Thursday, April 30, 2009

Define "Handle"!

I'm driving to work this morning and listening to NPR. And if you're a fan or occasional listener then you know that they frequently have interviews that last much longer than the shocking sound bite, and there is little yelling over top of another guest. The hosts were talking to individuals who were struggling with finances and health and other big life issues. And then I hear it, another of those phrases we typically use to comfort ourselves, another of those phrases that is like your mother soothing your bruises with a "there there," another of those phrases that no longer works for me since the death of my child---"God doesn't give you anymore than you can handle."

"Define 'handle'," I yell at the radio and switch it off.

I used to think this statement was a truth, but mostly I used to hope it were true, because it said that I would always be able to succeed. I would always rise to the occasion. I would always have the skills and abilities and health to handle whatever came my way. So, how did I handle Caitlin's death?

I wailed with sounds that I've never heard before and only remember from the palpable sorrow and excruciating pain the wailing released, and those wails continued for long past the year marker of her death.

I developed a stutter with my speech that makes lectures and class discussions embarrassing and less credible to my students.

I gained over 40 pounds in the span of about 4 months.

I forgot doctor's appointments, meetings with colleagues, important document deadlines, and where I put my keys or how to dress with clothes that matched.

I wept uncontrollably at rehearsals, classes, on public transportation, and at dinners and lunches in public.

I became unable to walk in my neighborhood alone for fear of crumbling with grief or forgetting how to get home.

I've developed an annoying habit of calling my husband to see where he is or how he is and I make him promise me, like an innocent child, that he will not die.

And if you're a bereaved parent, you likely have numerous examples to add.

My belabored point? Caitlin's death was plenty that I could not handle, and my behaviors that followed her death provide clear evidence of that. Now, I know that this statement is dear to many, but it's somewhat useless to me any longer. I add it to my other not-faves of "Everything happens for a reason" and "Everything happens for the best." When your child dies and someone says these things to you, it feels like your pain and your reaction to the tragic death of your child is invalidated. Especially, when the statement is given when you are in a state of not handling it. (And what the hell does that mean anyway? How are you supposed to handle it? This whole thing is absurd, and I shouldn't even be blogging this. UGH.)

No one means for the statement to inflict pain, of course. They try to comfort in the only way they know how. They reach in and try to help in whatever way they can. And we are grateful for their efforts. I am grateful to those who have said this to me, but I didn't particularly warm to the statement in and of itself. I felt love by those who love me, but the words, I let gently fall like raindrops to the ground for something else to grow.

Unfortunately, if you let the statement in, it's not particularly comforting or helpful when what you truly need is to be held and allowed to 'handle' it the way you are handling it with sincere and honest grief--and that ought to be acknowledged. It's supposed to give one hope, that we won't always feel this bad. Well (hang on here, this may be shocking), but we ought to honor the pain we feel as a result of being separated from the life of the ones we love. We ought to acknowledge the sorrow. Offering the "handle it" hope when in deep despair without acknowledging the sorrow first feels like a verbal tissue that says, in effect "wipe up." I'm convinced that we must go through this grief and that is how we handle it.

That I am currently much stronger in carrying my grief, is what some will point to and say, "See, God doesn't give you any more than you can handle." Well, this typical 20/20 hindsight may be convenient, but it doesn't change that fact that for months and now at unexpected times and for undisclosed durations, I do have more than I can handle. And I don't handle my daughter's death particularly well at times.

As for God giving this to me---in my mind, that's crap. I simply cannot delve into it or reason this God part of the statement much further than that. My conclusion remains, that God weeps with me.

Oh, I can't stand it. There's a bible verse that states that God doesn't allow one to be tempted beyond what he or she can handle, and then invariably some bible-study expert or preacher will extend the use of "temptation to sin" to any tragedy or challenge in life. I don't wish to go all bible here, or offend my preacher and otherwise Christian friends and family, but I'll repeat--in my mind, that's crap. Comforting for some, but of no use to me.

