Losing Lulu: Coping with the Loss of a Child

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The Morning After

The 45-minute ambulance trip along the Cape's narrow, winding roads was the longest ride of Gretchan Pyne's life; she prayed, sang, and talked to her daughter the entire time, while Warren and the boys followed in another car. But Lulu, who had no pulse, was unresponsive. When they arrived at Cape Cod Hospital, in Hyannis, Dr. Craig Cornwall labored over Lulu, inserting a tube to try to get her to breathe, as Gretchan held her limp hand. Although he knew at a glance it was hopeless, Dr. Cornwall spent nearly half an hour with Lulu in an effort to show Gretchan that he had tried everything possible to save her child. The father of three young girls of his own, it was, he would later recall, the most devastating night of his career.

By the time Warren arrived with Drew and Dylon, Dr. Cornwall had given up. Lulu's chest and trachea had been crushed by the bike rack; she had died almost instantly. An autopsy would later show that her heart muscle had been severed. In a terrible irony, the happy-go-lucky girl, the darling of the family, had literally died of a broken heart. She was 4 years old, and there was still mint chocolate-chip ice cream on her lips.

Warren Pyne could not, would not, accept it. Hadn't his little girl been dancing in the parking lot of Bob's Sub & Cone, in Wellfleet, only an hour earlier? In the hospital he remained with her body for hours, until Dr. Cornwall gently told him it was time to say goodbye. The doctor gave the couple something to help them sleep. He also gave them some advice. "The only thing I can tell you is that you just have to continue to do what you do. Whatever it is you do, go home and do it. Don't get so obsessed with your loss that you give up your life."

When the sun came up, Warren gathered some of Lulu's stuffed animals and took them to the morgue. Workers took the toys, but would not allow him inside, so he spent the morning in the parking lot, the closest he could get. It didn't feel right that his little girl should be alone. Gretchan was home with the boys, who were in shock, too. Drew, the quieter twin, told a family friend that the double rainbow that appeared before Lulu died was God welcoming her into heaven. Dylon wrote in a school essay that "her purpose in life was to make people that were mean turn kind."

Right after Lulu died, her mother found her rose-colored glasses. They now sit on a windowsill in her bedroom. "I don't wash them," Gretchan says, "because her fingerprints are on them."

Continued on page 4:  Still Living in Spirit


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