Marion Rose

Chris
5 min readApr 20, 2021

Our family met and lost our sweet baby girl, Marion Rose Sullivan, at 6:38 pm on February 19. She was 1 lb, 6.7 oz and 12 inches at birth. The only cries in the delivery room were our own.

I am sharing this because I want to honor Marion’s brief life but lasting legacy, and to do a very small thing to normalize this grief felt by so many. We can and will speak her name and will forever mourn her death. She was, is, and always will be, our daughter.

I used to assume that grief was something inside that you could fight and vanquish, but it’s not. It’s an external thing, like a shadow. You can’t escape it, you just have to live with it. And it doesn’t grow any smaller. You just come to accept that it’s there. Broadchurch

Marion means, alternately, ‘bitter’ or ‘sea of sorrow.’ It is a fitting name, but it is also a beautiful name of strength for us — what could be stronger than the sea? And now, like a raging sea, her death shapes our world, erodes what we once had and expected, while polishing what really matters.

Our older daughter Claire will never meet her baby sister. She was so excited for her, so truly in love with her. When she learned she was having a baby sister, she spent hours hanging up her old baby clothes in her closet for Sister. She spoke to Marion daily, we read poems together to her, she had plans of what she would teach her, of her song that only she would sing her — just her special song: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

No one can comprehend the weight of a baby dying, certainly not a four year-old, but she gets it more than I expected. As we told her that Sister had died in mommy’s tummy, she showed true anguish, and our hearts broke anew. We now teach her about grief, and that our feelings are neither about her, nor hers to solve, but also that we don’t need to hide those feelings from her.

We drove to the hospital at 7am, teary-eyed and full of confused dread. Bonnie said to me: “Do you remember the nurse who helped us with Claire? She was so wonderful… she even asked to tend to us when her shift started the next morning. I think her name was… Elaine?” As we checked in at the hospital, they called our name — “Sullivan? I’m Elaine, I’ll be your nurse today.” And the three of us broke down together — she remembered us, remembered Claire, and instantly knew our pain.

There are losses that rearrange the world. Deaths that change the way you see everything, grief that tears everything down. Pain that transports you to an entirely different universe, even while everyone else thinks nothing has really changed. Megan Devine

And that’s what I didn’t expect. How prepared the hospital was for us. How intimately they each knew the pain we were faced with. Volunteers had made tiny dresses, tiny hats, tiny blankets for this occasion. We canceled a birthing class, and that woman reached out immediately and arranged us with a doula on 12-hours’ notice. A volunteer from an organization called “Now I lay me down to sleep” left her home at 9pm to photograph our baby, and us, so we could remember her and honor her. All of these machinations exist because they must. Because babies die every day, their parents and families’ hearts shattered. And instead of running from that fear and that sorrow, they run towards it and provide a tiny bit of love and relief for absolute strangers on the worst day of their life.

It has been two months since we last held our little girl, and each day she gets farther away. Days are more normal, easier. We yearn, often, to be back in that delivery room. It’s the last place we will ever be with other people who met Marion. It’s the only place we’ve been with people who understood how beautiful it was — no one asks you for the birth story of your deceased child, but that doesn’t take away from your reality. But every day, we are farther removed from that room, from Marion, from the sharp agonies of loss.

The background radiation of grief is ever-present, and some days it swallows us whole without warning. We oscillate between laughing with our daughter or each other and sobbing without recourse. I still smell my baby on her tiny blanket. I feel the warmth of the blanket against her cold skin. I sense her fragility in everything I touch some days. I miss her so dearly. I mourn every lesson I cannot teach her. Every word she’ll never speak. Every joke we would have shared or song we would have sung. I will never hear her and her big sister whispering secrets.

We treasure the hours we spent with our girl. I want you to know that she is not an abstraction — we held her body, we touched her skin, we saw her features. I never thought I would pick up my child’s ashes, but I did. I certainly never thought they would bring me peace. But they do. She is home now, two months later, as she will be in two years and twenty and beyond. Marion will not grow up. She will never breathe our air, or tread our ground. But she will forever be loved, and grieved, and deeply missed.

Life is full of grief, to exactly the degree we allow ourselves to love other people. Orson Scott Card

This is our sea of sorrow. It is immeasurably vast, but hauntingly beautiful. Someday, we may sit on its shore, and bask in that beauty, but today we only hope to stay afloat. As life moves forward, grief becomes less noticeable as the sea erodes what-might-have-been, and we learn to better carry what-is.

--

--