Ah, so now that I've explored this statement and my strong reaction to it, I'd like to hear how the interviewee was handling his challenges and life struggles. But it's hours (actually days) past the airing of the interview, and so I won't hear his definition of "handle." Because for him, it might be the comforting, hopeful, motivating truth that he needs. But for me, I've filed it in the "of little use to me now" basket.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Getting on the Mondrian Train

I've been enjoying the portraits of several bloggers, thanks to Niobe's prompt and link to this Mondrian site to generate a portrait in the artist's style. I thought it might be curious to get a "family portrait" of sorts by generating one for DH, myself, and Caitlin. (The one with lots of brown is DH, with red is me, and touches of brown is Caitlin.) Caitlin's was hard because there weren't any options for being less than a year old and such, but I answered for her the best I could. Then, I layered the portraits each on top of the other, with Caitlin's first. I made DH and mine transparent so all three of "us" could be seen, and that's how I arrived at our family Mondrianesque portrait. I'm sure the artist would not have approved, but as with all things grief, it's not about him. It's about doing the grief work that must be done to make sense, make meaning and bring some comfort and way to live in this world without her.

Monday, April 27, 2009

One More Quote from Mother Teresa

This quote seems fitting given my last "bit of whine" in the previous post:

We must know that we have been created for greater things, not just to be a number in the world, not just to go for diplomas and degrees, this work and that work. We have been created in order to love and to be loved.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Repository for All Things Death

This is a post where I abandon my understanding of others, and selfishly whine about being the repository for all things death. Just thought I'd warn all readers, this is NOT my best side.

Few are willing to talk about death, yet, all of us will experience a loss of someone dear, beloved, and will forever miss these loved ones. Some will suffer in silence, others will suffer to the point of exhaustion, and others will fold the pain and suffering with the new joys that life may still give after such a loss. And, if you show yourself as a survivor, one who can find some ways to live, others will take note and they may mistake you for the repository for all things death. And when their grandfather, grandmother, uncle, favorite aunt, mother, father, child, step-daughter, best friend, neighbor, friend of a friend, pet rabbit, dog, and cats die---you will become the repository for that death story. In addition, you may become the holding tank for all possible deaths, for fear of death, for near death experiences, and the like. And, though, I am most times honored by the frankness and the trust some have when they relieve themselves of some of their suffering, I have begun to pull back.

You see I teach young adults and I see hundreds of students, and I'm exhausted. Must I be the repository for all things death?

"I thought you should know," a student tells me, "that so-and-so's mother might die." My response is "thank you." But truly I scream inside, "why must I know?" "I can't concentrate," another tells me, "my grandfather might die. I know you'll understand." "UGH," I think, "yes, my grandfather also died, but that's not what you are thinking." "My aunt practically raised me. I don't know what I'll do," another says to me. "I want to be at the hospital, but I have to go to class." And I think and sometimes say, "then go to the hospital and skip class, and don't expect your professor to excuse all your work, because you'll have to figure out how to navigate this world with and without the ones you love."

I know I sound harsh, unfeeling, and without compassion. I warned you, I am not particularly full of grace this evening.

"I thought you should know that my mother died when I was twelve," another states, "So, you know how I feel." "NO," comes more screaming inside," I don't know how you feel. My mother LIVES and I'm still in denial that she will EVER die."

The death of my only child is not a secret, and I talk about her freely, if someone asks. I answer, "Yes, one in heaven," when I'm asked about having any children. And when it makes sense to share a story of Caitlin, I do. But, why must others (and it's clear that I'm really speaking primarily about students and acquaintances) see that I am a receptacle for their fears and stories of death? Why am I the death resource? I'll answer my own question.

It's because I've experienced a horrific tragedy, and though they don't wish to experience it, they want to connect to it somehow. It's because, they need me to know that I alone do not suffer, so do others. It's because I will talk about it, and they know that. It's because they may want something from me, advice, counsel, understanding, help, and sometimes this wanting is from a genuine emotional need and sometimes it is an experiment of sorts. It's because, they may truly believe that I am a repository for death, after all who else could stomach and listen and not react with disdain, disgust, or shock than one whose child has died? It's because they want to feel something authentic. It's because . . . there are as many reasons as there is death.

