Lights of Memory

Not long after my mother died, I went on a spiritual quest of sorts.  I talked to clergy from many denominations, telling them I didn’t even know whether I believed in a deity.  The one person who responded in a way of comfort was a rabbi.  He answered my statement by saying I didn’t have to believe in a deity.  Rather, I had to live my life the way I believed in fairness and compassion to others.  Having done that, he said, there will be no worry about what’s on the other side.

We talked for hours that day.  The sanctuary truly felt like a holy place, and I relaxed my control more than I intended.  After that, I went through the process of conversion classes, set before the beit din in what was a very uncomfortable judgement period, and joined the congregation.  It was an extremely personal experience.  I kept it relatively quiet.

Whilst I no longer follow that path, I do hold some of the beliefs quite dear.  Chanukah is still very much a holiday of peace and light to me, and I still observe it every year.  This year, on the last night, I lit memorial candles alongside the menorah.  The lights surrounded my daughter’s urn and the little angel statue, making a beautiful glow.  Beauty out of tragedy.  Lights of memory in every sense of the word.

Day Eight Memorial Distance

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Holidays Suck

We’re headed in to the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, and I am feeling anything but festive.  In fact, I just want to duck my head until it’s over.  But that brings 2012, apocalyptic crap & other fun with SRA.  Back to holidays…

My daughter’s stillbirth happened on 27 Dec.  I’m already anticipating that anniversary.  Now, actually, I keep thinking of things in terms of last year.  My best friend and I are doing our typical jaunt to Nashville to celebrate his birthday, and, being rather selfish about things, I can’t keep my mind off of last year.  When we were in Nashville last year, I bought some maternity clothes.  I felt the baby kicking on and off all day, and that evening, my best friend’s mother got to feel her kick strong against my side.  I thought of those as her tiny way of participating in the celebration.

This year feels hollow.  I should have a six-month-old hanging about.  She probably wouldn’t have gone with us for the shopping trip, but we definitely would have brought things back for her.  I picture what I think she would look like, what I think her giggle would sound like, and how she would look all excited for the holidays.  Then, I think of how thankful I am that at least I still have her urn and the things from the memorial.  My beautiful baby who will never see a holiday.

I’m guessing she heard the noise of my best friend’s family Christmas celebration.  I’m guessing, too, that she was happy, because she was definitely active.  That celebration was probably her last memory, for lack of better terms.  I felt sick that day, but nothing major.  Just a little like I had a stomach virus.  It’s hard, still, to believe that the baby was gone a day and a half later.

So, yes.  I am not feeling festive.  I might not even go to the holiday celebration this year.  My mind is filled with memories of last year.  The joy I felt when I found out I was pregnant, the love we all had already for that child, and the anticipation of what our lives would be like.  The terrible end of the holiday season last year haunts me, though.  I’d rather this year’s holidays pass without having to give them a nod.

Hills & Valleys

I can’t seem to climb out of this grief valley right now.  I know I will, but for now the sun is rather dark.  That’s an interesting effect of grief- sometimes, sunny days truly do look dark.  It’s beautiful outside today.  The temperature is mild, the humidity is low, and there’s barely a cloud in the sky.  Still, I just feel like covering my head and waiting for the outside to reflect how I feel inside.

All of this got me thinking about the moment just before a funeral starts.  Most acutely, my grief involves my daughter.  I can’t imagine a more painful blow than the death of a child.  My world will never be the same, and it’s still not close to stable again.  In the moments just before my daughter’s memorial service, I wanted to run as far from that chapel as I possibly could.  I didn’t think I could get through it.  The music we chose was already stabbing at me, and I just knew the prayer of committal would drop me to my knees.

We had a little table set up with things to honour my daughter.  Someone gave me a beautiful ceramic angel in the palest of pink colours, and I ordered a sunset picture with her name written in sand.  The nurses took a picture of her after they had cleaned her and I had dressed her.  All of that looked somewhat out of place next to the tiny urn that held her ashes.  Life and death, beauty and desolation laid out right there before our eyes.

