It’s a familiar place. The distinct smell and sounds bring me back to four years ago, when my family called this place home for nearly six months. It’s as if we never left this place. Everything feels so familiar, yet there’s a piece of me that feels like it was a lifetime ago. Instead of being a patient on this day, I’m just a visitor to our local hospital. As I strolled the lobby, I heard my name called out. I turned around to spot a stranger quickly walking up to me.
“You don’t know me, but I took care of you when you gave birth,” she said. “I remember Parker and Abby, and of course Peyton.”
My jaw dropped as a lump formed in my throat. My heart began racing and I tried to catch my breath, the shock of those words taking me by complete surprise. The names this woman called out are my triplets, names that we say daily in our home. But while our lone survivor, Peyton, is a familiar word to many, it’s not every day that we hear the names of our two children who passed away.
The tears streamed down my face as this stranger talked about that fateful day, June 23, 2013. Turns out, she is nurse on the delivery floor of the hospital. On a day that is etched into my memory forever, there are moments that are still a haze as I recall the birth of my children. Born at 22 weeks gestation, there was a team of doctors and nurses racing in and out our room, hoping to save our premature triplets, and eventually my life as well. This nurse who stopped me in the hospital lobby was there on that day, working hard to save my family in the chaotic moments between life and death.
While people may think that bringing up the name of a deceased child is insensitive, for parents of child loss, it’s actually the complete opposite. As the days, months, and years go by, the loss of a child becomes lost in everyday life. There isn’t a day that goes by when my family doesn’t think about Abby and Parker. But, while living with grief can put our lives at a standstill, the rest of the world continues to live.
As the years go by, I have found my new normal as a parent of children both on Earth and in heaven. While my family may look picture-perfect, there’s so much that the eye can’t see. People notice just one child strolling by our side, yet strangers have no idea that our daughter is a triplet, her brother and sister only alive for less than two months. And while I love talking about all three of my children, society has taught us grieving parents to tuck that loss inside. Some people cringe at the thought of a child passing away. It often leads to an audible gasp or a sympathetic look of sadness. That awkward interaction is enough to sometimes not even mention our angels above.
As I stood in the middle of the hospital lobby, tears rolling down my face, the nurse wrapped her arms around me, embracing me in a hug. This stranger who stopped me just minutes ago, was no stranger at all. She knew my family and she knew my children, one of the few people in this world to meet my triplets. It only took a matter of moments to feel an instant connection to this woman who was working on the labor and delivery floor the day my children were born.
As I thanked this nurse for stopping me, my eyes once again welled up with tears. “Thank you for saying my children’s names,” I said. “I don’t often hear those words from strangers.”
The nurse smiled and responded, “I’ll never forget your family, and I’ll never forget your three children.”
I may have only one child to hold onto, but my two other children will always be in my heart. All it took was a chance encounter with a stranger to remind me―it doesn’t matter how long my children were her on earth, Parker and Abby existed and they will never be forgotten.
A version of this originally appeared at Perfectly Peyton