And I'll continue to fulfill my role of repository, receptacle and resource, but on occasion, I will become tired and whine (and wine) a bit. I won't always be able to accept my tasks graciously.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Under the Tree

How long has it been since you lost your child/ren? Has your grief changed at all? Is your life becoming any easier or is it just harder as time passes? These are some of the questions for us to think about and talk about as we share our grief Under the Tree.

Caitlin died over a year and a half ago. It's odd to measure how long I've been parenting her memory in days or months or years. For me it doesn't help to mark the dates as the months go by. I have a personal dislike of the term "angelversary" though I know it's healing for lots of babyloss mamas. I'm not particularly happy that Caitlin is in heaven, I'm of the mind that the best place for her is here on earth with her mother. Plenty of time to get to heaven, and so that brings me back to how long---it's been a year and a half, but we all know that it's forever in mother-speak.

Has my grief changed? Yes, acute at first, where I was barely able to breathe. I walked around for about a year hunched over and stared with wide eyes, and friends and colleagues would notice that my mouth would hang open. I first lost weight and then packed it on as I tried to fill myself up. The periods of wailing and pounding my first were followed by periods of silent rumination over her pictures or listening to her music at her grave site. Then the numbness set in with no sleep and wondering if I would ever feel anything again. Then the days came where laughter would erupt from me. And troubles that "should" send me in a worry-spin barely phase me. Those days remind me of a song lyric by Cindy Bullens (also a bereaved mother) "I laugh harder and I cry louder, and I take less time to make up my mind."

Is life easier or harder? I have had a "pearl of wisdom" that goes like this--It doesn't get better. I used to tell myself this (and began telling my students) to get myself to move forward and address the challenges that faced me, rather than throw up my hands in defeat. "It doesn't get better." It sounds a bit harsh, I suppose and not particularly hopeful, but here's what I mean. Life doesn't get easier. It's hard work. And if one wishes to thrive in life, to experience a little more joy than sorrow, to navigate "crap" with grace, then, I'm convinced that accepting that challenges will increase in difficulty is a good step in identifying what needs to be done to overcome those challenges as well as building the skills necessary to handle what comes along. The second half of the "pearl" is "so you better figure out how to handle this."

How have I managed this second half in light of Caitlin's death? I've grown in understanding. I've embraced the mother I was when she was living, the mother I am in her death, and the mother I continue to believe she deserves to have. I listen more. I notice more--the buds on the trees, the color of the birds. I look into people's eyes more sincerely. I say "no" and when someone hurts me, I tell them to stop. There's plenty of evidence that I have trouble "figuring out how to handle this," in that I don't answer emails or phone calls very well, and I forget to send thank you cards. Though, I keep trying.

Both grief and joy are welcome in my heart, meaning I let it hurt as bad as it hurts and I let happiness in when happiness comes.

As usual one question under the tree is all my heart can explore. Thanks for prompting some healing. Peace to all.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

DH, Dreams, Work, and PLEASE Sleep

Thoughts not related and yet, connected.

1. DH is expressing more grief, more tears, and more reflection of the death of his only child. It makes me sad. I don't know what to do. So many watch me and assumed he was "OK," but he was taking care of me.

2. I'm in a state of numbness and random violent disturbing dreams. Childhood nightmares all grown up. Dreams that reflect that my mind is over stimulated with world troubles and fear of the future. I long for the dreams of Caitlin, but those do not visit me.

3. UGH. Work. Whatever. Must do it. I do it. UGH.

4. Excited about our summer travels with family to see in the West. Whoo Hoo.

5. In a new state of no sleep and when I sleep, it's those blasted crappy dreams. Why can't I be like the majority of the population and NOT be a lucid dreamer.

6. Politics. Getting me down. Aaaack. SNL makes me laugh, though. Anyone see The Rock Obama. Very funny.

7. "Hey, don't mess with how my brain works!" My response to students today, who mocked my process for remembering some detail in class. Seriously, they have no idea how much I've worked to get the gray matter to work at all.

