Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Death Certificate Arrives

We received her death certificate in the mail. It's printed on dark blue parchment paper with the official watermark. When you hold the heavy paper to the light, the watermark brings pink, salmon, and even red colors to the paper. I didn't realize that even the look and feel of the paper would reflect the finality of her death and frailness of her life.

I read every bit of information as though I might discover something new about my daughter. I didn't. With her full name spelled correctly, the document of vital records confirmed each diagnosis from her Trisomy 21 and heart defect to the bowel perforation and sepsis that caused her death. Also documented is the exact number of days she lived, the number of hours it took for her die from the perforation, and the exact time of death.

Wishing I would weep, I folded the document carefully into it's neat trifold and placed it back in the envelope. I sat quietly waiting to fold with grief the way I did each moment, then hour, then day, month, and year after she died. The pain wasn't there this moment, only a dull acceptance. I sigh. I wish it were different, but her Certificate of Vital Records confirms that it is not. My heart bears the watermark of her life. If you could unfold me and hold me up to the light you would see the evidence of Caitlin's presence. She shines through in pink, salmon, and red hues.

I need only wait, and the wave of grief will crush me when it arrives, but that will not happen today.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Moment of "All's Right with the World" But, Not

I walk along the sidewalk with my new purchase in hand. The air is perfect, warm without humidity and just the slightest of breeze, and I have this sense that "all's right with the world." But, rather than feel comfort from this psychological sensation, I am suddenly very uncomfortable. "All is not right!" I hear my own voice scream inside my head. But, I continue to walk with a spring in my step, because it is right. I am as healthy as possible. DH and I are right on track. Family is sensitive and loving and all, but my soul screams, "NO, All is not right!"

I give in to the conflict within me and sit on a white bench on the boardwalk, and watch the other beach goers happy (or not) about their business. And, I recognize that once again in the wake of a dead child, when the feeling that "all is well" comes about it will not be readily accepted. I will not be so easily swayed into a false--or is it real?---sense that everything is OK?! I sit on the bench and sigh, and try to get at the heart of what I'm feeling.

Once again, it's not that easy. It's not either-or, but, and-both. My challenge is to accept that both the feeling that all is right and the feeling that nothing is right must coexist. And that I must figure out how to make that happen, if I am to get off the bench and make it back to the house in time for dinner.

Perhaps, tomorrow, all will be well. But, I'm not counting on it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Reading "Resilience" by Elizabeth Edwards

"Resilience" is a recent read for me in the grief category. I wasn't going to read it. I wasn't interested in what they said it was about, the "chatter"--as Edwards puts it--about her husband's infidelity. But, there's very little about this at all. Even though some of the reviews quoted what few sentences Edwards included about the affair, and fashioned their articles (here & here) to seem like it was about her pain over the affair and details of the affair.

The reviewers had it all wrong, I'm convinced they didn't read the book. But, rather wanted people to read their articles and get some hits on their pages. Yes, I know these links are helping their stats. It wasn't until I read average readers describe their reactions to the book on Amazon, that I decide to give it a try.

Edwards writes about loss, loss of her parents and her son wade, loss of the feeling of being able to "fix" things (after the cancer diagnosis) and, yes the loss of trust between her and her husband. She tells her stories, and the reader gets insights into her resilient nature.

One theme that seems to permeate is an understanding that a great source of the pain of loss, is the desire, wish, need for life to be as it was before the death or tragic event. "But we cannot, they cannot turn back. This is the life we have now, and the only way to find peace, the only way to be resilient when these landmines explode beneath your foundation, is first to accept that there is a new reality"(p. 30).

This resonated greatly with me. I wailed for Caitlin's death. When an episode waned and my reason would engage, I would peel away how I was feeling and try to get to the core of it. I concluded that the pain is there because I wanted things to be different. Duh, I know, but when "things" are the life of your child, it's no longer a simple truth.

Edwards makes this statement,"Grief is a long process of untangling ourselves from the physical reality of the person and from our expectations of our future with them" (p. 92).

Everything I do on this grief journey, talking, crying, staring, writing, blogging, scrapbooking, arranging pictures, releasing balloons, giving her gifts to the NICU, and getting her birth & death certificates, are all big and little steps to accepting a new reality. Not the one I wanted, or the one I should have, but the one that is.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Birth & Death Certificates

Perhaps this seems strange to share for Mel's Show and Tell, but I can't think of another group of people who could understand better my desire to share this tell. Thanks for reading.

Caitlin's birth was traumatic. She came 7 weeks early and we knew she would need heart surgery. She lived her 11-week life in the NICU and I parented her there--except for 6 days as I recovered from gall bladder surgery. Although we received her social security card promptly, we didn't get her birth certificate in the mail. I was woefully aware that I had to request it separately, and I didn't think about it because I was too busy worried about her and being sick and worried about how well we would care for our child with special needs. Then she died, and they had spelled her name wrong, and I had to request that her death certificate be corrected the day after she died.

