Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Visit to the Cemetery

When I arrived babyland was covered in snow. I placed Caitlin's sapphire angel on the snow. I thought about leaving the blanket of snow as it was, peaceful, but I began to move the snow slowly away to find Caitlin's stone. I did find it after some time. I placed the angel from Caitlin's grammy on her stone and told her about how much Grammy missed her. Then I kept digging to find her angel, her star, and her toy. I gave the toy a squeeze and it made the sounds that Caitlin loved to listen to in the hospital. I was so grateful that the toy was still working, after a year the toy still works. Her butterfly and flowers seemed to be gone. I sat at her grave and talked to her and told her about the angel I made for her at the house. Then decided that she needed a snowman, or rather a snowman-angel. Admittedly, it looks like a man with arms, but it's supposed to be a snowman-angel and those are wings not arms. I sat for a while longer in the snow. I could not sing this visit, and on the way home wrote a poem in my head that I've already posted.

A Christmas Lullaby

If I could find a way
I would sing you a Christmas lullaby
to warm your heart
and make it beat again

If I could find my voice again
I would sing you a lullaby
that would wrest you from His arms
and bring you home to mine

If I could find the tune
I would sing you a lullaby that would
wake you from your peaceful slumber
to peer into the eyes of your mother
and know I love you

But I remain silent standing in the blanket of snow
that covers you now
I feel the angel tears from heaven
that fall upon my cheeks

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008


You must be open to the possibility of being hurt, betrayed, gossiped about, and prayed over
If you wish to receive help
For you cannot be aided in the trials of life
Without leaving your heart-door unlocked and your soul-windows open

Without the cry of "I am weak"
You will get no scaffolding
Without the confession of "I have nothing left"
You will get no match from another who will also bring the candle
of hope to light in your home
Without the wail of "I am imperfect"
You will get no one to sit with you in your failings
making you whole

You must be open to the possibility of being judged and condemned by another
equally malformed human spirit-body
If you wish to be healed of your wounds and
guided to more loving ways of being human
Without truthful disclosure of what you think, feel, wonder, reason and pray
Without willing vulnerability
You cannot be loved

Time it Was

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snowflakes that Didn't Turn Out

I've haven't exactly ignored the holidays this season. I wrote the family Christmas letter and purchased two gifts for the names that were drawn. A tiny 2-foot tree is up with Caitlin's Angel (the one they placed on the remembrance tree at the NICU on the day she died), and I put lights up on the steps of our home. We attended the business Holiday party, but I wouldn't say I've engaged in the holiday spirit much. It all felt quite pedestrian. Then, I receive a gift that changed everything.

A friend stops by my work to talk with me and says, "I don't want to upset you but . . . . I want to give you something. My daughter was making paper snowflakes and she got pretty upset, because after cutting them out and coloring them she tells me, 'they didn't turn out right.' " "They don't look like snowflakes," the child says to her mom (my friend), "they look like butterflies." Her mother looks at the butterfly snowflakes and says, "Well, would it be OK if I give them to my friend because, I think that she would really like them. They might help her think about her daughter."

And so, that's how it happened, I now have two beautiful child cut and colored butterflies in my office, a gift that feels like a Christmas gift from Caitlin with the help of another child. I can't stop smiling. Caitlin found a way to give her mommy a Christmas gift from heaven. Thanks to Z, my friend's daughter, I'm smiling at Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

No Pretty Words

I have no pretty words tonight, though I do have some wonderings. I wonder about the listlessness that prevades. I think about what tasks I must do as if I were some disinterested bystander. Nothing seems to matter much, and even so, I can hear someone screaming in the background, "Get up." And the voice sounds a lot like mine.

I have no pretty words tonight, though I do have images floating before my eyes. My baby in her crib with the red bars. My baby in her white coffin with her pink dress. My husband's look of concern directed toward me as these images float into each other in my mind. And then the images become emotion in shape and color.

I have no pretty words tonight, though I do have melodies that roll around in my ears. Lullabies, hymns, and silly songs, are there, but so too are the new songs--the songs of grief and mourning. Some express pain, others hope, and others a story, but all are new and don't quite express it all.

I have no pretty words tonight, just "I miss you" and "I love you."
And there seem to be no other sounds in symbol that my mind can fashion.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Even reality is no match for our love."

This last line of Vaughan Bell's on-line article about those who experience the presence of their loved one after death was most striking. Though, I didn't care for the title, "Ghost Stories: Visits from the Deceased," I did appreciate that the subject was treated with some sensitivity for those who have these experiences. Bell also gives a nod for understanding that our Western culture has a fear of acknowledging these experiences by rattling off a few cultural practices that embrace or find them quite normal. Parents I know who have experienced the presence of their children after death rarely share openly for fear of being labeled "crazy." I include myself in this arena.