8. The End. Will try sleep again. Hoping for No Dreams.

Monday, April 20, 2009

More Information on Caitlin's Memory Tree

I wrote about choosing Caitlin's memory tree. Some wanted to know the name of the tree, and so I thought I ought to respond. It's called a Stewartia. The bark pic I shared is one I took of the tree on the nursery property. I found these pics below to share more about the tree. If it s flowering tree and we'll see some fall colors, which is important to me because Caitlin lived and died in the fall months.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spring Visit to the Cemetery

I spent last night staring at the ceiling with the yellow light we leave on outside barely letting me know she was there. I felt nothing, well not nothing exactly. More a feeling that this is what my life is, and I wondered that I was missing Caitlin and missing the hot tears and wails and poetry--the words that used to come to tell me how much I loved and missed her. I used to be able to taste the words with my tears. I don't know when I fell asleep, but I awoke with that feeling and question on my lips, "Where is the longing, the grief, the pain?" The missing was there, but with it was the cardboard of acceptance. Like I had packed it away with my winter clothes.

I needed a connection to my daughter today, and so I drove to her grave--a spring visit to the cemetery. I always wonder if her things will be there; it's common for flowers, angels, butterflies, and other symbols of love that I leave to disappear. Who know why or who or how; I just know that it happens, so I try not to get too upset. Today, I wonder about the puppy that I got from a happy meal and put on Cailtin's grave for one of my sisters so she could visit her niece from far away. The puppy gets moved around a lot in baby land. For a long time, Z's puppy stayed with Gabriel the baby next door to Caitlin and I left him there to keep Gabriel company. Since then, I've found puppy on one of the baby's graves of precious little ones buried recently. And today puppy was visiting a new baby's grave.

Well, I took a pic and then brought puppy home to stay with Caitlin. I secured it with the heart still there, though faded to a light pink, from Valentine's Day. Amazing, and not, that these things mean so much to us, the bereaved. Her squeeze toy still makes sounds, though it takes three squeezes each time to get a sound. The butterfly is still there, which was a relief and several other parents have since brought their babies butterflies too. I thought that was cool. The ground made me sad, though, it still bears a square dirt patch that marks when she was first buried. The grass doesn't seem ready to grow and bring life to that spot. I sat and listened to her songs and kissed her stone. And at last cried.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Memory Tree

Shortly, after Caitlin died, a group of people my DH works with gave us a beautiful card to purchase a tree or shrub to plant in memory of our sweet daughter. I couldn't do it. I had received other plants from people and they died (I can't tell you how that sent me over the edge.). Well, not all died the Christmas cactus gaves blooms around Caitlin's birthday and that was amazing, but other plants given, no matter where I put them and tried hard to water them just right---decided not to stick around. I was truly worried about this tree thing. I didn't want to just dig a hole in the ground and plant something. And what would I plant? What if I chose something that doesn't like the weather here. If I planted something so significant, and it died within the year . . . well, I didn't want to think about it.

Well, since then I've gotten much stronger in carrying my grief. And, I'm more able and willing to translate my love for Caitlin into the symbolic planted tree. I wanted to be sure it made sense and didn't look out of place. So, I went to the nursery where the card was given--it had been over a year, so I was worried. But the nursery is a small privately own nursery and I just blurted the story as is the way I am. He came out to our home, took some measurements and created a plan for some decorative landscaping, and today I saw the plan. It's simple, with plants that are hearty and flower and bring color and scent to the area.

And there is a tree. He tells me that the tree will flower, show fall colors, and over time the bark becomes beautiful shades of color---almost like a painter's palette. I told him that I wasn't sure about the tree. "You can use your gift card for the tree, if you wish," he says staring intently at the computer screen. I sat there and thought about it, and realized that the rest of the landscaping was to make the tree make sense. He chose the tree first for Caitlin, just as I had requested: Something hearty, something unique, something that would fit into the landscape like we wanted our daughter to fit into our lives. I felt a bit stupid that I hadn't realized it to begin with, after all that's why I went to the nursery--to find a tree to plant for Caitlin.

