Our babies, Ezra Lee and Leo Allen Heery were due on
August 21, 2017.
Though this date will now never be their birthday, as we had so hoped, it is still an anniversary that will live in our hearts forever.
When I was pregnant, this day became our countdown. It was our gauge for how far along we were and how many weeks we still had to go. It was a day filled with excitement and dreams for a future that awaited us, as the new, overwhelmed parents of two beautiful baby boys. And it was, admittedly, a day filled with apprehension, an inescapable deadline of all we had to do to get ready for parenthood.
“I don’t know if we can do this,” I remember telling Patrick as we started our baby registry and began frantically reading books about raising multiples, filled with equal parts excitement and anxiety for life with twins.
“Too late now!” Patrick said enthusiastically, not yet knowing just how quickly and how drastically this bright future ahead of us would grow dark.
Then when I first faced terrifying complications with my pregnancy, this day became a new kind of countdown. At that point, each day I remained pregnant was another day closer to viability.
The very earliest that the babies could be born and survive, the doctors told us, was 23 weeks. Even then though, they warned, the babies would only have a 50% chance of survival, and among the surviving half of babies born so extremely premature, they told us – 1/3 go on to live with devastating disabilities; 1/3 live with minor to moderate disabilities; and 1/3 would live a relatively healthy life. In the face of such terrifying and daunting odds, each day closer was like stepping toward life.
Unfortunately, our boys were born a day shy of 21 weeks on April 9, 2017, nowhere near 23 weeks. Never before has April felt so far from August.
Shortly after the boys were born still, I stumbled upon an article announcing that on August 21, 2017, “Day will become night.”
Intrigued, I read on.
On August 21, the article announced, the “Great American Eclipse” will be visible along a narrow band that stretches from Oregon, across the central United States, and out through the coast of South Carolina. This is the first time that a total solar eclipse has stretched across the course of the country in 99 years; the last time an eclipse crossed the continental United States was in the year 1918.
Solar eclipses, it explained, are rare cosmic events when the moon passes between the sun and the earth. Their scientific improbability makes this cosmic coincidence truly miraculous. By chance, the sun is about 400 times larger than the moon, but it is also approximately 400 times farther away. From our viewpoint on earth, this means the sun and moon appear to be about the same size on the sky. And in the rare moments when they align, the moon fits nicely in front of the sun.
Profoundly, the article described the beauty of this celestial phenomenon –
“Imagine standing in an open field with the summer sun beating down on you. Then, slowly but steadily, the sun blackens. The temperature drops, birds become quiet, and crickets begin their evening chirps. In less than a minute the bright daytime sky is replaced by twilight. Day has turned into night.”
A cosmic miracle turning day dark – I can think of no better way to honor Ezra and Leo’s memory on this day. It feels like the whole world will grieve together with us in the darkness, as even the birds quiet and the crickets let out their mournful cry. And then when the light returns and the sun shines forth from the moon’s dark shadow, the world will then join with us in our hope for the future and the dream for brighter days ahead.
My eclipse glasses are at the ready, and we would like to welcome you to join us –