We went back to Egleston last week for the first time since Owen died. It was weird to be back. When we stepped off the elevator on the second floor of the hospital, we had mixed emotions. It felt like no time had passed at all, but at the same time it felt like so much had changed. The parking deck, the smells, the bright yellow and orange walls... everything brought back so many emotions. The most intense moments of our lives were spent at this place. When we rang the bell to enter the CICU, we so badly wanted to tell the receptionist that we were there for Owen Parker and that we were his parents, just like we had done so many times before. When we walked in the unit, we were greeted by some of our favorite people. I made a list of people I wanted to personally thank, and I came up with over sixty individuals. I wish we could have seen them all that day, but I'm thankful for those we did get to see. We laughed and joked with everyone like old times. They all wanted to know how we were doing, and we wanted to know the same about them. I think coming back was healing for not just us, but for them as well. Owen's life and death left a lasting impact on their lives too. I kept telling everyone how much we missed them, and how much we missed Egleston. They looked at us like we were crazy, but it's true. All of the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, social workers, chaplains, therapy dogs, receptionists, cafeteria workers, janitors, etc. will always hold a special place in our hearts. Egleston is a happy place for us because it is where Owen spent his life. That's where most of our memories with him are.
I remember sitting next to Owen's bed and seeing other families come back to visit with their little ones who were former patients. They all looked so healthy and strong and brought so much joy to the staff in the unit. I wanted SO BADLY for Owen to be one of those success stories. I wanted to bring him back one day and amaze everyone with how well he was doing. I wanted everyone to see him grow big and strong. Even though we weren't able to bring him back with us, it was still good to come back for a visit. Over the past few months, I made a bunch of crotcheted hearts just like the ones I made Owen. When we went back to Egleston, I dropped them off for the nurses to pass out to other babies on the floor. I attached a little note of encouragement for the moms. I know it's not much, but it made me happy to give something to other babies in honor of Owen.
The other highlight from our last week in Atlanta was visiting with the family who we stayed with for six weeks while Owen was in the hospital. We went to their house for dinner, and it was so wonderful to be back. This family was one of the biggest blessings to us during Owen's life. We really clicked with them and became very fast friends. I'm not sure if I ever mentioned before that they also have a son named Owen. We sat around and visited, looked at Owen's baby book, and talked about our upcoming move. They called the cardiologist who lives next door to come over and visit also, so we got to talk to him. He had been on Owen's case since the very beginning, and he was there the day he died. We loved chatting with him and hearing him say that people on the floor are still talking about Owen... It makes us so proud. He really was a special little guy. We all miss him so much.
Leaving Atlanta felt like the end to a chapter in our lives. We have been in Charlotte for a week, and at times it feels like none of that with Owen ever happened. When I look at pictures or videos of him, my heart breaks and longs for him. I never knew how physically draining grief was. It's completely exhausting. Occasionally my arms will physically ache. Like I need to be holding my baby. I can't explain it, but I have heard other parents who have lost babies say the same thing. At my last session with my counselor, he told me that it will get better. He said that my heart will slowly heal. I tearfully told him I don't believe him. I want my heart to heal, and I don't want to be bitter or angry or sad, but I can't imagine it getting any better. Part of me does believe him since he also lost a child....
Overall, our move went well! We ended up subleasing an apartment from some good friends of ours for three months while we look for a house. We had lots of help from friends and family packing, cleaning our house, and unpacking which was great.
Brian drove the truck with Toby who apparently wasn't the best passenger...
Charlotte already feels like the best fresh start we could have asked for. I can't wait to share about our life here in our new city. We really love it. Brian started his new job and loves it, and I'm in the process of looking for work. Thanks for your continued prayers for our family as we continue to try to move forward as best we can. We will never have complete closure on our life with Owen. He does not belong to one chapter of our lives- he will be a part of all the chapters to come, and we are happy to take him with us in our hearts.