Safe Passage

author/source: Laurie O'Neill

Sitting on my yoga mat, prayer hands at heart, I centered inward, seeking my intention/dedication for my practice. It was my 63rd birthday. It was also the day my daughter, Jamie, and son-in-law, Jose, were prepping to deliver my firstborn grandchild into this surreal, dystopian world. The angst tickling my belly gave way as I softened into my heart space.

Safe passage...

Transmitting this message with all of my being to the soon to be parents and my grandson, tears swelled behind my closed eyelids, leaking out of my eyes. My monkey mind chimed in, unleashing its insidious, troublesome message; I should be at the hospital with my daughter… I should be present to bear witness to my grandson’s birth…

But that wasn’t going to be possible thanks to Covid-19.

Or could it be?

Shortly after yoga, my phone dinged. It was from the "Fam" text chain.

"Question, I might need someone to run some masks to the hospital that we left at home," Jose texted.

"I'll do it!" I immediately responded. "I literally planned to drive there anyways to be near you in spirit."

Entering the hospital lobby, masked and hands sanitized, I waited in line, six feet behind the masked man in front of me. Jose arrived just as I approached the masked receptionist.

"Do we have a baby?" she excitedly exclaimed.

"Not yet," his eyes smiled.

He quickly updated me — it would likely be 18-24 hours before things really got moving. Hugging goodbye, our eyes locked, silently acknowledging our helplessness and heartbreak at the forced birthing isolation in this crazy coronavirus world.

Sitting in the parking lot, dusky clouds stealing in overhead, I stared at the windows wondering which one was Jamie's.

"What's your room number?" I texted. "Wondering if you have a window, and if so, what it faces? Street? Parking lot?"

A picture appeared from Jose. "All we have is a service dock!"

"Perfect visual! I WILL locate that loading dock!"

"I'm picturing Mom trying to sneak onto this loading dock and having a SERIOUS laugh," my daughter, Erin, chimed in.

"Um, I literally just said Mom will get arrested trying to find this room," Jamie replied.

Amidst several Lmao's, I responded, "You know your mother so well."

Snaking in and out of several parking lots, scanning right and left for a loading dock across from a green dumpster next to a white van, I eventually parked outside the ER. Seeing what appeared to be the loading dock in the distance, I exited my car, walking past the ER entrance then around yellow hazard tape, intent on locating my laboring daughter.

There it was!

A car door opened behind me, and I heard the security guard approaching before I saw him.

"Are you here for testing?" the masked guard asked.

"No, I'm just trying to find my daughter's room. She's having a baby! See, this is the picture my son-in-law sent and I think it's up there," I pointed.

He smiled affectionately, his warmhearted eyes gently gazing into mine. "You can't be here."

"I know," I answered contritely, turning to go.

"Good luck," he called after me.

"Thank you," I replied, snapping a picture before getting into my car.

"Ok, found you️” I texted, sending them the pic. “Already got kicked out by a very kindhearted security guard who wishes you well😂"

"Okay, hahahaha," Jamie replied. "Glad he was kind."

"I feel better now that I know where you are. Felt so good to ‘be here.' Know that I will be just outside, off and on, till your son makes his entry into the world. Given they're predicting 18-24 hours before things get moving I'm going to head home for now. Love you, Jamie, so very much❤️ You're going to do GREAT and be such an amazing Mom❤️"

The clouds finally opened up on my ride home, a torrent of raindrops pounding my windshield. The rhythm of the wipers melded with my tears, complementing the sound of the pulsing rain.


Jamie and Jose wih thier son

Safe passage...

That's all we can ask for during this bizarre moment in history, isn't it? So many families are facing losses far more horrific than mine; illness, death, an inability to experience the normal grounding grief rituals like funerals and wakes, job loss, economic ruin, isolation, and penetrating loneliness.

So, I couldn't be physically present to support my daughter's delivery. So, I may have to wait to hold my precious grandson. To softly sing a lullaby into his newborn ear. To embrace my daughter.

We all have to settle for safe passage right now. The key is to honor our losses, big and small.

Although I did fall into the “rabbit hole” of comparative suffering; rank-ordering my pain, I did that after leaning into my grief and sorrow. After allowing an avalanche of tears to fall as I drove away from that hospital. After falling into my husband’s arms that night, sobbing uncontrollably. After driving to that hospital three days in a row, walking around and around the perimeter of the hospital, working off the deep anxiety surrounding my daughter’s complicated labor and ultimate C-section.

And by doing that I not only honored my sorrow, I was able to spot the silver linings, to find hope within the hard things.

Like embracing a spontaneous picnic dinner with my husband while we camped out in the hospital parking lot waiting for our grandson to be born.

Or calling my doctor who agreed to send me for Covid-19 testing so I could be present to help my daughter, hold my darling grandson, and shower them both with love.

And finally, to shout from the highest mountaintop during a “window visit” with my quarantined 93-year-old mother that she had a brand new, beautiful, baby great-grandson.

I hope you too are allowing yourself to feel the collective loss endemic to this pandemic. Allowing yourself to find comfort through sharing your stories with others. And allowing yourself to find hope in humanity.

Our pain is ultimately what connects us deeply. If we let it.

Stay safe. Stay strong. Stay well.

Wishing you all safe passage ❤

Laurie O'Neil GrandmotherLaurie O’Neil is a social worker, author, speaker, and writer who has devoted her 40-year career to enlightening, empowering, and engaging others in the critical power of loving connection. Co-author of Graceful Woman Warrior: A Story Of Mindfully Living In The Face Of Dying, and creator of the accompanying Grace Lessons Workshop, Laurie also contributes to the online magazine, Herself360 and has appeared on WJAR NBC 10’s Studio 10, NPR’s The Point, 95.9 WATD-FM’s Powerful Women Revealed, Cape Cod Writer’s Center’s, Books and the World, and the Engaging Voices, Positive News Now and Widowed Parent podcasts. A graduate of Boston University, Laurie specializes in grief and loss, giving voice to the transformative and healing power found within our shared loss stories. She is also now a grandmother ❤️ .