be understandable he said, “No, it’s not that – it’s because I want him to be here!” One time recently, he came out of the bathroom and said, “Mama, I want to see Andrew, I need to know exactly what he would look like, even if it’s after we die!” Alexander said he did too, and I reminded them that I have a box of all the things from when they were born that we could look at, along with all the photos. They insisted I get it out right away (I hadn’t looked in it in years) so we did – the lock of Andrew’s hair, the pictures of me holding both of them, the pictures of Andrew in his casket, his blankets, and many other things. All the footprints were there, and within a few minutes the whole discussion was around to who had the biggest feet at birth (Alexander!).
There has been a little more pain in his voice recently, and it makes me wonder whether it will somehow “peak” before becoming more livable again, just because he’s mature enough to really see how much he lost, even if we are not trying not to make it any more difficult than it has to be. (And I wonder what it will be like for him if there are twins in his first-grade class.) We’ll see what the future brings. All these things are things which he will struggle with in some ways in the future, but with the head and heart that he has, I can’t help thinking that this will enrich his life, and what he does with it, rather than only cause problems. I have always hoped – but never wanted to expect – that whatever his life brings and whoever he is becoming, he will carry his twin brother in a special and comfortable place in his heart, and we are very fortunate that he is a child who seems like he will do that.
Despite what it would seem in writing about this and putting 6 years all in one story, the subject of Andrew doesn’t necessarily come up that often – it’s been at least several weeks now. Then just now, exactly as I finished this, the boys were setting up a game in the living room, some kind of a train. I heard Berney say, “If Andrew were here it would be easier, there would be 3 and he could be the passenger, but he died so there’s only two.” Alexander came in the kitchen, and Berney came and got him and assured him he’d figured out another way to do it, and it would be good.
A few months later: Berney saw this for the first time after I made some copies. He read most of it (I should have realized it was too quiet!) and came to me and said, “Mama, I read what you wrote about me and Andrew and Alexander, and it’s special and I really like it…The parts about the pain of losing Andrew, and how I screamed when Andrew was buried, and how glad you were to have me.” (Then he went on about the details of the groups I’d contacted, etc.!) He said that he’s been “working on restoring old memories” – getting out special memories from when he was a baby and toddler and making sure they are clear in his mind. He said he doesn’t remember being in my tummy or being born, but insists he remembers when Andrew was buried “and Daddy put his gloves in the grave, and I think wore a gray jacket”. Who knows? (it could have been when we were putting in the marker several years later). Alexander says that what makes him sad and angry is “I didn’t have enough time to see him, and I didn’t have enough time to say goodbye to him” (because he wasn’t born yet!). One day he suddenly told me, “Mama, you had triplets – it was Berney, Andrew and me, and we all looked just alike!” – his way of getting to be there, and knowing what Andrew looked like.
This was written when Berney was 6 (and Alex was 4)…he’ll be 19 soon…to be updated!