I was taking a bath when I heard the crash from the master bedroom. “Quentin? What happened?” Pause. “Something fell,” was the response. He came in the bathroom with tears in his eyes. “Something fell on my head.”
I got out of the tub and grabbed a towel so that I could survey the situation. A picture frame was on the ground with the glass shattered. I quickly grabbed Quentin and checked his head more carefully for signs of cuts or glass. Nothing. I breathed a sigh of relief that however the picture managed to fall from the wall, hit his head, and shatter on the ground, that he was ok. I told him that he was lucky he wasn’t hurt and then turned my attention to the picture.
It wasn’t just a piece of artwork or smiling photo of the kids that had fallen. It was a picture of two starfish, one slightly bigger than the other, with the words “Remembering Nelle and Iris” in light cursive at the bottom. I had found the picture on a website for bereaved parents and had it customized. The picture had been emailed to me, so I could easily have another one printed, but that thought made me upset. Reprinting seemed like an excuse or a replacement for not taking care of this one.
I had to focus first on picking up all of the glass so that no one would get hurt. Then I started work on reframing my picture. I happened to have an extra frame. The original was a dark slate, metallic color and the new one was a light raw wood, but I felt that the new one would be well suited with the beach scene. As I moved the broken glass, I saw that it had slightly cut into the picture in a few places and it made me sad but I was still determined to salvage it. The matting was slightly too big for the new frame, so I got scissors and traced an outline to trim in.
Quentin watched me work. He asked why one starfish was bigger than the other. I told him that the two starfish were for our two babies that we lost. “Or it could be for me and Theo?” he asked. No, I told him, this picture has our babies’ names on it, so it couldn’t be for him and Theo. “What were their names?” he asked. He didn’t know the names of his sisters, because it is so hard for me to say their names out loud. Our first baby was named Nelle. Nelle Claudia. And our second baby was named Iris Madeline. “And their last name was the same as ours. Because that’s our family name,” he said. Yes. That’s our family name, and I have this picture because they are part of our family. I was still pregnant with them, even though they weren’t born. As soon as I said those words I immediately corrected myself. They were born, but they had already died.
“How did the doctors know they had died?” Quentin asked. Well, the doctor has a special machine that can look at Mommy’s tummy. And when the doctor looked, the babies did not have a heartbeat. And you have to have a heartbeat to be alive. Quentin put his hand over his chest. “I have a heartbeat. I’m alive.” Then he lost interest and wandered from the room.
I finished putting the picture back into the frame and rehung it on the wall.