As if losing you wasn’t enough, we got home from the hospital and realized that we had to plan a funeral. Saying goodbye is not easy, but when the person you’re saying goodbye to is as tiny as you are, there are no words. I was not prepared for how small the casket was going to be. Parents shouldn’t have to bury their children.
There were about 50 people at your burial service – immediate family, friends, and co-workers from San Diego. While there was nothing that would have made today any easier, it was incredibly humbling to have so much support.
Your Dad and I spoke. You know I hate speaking in front of people, but nobody knew you like I did. We read excerpts from Tuesday’s with Morrie. My favorite part though was when your Dad talked about heartbeats.
I’ve included his words and mine below, as well as some of the highlights from the book.
Rest in peace my love,
You and I are here. You and I are here.
These were the only words I could get out to Julie when the doctor told us Ruby’s heart had stopped. We take heartbeats for granted. They can stop at any second…and will stop at some point.
Although our heart beats involuntarily, we do have a choice. We can choose to awaken to the present moment with the understanding of how fragile life is. We can choose to tell those around us we love them each day not just by saying those words but through acts of kindness. We can choose to appreciate what material items we posses.We can choose to smile as nature teaches us about true beauty – the breeze the trees the ocean the sun the stars. Loving and appreciating others is loving and appreciating Ruby.
We are honoring her physical form today but we will honor her spirit everyday. I am not a physicist and I know that may come as a surprise….but when Ruby’s heart stopped, her spirit was transmuted to other forms – the three nurses who carried us through the worst 48 hours of horror with warmth and grace, our otherwise stoic physician weeping after delivery, our family who refused to leave the hospital – sleeping on the floor if they had to, our friends who have connected with us in person and through beautiful thoughtful messages, the Ruby red sunsets we see and the love we feel today.
Weeks ago I kept hearing the same question over and over – are you ready to be a dad? The real answer at that time is the same answer as today. I have the strongest most loving beautiful life partner – with J we can get through anything as a team. The only thing that provides the slightest relief is being around her and holding her hand.
The loss of this magnitude has taught me so many lessons. It has let value surface and nonsense subside. What is important? A heartbeat.
A hug from a friend. A look into my wife’s eyes in which she AND Ruby look back at me. In the next days months years, when you inevitably fall into frustration over a trivial manner, try to remember your heart is beating and you are here now. We love you, Ruby.
Back in January of 2006, Andrew and I decided to read Tuesday’s with Morrie. aloud together. We were in college, had only been dating a few months, but thought it would be a cute thing for us to do as a couple.
The memoir follows Morrie, a professor in the last days of his life and one of his former students, Mitch. Knowing he was dying, Morrie visited with Mitch in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final “class”: lessons in how to live. These lessons really hit home for Andrew and I then, and even more so as we stand before you today.
For 38 Tuesdays, I counted down the weeks until Ruby’s due date. She was born Tuesday of last week. As Morrie would say, “We are Tuesday people,” so we felt like it would be fitting to share some of his lessons in Ruby’s honor today.
TUESDAY’S WITH MORRIE
The Fourth Tuesday – We Talk About Death
“Everyone knows they’re going to die,” he said again, “but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently.”
But everyone knows someone who has died, I said. Why is it so hard to think about dying?
“Because,” Morrie continued, “most of us all walk around as if we’re sleepwalking. We really don’t experience the world fully, because we’re half-asleep, doing things we automatically think we have to do.”
And facing death changes all that?
“Oh, yes. You strip away all that stuff and you focus on the essentials. When you realize you’re doing to die, you see everything much differently.
He sighed. “Learn how to die, and you learn how to live.”
“Well, the truth is, if you really listen to that bird on your shoulder, if you accept that you can die at any time – then you might not be as ambitious as you are.”
I forced a small grin.
“The things you spend so much time on – all this work you do – might not seem as important. You might have to make room for some more spiritual things.”
“Mitch,” he said, laughing along, “even I don’t know what ‘spiritual development’ really means. But I do know we’re deficient in some way. We are too involved in materialistic things, and they don’t satisfy us. The loving relationships we have, the universe around us, we take these things for granted.”
The Fifth Tuesday – We Talk About Family
“The fact is, there is no foundation, no secure ground, upon which people stand today if it isn’t the family. It’s become quite clear to me as I’ve been sick. If you don’t have the support and love and caring and concern that you get from a family, you don’t have much at all. Love is so supremely important. As our great poet Auden said, ‘Love each other or perish.’”
“Without love, we are birds with broken wings.”
“Don’t stop your lives,” he told them. “Otherwise, this disease will have ruined three of us instead of one.”
“Whenever people ask me about having children or not having children, I never tell tem what to do,” Morrie said now, looking at a photo of his oldest son. “I simply say, ‘There is no experience like having children.’ That’s all. There is no substitute for it. You cannot do it with a friend. You cannot do it with a lover. If you want the experience of having complete responsibility or another human being, and to learn how to love and bond in the deepest way, then you should have children.”
So you would do it again? I asked.
I glanced at the photo. Rob was kissing Morrie on the forehead, and Morrie was laughing with his eyes closed.
“Would I do it again?” he said to me, looking surprised. “Mitch, I would not have missed that experience for anything.”
The Sixth Tuesday – We Talk About Emotions
“Take any emotion – love for a woman, or grief for a loved one, or what I’m going though, fear and pain from a deadly illness. If you hold back on the emotions – if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them – you can never get to being detached; you’re too busy being afraid. You’re afraid of the pain, you’re afraid of the grief. You’re afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails…But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all he way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then you can say, ‘All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment.’”
“I thought about how often this was needed in everyday life. How we feel lonely, sometimes to the point of tears, but we don’t let those tears come because we are not supposed to cry. Or how we feel a surge of love for a partner but we don’t say anything because we’re frozen with fear of what those words might do to the relationship. Morrie’s approach was exactly the opposite. Turn on the faucet. Wash yourself with the emotion. It won’t hurt you. It will only help. If you let the fear inside, if you pull it on like a familiar shirt, then you can say to yourself, “All right, it’s just fear, I don’t have to let it control me. I see it for what it is.”
Same for loneliness: you let go, let the tears flow, feel it completely – but eventually be able to say, “All right, that was my moment with loneliness. I’m not afraid of feeling lonely, but now I’m going to put that loneliness aside and know that there are other emotions in the world, and I’m going to experience them as well.”
“Detach,” Morrie said again.