My dad told me a story the other day of a co-worker whose son had died at age 19. This young man’s dad said that since the death of his son his, “Life used to be in color and now it is forever in black and white.” I appreciated this man’s metaphor of his grief, and I see how it can be true. But for me, it’s as if the dull moments of shades of gray once in a while give light to flashes of vivacious color. Since the stillbirth of my daughter, I actually find life to be more vibrant, to be more remarkable, and to be more dynamic with colors I used to not appreciate.
I understand why the grief of losing a child would be described more like a 1920’s black and white photo than of a vibrant Monet painting. But for me, after the grays of the initial period of grief lifted, colors of beauty have started to appear all around me. The color of my husband’s green eyes shines livelier as I gaze into them, the golden moon glows more brightly on the freshly fallen white snow. With spring finally arriving, the red breast of the house finch shimmers in the daylight shining through the trees. Dawn and twilight are more effervescent as I notice the reds, purples, oranges, and blues of the sun setting and rising in the sky with added joy. The loss of my daughter has changed me, has moved me, and has shown me the treasure of what this life is, with all the beauty it holds. Nora’s existence, no matter how short, has taught me about how brilliant the colors of life are and how I need to be grateful for every moment I have with this beauty, since she was never given the gift of seeing nature’s canvases of color.
I appreciate the beautiful hues of life more fully now. Mother Nature’s perfect Picasso. Yet, sometimes living openly to this beauty can be a catch-twenty-two. I appreciate the stunning shades of the world more, but I also see what I am missing with my daughter. I see a child’s bright blue eyes smiling in the coffee shop and my mind is confused. Part of me sees the sparkling cobalt eyes and I acknowledge how exquisite and amazing the gift of life is, but a part of me dies inside and my heart sees muted tones of gray because I will never get to experience the colorful beauty of my own child.
People tell me that becoming a parent changes you. Maybe it’s because I have transformed from entering parenthood in this way that life seems more beautiful, or maybe it is because with the death of Nora I have learned just how precious this life is. Either way, I am grateful that Nora has given me the gift of colorful grief, but I wish I could have had my cake and eat it too. I wish the beauty of a more colorful world came with being a mother to a child in my arms instead of forever in my heart. I know that if I could have Nora back I would willingly go colorblind, but for now I will have to hang my gift of a canvas full of color next to her empty crib.