But, despite the cultural norms and personal expectations, the last line speaks the truth that no matter the physical reality, our love for our children transcends it. It must, it's the only way to live.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Preserve Your Memories

A Poet Found: Pam Brown

I think I found Pam Brown. She's an Australian author and poet. I supposed I'm daft for not knowing that. When I was searching the net trying to link that quote to a person and know more about him or her, I found a beautiful poem. These words in particular made me catch my breath "Your sudden and beautiful exit frightened me." It's a memoriam to a friend but there are other word groupings that feel similar to my grief upon loosing my daughter. The poem is "Blue Glow" and you can read it here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hugged with Words

For Absence
by John O'Donohue
from "To Bless the Space Between Us."

May you know that absence is alive with hidden
presence, that nothing is ever lost or forgotten.

. . . .

May your compassion reach out to the ones we never
hear from.

May you have the courage to speak for the excluded

May you become the gracious and passionate sub-
ject of your own life.

. . . .

[I love this poet's words in his book of blessings. They are rich with truth and when I read slowly, I feel a hug and a whisper, "It'll be OK."]

Monday, December 8, 2008

Back to Basics II

I guess I'm calm enough to explain. It just irritates me that our education system continues to sell accountability to parents with the "back to basics" and more recently the "standards-based education."--as if the score on a test would make a child's life better.

No-one escapes the pain of grief and the challenges of life and when the basics fail you, what sustains you, I believe, are the those intangible, seemingly "frills" of education--music, visual art, dance, theatre, poetry, and literature. This struck me on a personal level, when I tried to respond to a prompt to use some visual art as a medium for expressing my grief, but I don't have any skills. I have no education to draw from; no understanding of perspective, light, or color, and instead of rendering an image from my mind's eye, I wrote in CAPS, my protest. It just seems that there is so much "putting in" and not enough providing of the vehicles we need for "letting out." There's no money in providing youth with the tools to enhance their lives---much better to "sell" comfort, enjoyment, and fulfillment. Ha.

When you're gone, no one cares about your score on a reading test, but they will remember if you sang a loving song to them as they grew, read a story with the excitement of an academy award winning actor, or helped them see the beauty of a sunset or sunrise. And that's back to the basics that count.

There, I said it, and I'm glad.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Music Binds Even in Death

"Music binds us together with invisible threads." Pam Brown

I don't know who Pam Brown is, but I read this quote at the end of a colleague's email message and well, I read it and thought, "And that's what I'm counting on, Caitlin. That somehow the music I experience and we experienced together will somehow continue to bind us together with threads, not only invisible, but indestructible--even in death."

Miss you baby girl. Your mama misses you.

Friday, December 5, 2008

You are Not Alone

The bathroom wall
Holding her up
scratching at the plaster
to get away

Curled in a ball
on the top of the bed
snotting the pillows

Folded upon herself
Creating a grief box
A lightless and doorless cube
Begging for nothingness
Not life and not death

I was thinking about grief, and the nature of how we experience it--alone much of the time. And yet the support groups say, "you are not alone." I was thinking about the parents who need to express their grief and need others to listen, to ask, to be with them as they tell their story repeatedly and as they continue to describe changes in how they feel with wonder, puzzlement, anger, guilt, and so often, fear. And I was thinking about how fortunate I've been in this journey, as friends, family, and even strangers have sat with me in silence, held my head as I wept, laughed at my desperate humor, asked me questions, and were comfortable with being, well---not comfortable. I'm grateful for those who felt the fear of being in the presence of my acute grief and found a way to remain.

Sometimes alone is where the bereaved need to be, but if we are to survive, then we need someone to take the place of that bathroom wall and hold us; we need someone to curl around us without worry of the sanitary conditions of that pillow; and we need someone to bore a hole in our grief place and come in and sit or wait patiently outside with a cup of love for when we emerge.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

This is Mine


My grief filters each new day's light
And my heart sees an old worn out version of the previous day
monotonous tasks of questionable meaning


My grief has worn me to exhaustian
Pouring a sludge in my brain that my mind trudges through
Leaving a slime trail of fatigue and apathy

I rub my heart's eyes and vigorously scrub my mind
but, can I be repaired?
Think clearly? Remember details? Complete tasks? Do my work?
Meet expectations? Respond coherently? Pay attention?
Guilt whispers, "Others have equal challenges. More challenges."
My battered and bruised mind and near blind heart stoically reply,
"And, this is mine."
This hurt, this death, this loss, this grief
This challenge is mine.

And these days, it's left me
Tired and Weary