These documents have been a great source of pain for me. But, as we approach her birthday, I've been feeling like a "bad" mother and guilty that I didn't have these legal documents.

I picked up her birth certificate yesterday. A very pregnant clerk helped me--of course, why would anyone else be there to help? Why not an old or young man? Or some non-pregnant person? After I wrote the check, I went out to the lobby to study it. Caitlin's name spelled correctly, everyone's dates correct and the word "deceased" in the corner. I suppose had I taken care of this right after she was born, I would have a birth certificate without that, but it is what it is. And I can no more change that stamp, then I can bring her back to life. She died in another state, so I sent off a request and another check to get that in the mail.

I can't say, I feel better, but I feel relieved. It feels like one of those final "formal" things that I need to do to accept that she's dead. DH took care of insurance, and we did the funeral arrangements together. I know the journey continues, but this feels like a "closure" moment--similar to seeing her memorial stone placed at her grave.

Sigh---a piece of paper with her name on it that says--she was here.

Show and Tell

Click HERE to see what the rest of the class is showing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Worth Sharing

Brian Bradshaw's aunt delivers a powerful statement for the bereaved. What resonated so strongly for me was her early statement that what hurt the most was the media silence concerning the death of this bright boy who gave his life in service to this country. How hard it is for all bereaved to trudge through the pain while the world continues to spin. What also struck me was the image of the mother with open hands waiting for them to give her the flag. I thought only that her arms remained empty when that flag at last fell into her hands.

For me it is worth nothing that more media attention was given to Michael Jackson's death; it is of no comfort to "win" the "grief Olympics." [Let me be clear, I don't think that she engages in this "grief Olympics, but I think that others are tempted to go there.] For me, much of the MJ coverage was over-the-top, but I don't have the energy to judge those who feel the pain of his death. And it won't give me one bit of comfort for my own grief.

We all hurt. All love ones deserve to be remembered, and this video is worth sharing.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Play me, I'm Yours"

Luke Jeram brings art to the streets of London and soon-to-be other UK cities with "Play me, I'm Yours."

I love it. Seeing people gathered around a piano with smiles and wonderment on their face. And, it seems a bit of confusion . . . doesn't music come from an iPod? You mean regular people can make music? Don't you have to be a star? An American Idol?


I love that Luke Jeram in his art has provided a way to help people make music for themselves, and the real people that gather around to listen. Love it. We need the arts to live.

Here's a couple videos. But, don't expect a commercially produced recording. The art in this is more powerfully in the experience of those who make the music, and those in their physical presence.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

About "Followers"

When I entered the blogosphere as an active blogger, I learned how things work the way most of us do--by doing. I clicked and added and linked and posted and commented and followed. Wait, followed? What's that?

It's a way to subscribe to another blogger's RSS feed. It allows me to link to blogs that I find interesting, helpful, insightful, and worth keeping track of, and it helps me read the new posts by letting me know when they are posted. Once I subscribe, I become a "follower." Like so many e-life terms (like "friending" your DH on FaceBook--weird) this one was a bit uncomfortable. Following in real life seems to connote agreement by suggesting that the one who follows is aiming to go in the same direction as the one being followed. Going in the same direction can lead to an assumption of agreement and "rubber stamping" the ideas posted by the followed blogger. For me, following meant merely to keep track of and pay attention.

"What cool, interesting, insightful, or controversial thing will they say next?"

When I ask that question, I click the "follow this blog" button. I usually add bloggers who have the common link of bereavement or parenting struggles of some kind which fits "going in the same direction," but it feels more like we walk together or meet along the way--not follow.

Another bit of awkwardness about this "following" is that I now had followers. Weird, again. I don't think of my readers as aiming to follow in my path. Yikes! Who would want that? I have no delusions of guru. Rather I recognize that others simply have some interest in reading about my journey. They frequently comment, and sometimes don't, and both responses are fine and appreciated. I changed the title of followers to readers, but that sounded so impersonal, so I went with the FB term--friends, so my blog better reflects how I feel about them, but (and this is an UGH), Blogger insists on labeling them "followers."

Now, I've been on the blogosphere for nearly a year (I know, a neophyte), and have discovered an issue with this follower thing. Some bloggers find that they will have individuals stop following, and conclude that it's because of a post the follower disagreed with or was offended by. The now non-follower removes his/her link as a consequence of that disagreement or offending post. This feels crappy to the followed, and may result in hurt feelings. The blogger may become more careful with his/her future posts. I'm not sure that's a bad thing, we ought to be careful of the words we sling out into the universe for others to encounter. We should be careful not to incite hatred or spread vicious lies or be downright mean--because I think nice matters. But, perhaps, it's the term that's causing the trouble.

If we understood, that people read our blogs for a variety of reasons, we might not feel hurt if they stop following . . . or get a big head when we gain another "fan" as Google describes it. Not everyone who follows is a fan. If perhaps, we understood that following wasn't always a "hey, you're my hero" kinda thing, we might be better served. More importantly, we might better serve by contributing to a conversation about this most difficult and joyous life. (Yup, I'm goin' all human condition on ya.)

