Monday, January 5, 2009

Absence, Again

We took a trip. Ten days in southern France in a little village with no computer and no work, just wine, walks, reading, and food. I took a couple of books of poetry, Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. I also brought my pink journal, the one with butterflies that I use for writing about Caitlin. And as each day passed, I became aware that I couldn't seem to conjure a sense of connection with Caitlin there. I wasn't surprised. It made perfect sense, though I was hoping to bring her with me as it were. I've had, thus far in my grief journey, a sense that I was a conduit and that what I saw and experienced Caitlin would see and hear as well, and that through me we could do things together. France was different and I felt her absence, again, unable to find a portal. Again, I found what is not, cannot, and will not be.

In my journal I wrote, "I've been trying to find Caitlin here in France. she is in my heart, but I have not yet been successful in bringing her here to where I am." That day, I managed to squeeze in a walk in the village by myself. I was determined to bring some of this crippling absence to a resolution. Grief and I walked and I searched for a place to write her name. When your child is gone, her name is what remains. I sat on a bench overlooking the village and looked around, there was no sand or dirt to write, so I picked up some stones from the cobblestone circle and wrote her name. I stepped back to study what I had written and discovered that her name blended into the stone, not the clear sculpted name that I trace each time I visit the cemetery where she is buried. I sat by her name and could think of nothing. Absence, again. This was a new life place for us and another experience that I must accept on this journey.

I didn't have time to continue my journey and find a more suitable place to write her name. Instead, I took some pictures and hurried back to meet with my husband and our kind hosts with a smile and "sure, I'm ready to go." I didn't have time to make meaning. Now that I'm home and able to reflect on the pictures, I find it fitting that her name blended in with the stone bench and that one had to truly look and study to find her. I have become stronger in carrying my grief, more productive in my work, and more able to answer questions of "Do you have an children?" with "Yes, a daughter who lives in heaven." Acute grief has subsided and is not easily visible on my face and in my voice to most of the people I encounter. You wouldn't know I was a bereaved mother unless you took the time to study closely my face and the words I choose carefully in our conversations.

"I miss you baby girl. I wish we could have stayed home with you, reading you stories about France instead of traveling there without you."


  1. When I look at the photos of Caitlin's name, camoflauged in stone, I see her as part of what is, part of nature, part of France, of everything. Her name is there, but not there, all at the same time. Kind of like our angel babies. Always around, in our hearts, but not seen. I know you sensed a great absence, but I see her as the very stone you touched, part of everything that is important to you. I hope you are able to work the absence you felt into something more comforting. Does that make any sense at all?

  2. Wow, Amy. That makes perfect sense. Thank you for your perspective--it's loving, beautiful, and you're right--it's "there and not there" at the same time.