This morning before my sculling class began, the other students and I were talking about how hard it was to get up and exercise at 6:15AM. One of the women in my class asked if I just go straight to work afterwards. I have thought a lot about Hudson-related questions I don’t know how to answer, but I had not thought about this question. I was not prepared to answer that I am on a leave of absence from my job because my daughter died six weeks ago and I am barely keeping my head above water. So I fumbled. And then I lied. I just said, “Yes,” even though the truth is that I go straight home and, at least a few days this week, spend half the day crying and the other half having no idea what to do.
The question I have been dreading is “Do you have children?” In the last several weeks, Ed and I have had occasion to chat with several strangers, on Ocracoke, at Tilghman Island, at yoga, and now in my rowing class. Each time, I have spent entire conversations hoping no one will ask and trying to figure out what the hell I will say if they do.
I have a daughter. Her name is Hudson. She was beautiful, smart, funny, loving, mischievous, adventuresome, and precious in every way. And she died. When she was only 17 months old. To deny any of that in any way seems like a betrayal, of both her and myself.
But I know there will be moments when I won’t be able to, or won’t want to, deal with my own emotions after telling a perfect stranger this incredibly intimate fact. And times when I don’t want to deal with that stranger’s reaction to it, either.
And I also have no idea what I would want to tell a stranger about Hudson even if I decide, in an instant, that I want to say anything at all. I don’t know where she “is” now, if she “is” anywhere other than just in all of our hearts. And I can’t say that I have two children, one living (or some other combination of this), because I have no other children. And I can’t just say, “I have a daughter,” because that will inevitably provoke a number of follow-up questions that I don’t want to answer, either. Part of me will want to tell the person every single cherished detail about my girl, and part of me won't want to say anything at all.
So I will keep anxiously anticipating these questions, at least until the first time someone actually asks, and I have to decide on the spot what to say. This is only the beginning of a lifelong process of figuring out how to keep Hudson in our lives without being haunted by her death. It is not a process I welcome, but it is one I face nonetheless. And with no small amount of dread.