This was supposed to be the column where I write about the baby shower we had for my son, Alex, and his fiancée, Brooke, and their baby boy, due March 9.
They live in Ohio, and my sister-in-law had the wonderful idea of hosting a trunk shower for them. We invited family and a few close friends, brought unwrapped gifts for the baby and included a few things for his big sister, Farrah, my son’s stepdaughter.
My sister-in-law made me a blue “Nana Cindy” beauty pageant sash and bought me a sparkly new tiara.
While the ladies squealed over tiny baby overalls and sports-themed onesies, my niece videotaped some of the men offering fatherly advice to Alex.
The best advice came from my brother-in-law, who reminded Alex what a great place Spokane is to raise a family. I appreciated his not-so-subtle hint.
My nieces wrapped the gifts in bright blue polka-dot print paper, and we shipped them off to Columbus.
On Feb. 19 the party-in-the-box arrived, and Brooke posted lots of photos on Facebook, so we could see them enjoying their baby shower from Spokane.
This was supposed to be the column where I write about how delightful it was to see my son holding baby bath supplies and tiny socks.
Instead, this is the column where I write about the death of my grandson.
On Thursday morning last week we learned that sometime in the night the baby’s heart had stopped beating.
“Baby Ian passed away,” my son texted.
That text dropped me to my knees.
The sound that came out of my mouth is familiar to grieving mothers and grandmothers of every tribe, every tongue and every nation. It was a wordless wail of loss so shattering I thought my heart had truly broken.
Ian was delivered on Friday morning. He weighed 9 pounds, six ounces and had a full head of dark hair and chubby cheeks, just like his daddy.
He was perfect.
Alex and Brooke were told Ian was a full-term stillbirth, and testing didn’t reveal a cause of death.
Derek and I already had our tickets to visit them next month, but of course, I immediately wanted to fly to Columbus. I wanted to hold my baby while he held his son and said goodbye.
Except my baby is a man, and he needed to focus on the woman he loves.
“Please, just come when you planned,” he asked.
The photos they sent took my breath away. Ian had his daddy’s gorgeous mouth and full lips and his mommy’s pert little nose. I could almost feel his downy head on my chest. I longed to cover those chubby cheeks with kisses.
Instead, I held my phone, while Derek held me, and we wept for the beautiful boy we’d longed to meet.
“We had a baby boy, who was born in heaven. Most beautiful little boy I’ve ever laid eyes on; truly an angel,” Brooke wrote. “He never had to suffer or know the harshness of this world and for that I’m able to stay strong, but my heart will forever be broken.”
When I shared the sad news on social media, someone wrote, “It’s a complicated grief.”
And indeed it is. We grieve as parents for our son’s pain and as grandparents for our loss.
In a few weeks, we’ll fly to Columbus, and instead of doting on our grandson, we’ll spoil Alex, Brooke and Farrah. I’ve no doubt there will be some tears, but I also know that there’ll be laughter. Because these kids are strong and resilient, and so is their love.
“Alex and I believe Ian was sent to us to make us closer, stronger, to love each other more unconditionally,” Brooke said. “To remind us of how precious life is; how lucky we all are to have each other, and to remind us every day to love the ones you have to the fullest. We owe it to him.”
This was supposed to be the column introducing you to my first grandchild.
And so it is.
His name was Ian Lucas Hval, and he was perfect.
Too perfect for this world.
An image of Ian’s footprints is juxtaposed with father Alex Hval’s hand.
Contact Cindy Hval at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at http://www.spokesman.com/staff/cindy-hval/. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.