He led me to see the young tree that would be planted and then, "let me show you what it will look like after many years." So, we walked over to a tree on the property, that had been there for years. It was beautiful, and the bark was smooth to touch and the subtle colors were as he described. The tree seemed to symbolize that beauty continues to grow with age and weathering the elements. And that's what has been happening to my heart since becoming a mother.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Editing without Deleting My Own Thoughts

This blog has been a tool for me to use in pausing and reflecting and allowing myself to grieve as I need. I reread my posts on a frequent basis, and when I wait a day, I sometimes have this experience that I'm looking inside my thoughts from another point of view.

Without deleting my own thoughts, I wish to edit, rather to clarify.

Saying that I don't connect with God's loss of his only son, is not dismissing the magnitude of God, rather it's bigger than that. It is so far beyond my understanding that my lame attempt to use my human feelings to connect do not aid me in the least. And when others suggest a human connection, I can't wrap my brain around it. I chose to focus on a connection that I can make, that with a bereaved mother. I did not focus on the significance of who Mary's son is historically or according to my religious tradition, because that would take me into proselytizing and this blog is not about preaching or witnessing to others about belief. Part of this grief journey includes making sense by taking all the broken pieces of me--mind, body, & spirit--and refashioning them to fit in new ways--beautifully painful ways. I'm comfortable with both reason and religion and so while I may include religion, I will do my best not to preach it.

In short--I love that song, and I think it can speak beyond a particular faith or belief, and I don't know why I felt it necessary to begin with a religious discussion. Well, actually I do know why--it's because I am incapable and unwilling to shed the essence of who I am and where I came from. Which brings me to song #2. And I would change just one line: "I am Caitlin Anne's Mother" (Well, and I'm not young either, so that lyric would have to change too--heh heh).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mary My Mother

I caught this song by Patty Griffin in one of my many searches for music to include on my iPod playlist "Caitlin & Mom." The song is "Mary." It speaks to me, because it reaches deep inside of me and resonates the strings of a loving bereaved mother.

I shrink when people tell me that God knows how I feel, or that I must remember that God gave his only son. I'm stunned, because for me, there's little sense in this. If we're gonna go all Bible-literal here (which I will barely attempt, so put your bible away--you won't need to get those verses ready for quotin'.), God was separated from his son for three human days; I can't even imagine what that would feel like for him. My mind goes crazy--if Caitlin had come home after three days?! But this is crazy talk. I won't launch into a ridiculous discussion of what God feels or what some proselytize that God feels, because, I can't imagine. I'm left unconnected to God's experience, and I know better than to play a comparison game with another bereaved parent.

There's nothing wrong with me for feeling this way; it's simply an honest statement of how I feel. I seek a lesson that goes beyond any literal translation or dogma articulated by others. Mary waited the rest of her life to see her son (until ascension for those who believe in this aspect--I mean it, put the Catechism away this is not an attack on an established religion, I'm just trying to be inclusive).

Mary was left to grieve--and it is that experience that resonates with me. Being left to grieve, is something that I not only imagine, I live.

The birth and death of a child, and the mother who nurtured that life, loses that life, and is left to grieve and continue her motherhood is a timeless story. I'm one of millions of mothers who experience this. And because this is an archetypal story, I am held by Mary, My Mother. She was left as Griffin sings, "cleaning up the place." And Caitlin's passing left me to clean up the ordinary. I cleaned up our house by putting away the dead flowers from funeral, the stuffed animals that laid in her crib, and her clothes, and books, and sympathy cards. And in "cleaning up," I made a new place for Caitlin in our home. More importantly, I'm left to tend to my heart, my soul, and my mind, and make new meaning and find ways to survive and thrive. I remain behind to hold those whose hold me in my sorrow, to mend and maintain relationships and foster new ones. Caitlin couldn't stay a moment longer, and I am left stained by her death and still loving because of her life, still nurturing, still her mother. I must "lift the shroud" that is my task.

