Losing Lulu: Coping with the Loss of a Child
Seeing the World Through Rose-Colored Lenses
It was a dreary, drizzly day in March 2001, the time of year when New England turns from snow to mud. The landscape was sheathed in monochromatic gray, not a bloom or bud in sight. "What a rotten day," Gretchan Pyne remarked as she drove home from an errand. In the backseat of the car, 3-year-old Lulu had donned a pair of plastic rose-colored glasses her father had recently bought her.
"Mama, look!" she said. "The whole world looks pink! Try them on."
Gretchan, cranky, told her daughter she needed to focus on driving. Then she looked in the rearview mirror and saw Lulu's crestfallen little face.
When they pulled into the driveway, Gretchan took the glasses. "Wow!" she exclaimed. "The world really does look better! Lulu, can I have these?" she asked.
The girl shook her head. "No, you have to find your own."
That night, her mother wrote down the story in her journal. It was this simple yet profound message from a child that would end up, in a way, saving Gretchan Pyne's life.A Heart-Shaped Memento
A few months later, on July 14, 2001, the Pyne family packed up their car and headed for Truro, Massachusetts, a pristine stretch of sandy beach on Cape Cod National Seashore. As usual, Gretchan and Warren Pyne and their three children, Lulu, 4, and 9-year-old twins Dylon and Drew, were the first to arrive and the last to leave. They built "sand bathtubs," digging trenches and letting the ocean fill them with water. They played paddleball and Frisbee, made sand castles and Boogie-boarded. Lulu noticed a little girl on a nearby blanket and asked her to play; she taught her new friend how to chew gum.
What Warren remembers of that outing was the rock. The Pynes had a tradition: Once the cooler was emptied of food and drink, it would be refilled with shells and rocks. As they were leaving the beach, Lulu, who had just turned 4, tagged behind, stopping here and there to collect one last treasure. Her father held the overflowing cooler in one hand, his daughter's small hand in his other.
"She picked up one about the size of a cantaloupe, and it was brown and in the shape of a heart," says Warren, 42. "I had to keep the cooler lid open to carry that one."
At the end of the day, the sea still in their hair, the Pynes stopped to get ice cream at Bob's Sub & Cone, in Wellfleet. It started to mist, creating a double rainbow. In the parking lot, Lulu licked her ice-cream cone and danced around while her father videotaped her. "I remember standing in line and looking at her and thinking, 'I'm never going to forget this moment,'" says Gretchan, 43. "She just looked so beautiful."
Gretchan went inside the shop to fetch her twins. As the three of them came out of the store, they saw Lulu step onto the base of a bicycle rack, the metal type that houses the front wheel of a bike, and strike what they call her "Vanna White pose," with one arm extended upward as if showcasing the rainbow. They saw the unanchored rack flip over on top of her, pinning her on the ground. They saw their father drop his camera and race over to her. As he knelt over her, she reached up and opened her mouth as if to scream, but no sound came out. "It looked as if she was reaching past me to the rainbow," says her father, who immediately pulled the rack off his daughter and began to administer CPR.