Before I say anything else, I wanted to show you a picture that would have required more explanation than I was ready to give before now.
But first, the after (yes, I wrote that right):
You might remember this group shot from our dinner party this last spring. Don’t we look all cute and normal?
(Just know that I really love you to show you this picture; I look like a fluffy-haired braying donkey)
This would be right after my husband said, “Say, ‘ABBIE’S PREGNANT!'” instead of, “CHEESE!” to get everybody to smile for the picture.
I absolutely love the fact that my friend Jolinda’s response was to jump for joy. I also love that most everybody else’s response was just to smile knowingly like, “Abbie’s at it again.”
That was a joyful moment.
As have been most moments of this pregnancy, which has been easy and complication free. Not to mention universally celebrated by family and friends who are pretty clued in by now to the fact that popping out a baby or two every couple of years is just what we do.
Another person who wasn’t surprised? My midwife, Thalia.
But then, she falls squarely into the “friend” category, rather than simply “healthcare professional” and knew me pretty darn well.
I loved her. She was kind and funny and just a little bit gritty, which is my favorite kind of person. She loved Jesus and showed it by her love for people. She helped me through a really hard time on a really inconvenient day to have a hard time. She shepherded me through a bout with Shingles when the twins were only one month old. She always made time to talk to me at my appointments and always answered my calls or called right back if she was with a client. And, most importantly of all, she helped bring Simon, Della, and the twins safely into the world.
She would have delivered this little boy too if she hadn’t suddenly gone home to Jesus on Friday, June 27th.
I got the call on the evening of Thursday, June 26th informing me that Thalia was in hospice care. At first, my brain absolutely refused to accept it.
Hospice care? Hospice. That’s reserved for dying people. I just saw her! Like the day before. She wasn’t dying! She was FINE. This is not okay.
I had just had my 15 week check-up, and Thalia and I had chatted about our recent trips to Europe. She had mostly been her usual warm and slightly prickly self (we both shared a laugh about a sign hanging on her wall that said something like, “Pretending to be this nice all the time is wearing me out”), but she was stressed about several things happening in the midwifery field and seemed a little down and preoccupied. Other than that, nothing stands out as different about that appointment.
If only I had known. If only I had sensed that this would be the last time I would see her this side of heaven–that she would be hit by a massive stroke less than 24 hours later. I would have thrown my I’m-not-a-big-hugger caution to the wind and given her the kind of squeezing hug that makes you lose your breath. I would have told her how much she had helped a young mama muddle through some pretty nasty stuff and how, if I hadn’t had her, I wouldn’t have had a clue how to deal with a lot of it. I would have told her that she was an inspiration to me. That she had, on more than one occasion, been Jesus to me.
I am confident that she knew that I loved her, but I still would have cherished the chance to say it out loud one more time.
I cried a lot for about a week after she died. I doubt I would have nearly as much without the baby hormones helping out, since I’m not usually much of a crier, but I’m grateful for the hormonal nudge because all of those tears were pretty cathartic. (They still are as they slip down my cheeks right now).
Of course, it still slaps me in the face sometimes. When I find a comment on my FB wall from her that I somehow never saw and that there’s no point in responding to now. When Words With Friends asks me when the last time I played Thalia Hufton was. When I have a midwife appointment. When I even let my mind get close to thinking about delivering this sweet baby boy without Thalia there beside me.
And yet, as much as my heart aches at her loss, it rejoices too that I got to know her in the first place. And that she doesn’t have to stress about ridiculous midwifery laws or how she’s going to pull off three back-to-back births (again). Instead, she’s in the presence of her Lord and Savior praising Him and hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant” in return. Oh, glorious day!
This is so much a part of the Christian life. Joy in sadness. Beauty in ashes. New life in the face of death. Rejoicing in mourning. Knowing that we have Jesus as our hope, “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
(That’s Thalia on the left, holding Nola just minutes after she was born)
Every girl needs a Thalia in her life. And I am very grateful that I got to have mine.