This past holiday season was rough. No matter what I tried I just could never get into the “holiday spirit”. Christmas could not come and go fast enough. Then a small miracle happened. I started to watch my oldest daughter writing and painting more. She mentioned casually that she was writing a story for school and that she had a feeling her teacher would want her to enter it in a storytelling contest at school.
All the holiday busyness was going on taking us from one school event to another and one family gathering after another. Then one night my daughter asked me to read through her story she had been writing. As I started to read I quickly started to paint a picture of the night our daughter Bryton was stillborn but from my oldest daughter’s perspective. I learned things I was not aware of and my heart burst as tears streamed down my face. This is what I needed to know. That our youngest daughter Bryton was not forgotten and still ever so present in our lives even if no longer physically here with us.
About a week later it was time for our kid’s Christmas break. As I picked up my daughter from school, she told me about reading her story in the storytelling contest at school. She didn’t get time to finish reading it due to the bell. She then said later she learned she won by a landslide! She won and she didn’t even get to finish her story. Again my heart burst just knowing how hard it is for my daughter to open up and be vulnerable, as when her sister Bryton died she didn’t tell anyone at school except a very select few and only one teacher.
Here is her story, Easy to Live by my daughter Payton Wintle.
Easy To Live
“Hey, so what is it you need after we finish here?” my friend asked me as she pulled her violet hair behind her ear to prevent it from falling into her Wendy’s burger.
“My brother needs poster board,” I answered her. “We can just stop at the Walmart across the street.” I nodded to Henrry, who was always our group’s driver.
“How about after that we go to my house and play Super Smash Bros?” Henrry inquired, sounding rather excited, and the others with us began to agree with him. I thought about the offer for a moment, weighing the possibility of fun with my friends over the consequences of not doing my homework. Homework won by a landslide.
“Sorry guys, I kind of feel like I should just go home afterward.”
Our adventure of getting the poster board went by as a blur that I cannot recall too well, all I remember was the teenaged guffaws and loud pop music from the early nineties blasting in Henrry’s truck as we drove back to my house. What I most definitely do not recall from that time away from home is a single troublesome thought about my soon to be born baby sister.
The exact moment my friends and I pulled into the driveway my phone began vibrating in my front pocket. Pulling it out, I came face to face with my father’s contact picture as the phone continued to buzz in my hand.
“What a coincidence!” I chimed, sliding my finger to the right of the screen to answer.
“We need you to come home,” he urged. “I have to take mom to the hospital.”
“No problem, I’m in the driveway.” I informed him as I cooed my friends goodbye. I had thought nothing of the pressing request since excitement took over, wondering exactly when I’d be able to hold my newborn bundle of a sister.
While skipping into my house, I greeted my dad with a whimsical smile, yet upon seeing my mother, every preconceived thought fell to the ground. Wrapped in a sweatshirt and a sweater my dad had only then pulled over her shoulders she continued to shudder from either fear or chills; I could not distinguish which one. I stuttered through the beginnings of many questions, “wha-,” “is everything-” “mom-,” none of which mattered since the door shut on my face before any could even be finished.
Rather in shock, I drop my suddenly exhausted weight onto the couch in our living room vacant of noise. New thoughts poured into my consciousness, rationalizing everything that had happened up to that point. All of the ideas suggested I was right where I was supposed to be, and when I was supposed to be there; somehow that saved me grief for a few minutes until the overwhelming idea came almost like another person silently speaking to me,
“She could already be dead.”
The floodgates opened, and my eyes became a wishing well overflowing with longings that washed my cheeks. The thoughts manifested themselves into the strange water I could not see past and pressed my soul into a brief, dark exploration to find the answer to a question I had yet to receive. Then I convinced myself to always hope for the worst, that way I could never be disappointed.
The hospital felt different than usual. The cleanliness felt like a stage, or some sort of trick to make those who were grieving to feel maybe a little better because every object was beyond their comprehension. The white walls and yellow floors stick in my mind like rubber cement. Perhaps I could rub it off, yet vigorously scrubbing was much more painful than leaving it to dry. I know well what happened in that room; my parents informed me and my three brothers through chokes and tears that our little sister had in fact died. Then, they explained she would be stillborn.
I know what a stillborn is. My thoughts grumbled. You don’t need to explain this to me, I just want to go home.
Somehow, my wish was granted, and at a ripe time of 2:30 A.M. I went home to partake of the ever so enticing fruit of sleep. Although, it didn’t work. I didn’t want to sleep, nor could I. No thoughts, in particular, disturbed me, it was rather the entire situation in itself that caused me to stir, until I lied on my back and began to think, actually think, about everything. I began to converse with God, “Why would you take her?” I asked.
“It’s for the better, my child.” He answered.
“No, but why? Why will I never be allowed to see her open her eyes? Why would you not even allow her a single breath?”
“It is for the better.” He answered yet again.
At 5:01 A.M. she was “born,” and I was back at the hospital just in time to witness my grandma, eyes glistening with tears, hold her up. At that moment, an intense feeling of emptiness came over me.
There is no better in this. I thought, hoping God was listening. Our family gathered about the hospital bed where my mother lay. The morning sun began to filter in through the closed blinds, giving the room a strange, fairytale-like glow. Sitting on the hard hospital couch, I kept my lips tight and my mind plunged in thought as I watched my family members cradle my sister in their arms.
“Payt, do you want to hold her?” I would often get asked by a different family member each time. I always shrunk back and shook my head no for the reason that I would most definitely crumble if I held her for myself. At the time it was hard to even look at her. To see a newborn so lifeless disturbed me. To any passerby, she may have only seemed to be sleeping, other than the purple tone of her skin. With every glance I got of her, I aimed my finger at God and interrogated,
“How dare you take her away from me. Could I even compare to how my mother feels?” “Patience,” He would calmingly reply.
To that I growled, grumbling about how my baby sister never got to live, to feel the air on her skin, to cry for the first time, and to eat, and simply be alive. God sure heard my cries to be answered, and in one concise text from my best friend He complied, “I’m so sorry, Payton. I’m here for you and just remember she’s there in spirit to always cheer you on.”
My eyes became wet yet once again and the tear ducts I thought I had dried out continued to bring forth an abundance of water. I realized how absurdly lucky I am to be the sister of a soul so divine she had no need to be tested; so divine all she had left to do was receive her body.
Then to God, I muttered, “I’m sorry I doubted you.”