Sorting out my own participation, I made several conscious decisions about this follower thing. I like reading a wide variety of opinions and pathways, and my life is richer when I read posts with which I disagree and agree. So, if I'm a follower of your blog; I'm a fan!--meaning, "I love reading your blog." It's a gem when I discover a blog that pushes buttons, prompts me to see life in another way, or makes me go "hmmmmmm." It's also validating when I read a blog where the blogger's ideas resonate strongly with me. I see myself as 'reader,' and as I wrote before, I have no delusions that those who read my blog are following me. I like the way following allows the blogger to link, thereby expanding e-life connections, and I like the way following helps the blogger keep in touch with interesting people who are willing to articulate their life experiences, emotions, and what holds meaning for them. Oh, I also like the recipes and pics of the backyard, too!

In short:

Following is cool; I just don't like the label.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Caitlin's Tree Blooms

Here in New England, we haven't had much summer. The thunderstorms have been severe and frequent. Local news reported that we've had more rainy days in June than Seattle. Now that just ain't right! Today was another rainy day. I looked out the window and notice something new . . . Caitlin's tree has begun to bloom!

This brought some comfort today, nicely balancing the painful cemetery visit on July 4th.

When I went out to take a few pics of the blossoms, I captured a lovely creature also out enjoying the blooms, a bee. Now, bereaved mothers will find this next part of my story quite easy to understand and likely will have similar encounters to share.

While at the cemetery, a hawk flew very low over the baby section of the cemetery. The wing-span was enourmous, and I watched it lift and circle until I could no longer find it. I thought of another bereaved mother who has written several times about the significance hawks have for her and her baby boy. I sent them a little hug from us. Another frequent visitor was a red dragon fly. I didn't know they came in red, but I watch this one dart around and hover above the small stones in our little lost baby land. We sent another "universe" hug to a baby boy and his mother who attaches great meaning to the dragon fly for her baby. I looked down at Caitlin's grave and noticed that the grass has nearly succeeded in hiding the wound of cutting the ground to lay her coffin in, and I saw a bee buzzing around this grass by my feet. "Who do you belong to?" I asked out loud. I wrote my poem there, and then sat in silence.

Today, I got my answer. The bee belongs to Caitlin and the flowers on her tree. I love that nature is an avenue of comfort for us on this journey by providing a way to make meaning and find connections to our children.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Memory in Stone

Her stone was warm to my touch
I drew my hand away
It should be cold
Her stone is always cold
But, the July sun has
lent it's heat
I spread my fingers and press with a full
heart, my hand over the middle of
her stone
Eyes open.
I thought, no, remembered
my daughter's warm body
When I lay my hand with those same spread
fingers over her bare and swollen chest
To feel and know and will her heart to continue
Today her stone is warm

Friday, July 3, 2009

Even Old Movies

DH and decided that we ought to see some of the classic movies and so put a few Academy Award-winning flicks on our Netflicks queue. Two of those films were Spartacus and Lawrence of Arabia. Well, even in the old movies, I couldn't help but watch with my bereaved eyes.

Spartacus has been aired on TV in the past with cuts from the original, and I had seen it some times ago. We rented the restored version, which means I would be able to see the whole movie unedited for TV and we could see added scenes that were left on the cutting room floor. One of those scenes that was restored was a long trek the escaped slaves made across the land to the sea. On that trek we see many struggles, and at one point the group moves on in the background and a mother and father dig a hole in the ground and bury their baby. The mother lays some barely bloomed flowers on the body in the dirt and then with barely a motion seeps dirt over the child. DH looks at me and says, "I'm sorry dear." I thought about how many parents lost children, but in the historical period of this movie mothers and fathers lost children at rates I could not bear in these modern times. The scene threatened to overwhelm me, but since the acting was stylized to the period, I was OK. I was more interested in the later commentary that the "burying the baby scene" had been restored and wondered if it was deleted because nobody would want to see them bury a child. They were all moving toward freedom after all, and it would be better to show them in their hopeful and successful state.

We haven't finished Lawrence of Arabia, but one line in the first half stuck with me. "Nothing is written." This is what Lawrence says to his Arab companion who tells him not to go back to save a man who fell off his camel as they trekked across the desert to the sea (I know trekking to the sea seems to be required in old movies--heh heh.). "It is written," he says. This statement is made frequently in the movie that when someone dies or something bad happens, it seems dismissed with the belief that God/Allah has already written it to be so. Lawrence declaims that nothing is written until you "write it in here" and he points to his mind. He suggests that one can determine one's own fate. But we later see that he is not correct about that either. A child dies, a teenager, and Lawrence is helpless to save him. The child falls into quick sand as the three of them (yes) trek across the desert to Cairo. Lawrence says nothing about what is written, and collapses in the sand with the child's friend/brother. Although not a parent of the child, he parented these orphan teens in their travels and like a bereaved parent he claimed to have "killed the boy" because he was unable to save him. That line brought about familiar emotions of feeling responsible for the deaths of our children. If we had only . . . .