In Griffin's song, the Marian anthem lives on. The dedication and honoring of a woman who suffered the loss of her child, helpless to change the course of what was to be. Mary becomes every woman "covered in roses, covered in babies, covered in treetops, covered in stains." who suffers and endures, and from that sorrow new life and new joy emerges. From my little world to the world, I find that others have found that Griffin's song aids in expressing this sense of everywoman. Dr. Estes describes Africa as a bereaved mother in the opening of her article with "Mother Africa: for hundreds of years she's groaned under humans who have harmed her by looting her treasures, setting enmity between peoples, and by forcing stones atop her greatest minds and hearts so they could not grow into giants." And she later calls for Griffin's mother Marian anthem to be the "prayersong" that petitions for Marys everywhere to endure with strength and a great heart.

But, I digress. In short: I found this song, it makes sense to me for little things and big things.

Here's the anthem and here's the lyrics.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sisterhood Award

I was recently moved by the poem "Community" by Rachel Barenblat. I copied and planned to post it here, because I feel held by this community of bereaved and infertile mothers (fathers too). When I opened the blog to post it, I was greeted with a comment from Rebeka at Life After Levi. She nominated me for a blog award! Rebeka's kind words and the Sisterhood award made me feel like I was contributing to this community, and so I'm humbly accepting the nomination by posting the image with the rules and 10 more awardees AND posting the poem--because we are all connected.


One by one
every woman I know
approaches me
carrying words

it happened to me
my mother
my sister
my best friend

four times in a row
before the baby came
once, before
I even knew

three times
over six years
and then children
healthy and perfect

just keep breathing
in and out
around the stone
you’ve swallowed

I’ve been there
I am holding you
you won’t feel this way

[You can read more from Barenblat on her blog and read all of Barenblat's poetry in her online book "Through." It's a free download and you can purchase a paperback as well.]

And now, I must follow the rules and so here are 10 more of our community to receive the Sisterhood Award.

Here are the rules:
Put the logo on your blog or post.
Nominate at least 10 blogs with great attitude and/or gratitude.
Be sure to link to your nominees in your post.
Let your nominees know they have received the award by leaving them a comment on their blog.
Be sure to link this post to the person who nominated you for the award.

Amy at Surviving the Day (Yes, I know she already received the award, but she left the most lovely photo of a pink tulip and thought of my daughter and I just felt hugged.)

Trish at Fertile Hope (She wrote the most thought provoking post about the r-word that brought me to her blog.)

Stephanie at Beauty in the Breakdown (Beautiful posts of artistic expressions of parents' grief journey)

Anarchist Mom at Anarchist Mom (Because she always posts sincere and honest thoughts, and frequently challenges how I see the world, and I'm of a mind that that's a good thing)

Sarah at Cover her Briefness in Singing (I was drawn to her blog because of the title--I have a thing for singing--and I quickly added her blog to list of frequent reads)

Sophie at faraday's garden (another baby loss mama who held her baby girl for a short time)

Kari whose blog is private, but I wanted to acknowledge because she's another bereaved mother who writes smart and expressive essays

Jessie at The Encouragement of Light (I love the poetry she frequently includes and am inspired by how she walks her grief journey)

Loribeth at The Road Less Travelled (Because I relate to being a parent without a living child and she embraces life, choosing to thrive as well as survive)

Mommy (you can call me OM) at Overeducated Mommy (She always leaves such kind and comforting comments)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What the Easter Bunny Says to Puppies

"I'm sorry, no Cadbury Eggs for you. Dog CAN'T eat chocolate."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Meaningful Quotes from Mother Teresa

Well, Mother Teresa, I am not, but I am frequently inspired by her life. Most especially her actions and compassion for the poor. She reminds me that an ordinary woman (though, I know many of you would argue she was far from ordinary) can be a mother to many. She did that by nurturing those she came in contact with through providing life essentials, a caring touch, and her compassionate words.

