This month, our grandson, Wilder Owen Walsh, passed away at only twelve days old. While death is something I have experienced in many ways throughout my life, I have never experienced the loss of a baby. I had no experience with Neonatal Intensive Care Units. I wanted to share a few things I observed and learned in just a few days of his brief life.
The NICU world is a completely different realm. Time itself takes on a whole new meaning. Victory comes in small doses. You are literally in the moment. You live an hour at a time, one test at a time, one result at a time. The NICU staff are a group of amazing souls and frankly, I don’t know how they do what they do. The balance of education, knowledge and experience with love, compassion and sensitivity for the baby and family is impressive to say the least.
I was in awe of our physical bodies and what they can endure. Based on my previous experiences with death, I thought I had a deep understanding of the fragility of life. I don’t think I fully grasped it until I watched a newborn fight for his. The moment where Wilder was methodically disconnected from all support, and soon afterward took his last breath, is a memory that will never fade.
I was reminded that none of us are exempt from death, loss, grief. We will all experience our own loss of loved ones while we are here. I was reminded that while the pain of the loss can be shattering, each loss helps guide me in the life I want to live while I am here.
I spoke at Wilder’s service. While it was intended for the family and friends during that personal moment, I am choosing to share the eulogy here. My hope is that someone will find comfort, especially if enduring a loss of their own.
Wilder’s struggles and his passing away is tragic. It is a loss that will be felt by many forever. It’s normal to question why. It’s normal to want to know the purpose behind the tragedy. The reality is, we may never know the answers while we are here. Many of you may ask, “Where is God in this?”- “Where is the good in this?”.
I can tell you the good I observed:
The good was in his calm, easy-going demeanor after his birth. The bonding as his mother nursed him. The awe in his parent’s faces as they looked at him. The excitement of his sisters. The joy of his family upon his arrival. The love given to him through every person that held him. The concern from the medical staff. The tenderness of each NICU nurse. The knowledge of every NICU doctor. The strength and unity of the family. The relationships that were built. The hope expressed in every comment and message on social media. The support of friends, family and in some cases, strangers. The compassion of the NICU staff in is last hours. The comfort given with every hand held and every embrace given during his passing.
There was some aspect of good in every moment.
Wilder’s life didn’t turn out the way we wanted, expected or hoped for. His loss is heartbreaking. But each of us can honor him as we move forward in our lives. We can display the very traits he embodied and the traits embodied by those around him. We can honor his life and memory by freely giving the same love that was so easily given to him.
1 Corinthians 13:13 states, “And now these three remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
In Wilder’s brief life, one thing that impacted me was the amount of love he had while he was here. I believe he received more love in his few days than some receive in a lifetime.
For those of us here grieving, the pain is intense and the journey through it is difficult. While Wilder will never be forgotten, the pain will lessen. Be kind to yourself in the process. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and there is certainly not a specific timeframe to do so.
I encourage you to focus on his beautiful presence while he was here with us, rather than focusing on his absence. I encourage you to focus on what we gained through him, rather than what was lost.
For me personally, I am honored and grateful that I knew him at all.