Tony Reali returned to Around the Horn on Monday for the first time since his wife, Sam, gave birth to a son, Enzo, while the other twin, Amadeo, died shortly before being born. Reali spoke about loss and grief and about how it’s OK not to be OK.
“Give voice to your feelings. And let others lift you. This can be how you grieve.”
On Father’s Day, Reali wrote eloquently about the loss of his son, suffering, and humanity:
Heartened by Father’s Day wishes. In recognition that this day like all things in life could mean different things to different people -parent and child, positive and negative-I’d like to speak here about fathers who’ve experienced loss. This month I became one.
Anyone within a galaxy of me knows we were expecting twins. We lost Amadeo in the moments leading up to childbirth. We delivered Enzo weeks early in an emergency. Last week was our memorial mass for Amadeo. This week Enzo came home happy, healthy and strong. The duality of all this – the anguish and the joy – is impossible to grasp. But it’s one we know we must navigate. For me that means two things: giving voice to our feelings, and allowing others to lift us when we can’t shoulder the load of those feelings.
The heaviness of giving a eulogy for a son who never had a chance to breathe. Having to talk to our just-old-enough-to-know daughter who was expecting two siblings. These are impossible moments; how can any parent go forward? Ever be whole? Consider that grief could mean meeting ourselves where we actually are. That’s what I’m talking about when I talk about navigating feelings. Recognizing we didn’t get to know Amadeo- but sure as anything we felt him. Felt his kicks, felt his presence. That feeling is life. I am not somebody who thinks everything happens for a reason. I’ve spent time here & here pledging that it’s ok to not be ok. For me the recognition that life can be out of our control is necessary; how we respond is what we do control, and it’s pivotal and determining.
But what if it requires more than that? How we choose to respond, but also: how others positively respond to us, for us. And that’s what I’m talking about when I talk about allowing others to lift us.
Example: In our instance, a twin stroller is on every block, an expectant family at every park. That can pierce your heart, but you can’t let it pierce you every day. Or a day like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, it’s even trickier.
Isn’t grief part and proof of humanity? What if it’s humanity you need to open yourself up to? To allow to shepherd you through trials of grief?
And what if we extend that to trials of different kinds: unhealth, self doubt, self hate, addiction, intolerance, sexism, racism, ageism, xenophobia, homophobia, lack of empathy. Isn’t loss part of all those in the systemic taking away of our ourselves and what makes us human?
And that possibility there makes this all the more challenging. We need the humanity to get through everything but what if we need humanity to be better? A family day where families are dealing with loss because families are torn apart is not a family day. It’s not a human day.
The name Amadeo means God’s Love.
May we all be open to seeing it in ourselves, may we be strong enough to receive it from others, compassionate enough to give it to others, and courageous enough to demand it from others.