"We have to love until it hurts. It is not enough to say, 'I love.' We must put that love into a living action. And how do we do that? By giving until it hurts"

"We must know that we have been created for greater things, not just to be a number in the world, not just to go for diplomas and degrees, this work and that work. We have been created in order to love and to be loved."

These words nurture, and regardless of faith or belief system, I think most would agree that at the essence of how we live, without knowing and actively loving, we risk becoming little more than a shell. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Out to Lunch

Well, not really, but I've been out to lunch lately with my blogging.

So, I'm back from "lunch" to share that I met a couple today that are in their "older" years, but in their first months of marriage. We were talking about their happy days and the little stories of how they met and it was lovely. With family talk you are bound to get the question, "do you have any children?" Most of you know, that I don't hesitate on this one, "Yes, I have a daughter, and she died." "I'm so sorry," they replied. And they asked me what happened. And asked me how long ago. And asked me how I was doing. And never offered the "better place," "God has a reason," "at least . . . ," or "soon it will be a memory." They just asked me questions about my daughter, and I offered to share her pictures. They were excited and looked at my three favorites that I've carried in my purse since she died. After a pause, I thanked them and told them how healing it is for others to see my daughter and ask questions about her, and not tell me that "soon I'll get over it." I was simply stunned, and I wanted them to know how appreciative I was.

Then I recognized the bereaved father sitting next to me. Those fresh tears that he cried when he and his first wife, now also gone, lost their first child. Those fresh tears that come so easily, so quickly, and so painfully fresh and raw as the first moment you hear the doctor say, "she's gone."

"I know how you never get over it," he spoke through his tears, "because we lost our daughter, too. She was born still and she was perfect. I saw her. The doctor handed her to me and there was nothing wrong with her."

"Did you name her?" I asked.

"Yes," he tells me proudly, "Rebecca."

"Were you able to hold her?" I question gently.

"Yes," we both held her. She was perfect."

"I'm so sorry."

I'm thinking about Caitlin and the babies gone too soon from their parents. I feel sometimes that each time I meet these children through their parents' tears that Caitlin meets them too. And I imagine that in heaven they come together too, and have a conversation.

"Did you name her?" Rebecca asks.

"Yes," Caitlin whispers, "Mama."

"Did she hold you?" Rebecca questions gently.

And Caitlin's answer comes in a melody, "Yes, and she holds me still, in her heart, in her mind, in her soul."

MISSING Caitlin and Rebecca and holding these precious daughters in our hearts.


Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Few Extra Seconds

A few extra seconds was all it took to be sure that the man behind me in church remembered our family. The gentle eye-contact and careful smile was accompanied by a few extra seconds of our hand shake and words of "peace to you."

That man was our funeral director.
That man was the one who dressed my baby in the pink dress we bought for her, just for that day. That was the man who gently suggested I leave her baptismal blanket with him to be placed in the casket with her for eternal rest. She had her pink booties on, too, the ones they gave her in the NICU.

That was also the man who typed the wrong date for Caitlin's obituary, which had the effect of me feeling like she lived a few less days. It was horribly painful, and he wanted to correct it, but the paper would charge him (that meant us) another $400 to reprint. REALLY!!!! Well, my sis managed to shame the paper into correcting the on-line version for free, but the print remained incorrect. It was hard to stay angry with the one who shook my hand with a careful smile and a few extra seconds. We wrote no check for his services, and I still don't know why. But, I think it might have something to do with those few extra seconds.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Getting Farther Out

It's a short post. I read another mother's post today about the anniversary of her child's death and mentioning that it's another year away from her child.

This realization that with each day of surviving the death of my child, I will experience further separation from her. It's an excruciatingly slow progression, irreversible, and with each moment, I get farther away from her life. I am helpless with the knowledge that this is another example of what forever means.

Then I read another post and a mom's work manager wonders if she has "moved on." And I'm screaming inside, "She has no choice, but to be moved away from her son with each passing moment.

Getting farther out
Away from your life
Reaching but not reaching a destination
Where you live

I am slumped
helplessly watching as your craft
pulls away, never out of sight
but forever
getting farther out