When the reverend came in, I stopped breathing.  His presence made things so final.  This was really the memorial service for my daughter, and she was really dead.  I made it through the service, staying relatively composed throughout it, talked to the reverend very briefly afterward, and completely fell apart in the safety of my best friend’s arms once we were alone.  Even now, as I write this almost nine months after the service, I feel like my entire body is breaking open.

Hope is missing from my life, as is the feeling that there is a rhyme or reason for the world afterall.  Even with the trauma in my past and all of the losses before this one, I was able to keep some hope and faith in something larger than us.  Now, I truly have trouble accepting that any supernatural being would be so cruel as to end the life of a child.  The service had a Christian theme.  My best friend’s mother, a devout Christian, planned the service, and I was ok with that.  At that point, an appeal to any being at all to take care of my child was fine.

We used the song ‘Still’ by Gerrit Hofsink.  I think anyone who has lost a baby can relate to this song.  You can listen to it here, and the lyrics are listed below.  If you’ve lost your baby, my deepest condolences go out to you and your family.  I hope that, regardless of faith, this song is a comfort to you.

———————————————————

‘Still’ by Gerrit Hofsink

I’ve been waiting for you
For such a long time
You’re always on my mind

And I’m lying awake
Most of the night
Waiting to hold you tight

Now that I do
And look at you
My heart is breaking
This can’t be true

Chorus:

Lost you before I found you
Gone before you came
But I love you just the same
Missed you before I met you
On earth we never can
But in heaven we’ll meet again

Close to my soul
Close to my heart
Right from the start

Lost in time, lost in space
Can’t wait to see your face

Now that I do
And look at you
My heart is breaking
I know it’s true

Chorus

Sometimes I find myself wondering what to do
With this pain that I’m going through
But I know one day, God will take me away
And I’m coming home to you

And when I do
And look at you
My heart is healing
I know it’s true

Chorus

Ghosts

Last week I had the absolute privilege and honour to stay with my family of choice who live at a distance from me.  I only see them once a year, and I cherish every minute of our time together.  Even though parts of the week were a bit mad, it ended with the peace, fun, and love we’re used to feeling while we are together.

Through the entire trip, my mind stayed on my daughter.  That’s not something I was expecting.  I take a bus to my FOC’s house, which amounts to roughly a 20-26 hour ride.  About half-way through, a man sat next to me and told me my daughter wanted to say she loves me and is safe.  Everything inside me went cold.  I guess that should have made me feel better, but it does not.

If the man’s connection actually reached my daughter, that means she can see and hear me.  Does she miss me?  Does she feel grief?  That made me feel like a failed parent, which is not hard to do.  Throughout the week, I thought about how my daughter would have eventually made those trips to visit the FOC with me.  She would have fit in to the stride of things, as well.

As we went through the week, my daughter danced through my mind constantly.  The grief felt acute.  Something about being surrounded by the love and acceptance of my FOC brought light to the glaring hole in my life.  I ached for my daughter.  I imagined her laughter, her smile.

Unfortunately, my sister-of-choice became very ill and had to be hospitalised.  While my concern for her was very deep and I would have done anything at all to help, the hours we spent at the hospital reminded me of that night almost eight months ago when my baby died.  That memory played through my mind so strongly that it seemed to be happening in the present.  I couldn’t breathe.

Surrounded by my FOC, though, I felt safe.  They had no idea my grief was acute at that point; they were struggling so much with simply getting through the issue they were facing.  Adding to their pain would have been the most selfish thing I could do.

I’m happy to report that my sister-of-choice is home from the hospital and seems to be doing very well.  I hope she stays strong and safe.  Hospitals are miserable places.  Even though people heal and are born in hospitals, those buildings are still so full of death and pain.  I wish my sister-of-choice all the best.  Please keep her and her family in your most positive thoughts.  I know they appreciate it.

Memorial Poem

I have no idea who wrote this poem, but I am incredibly grateful to him or her.  A fellow bereaved parent recommended the poem to me when I was floundering about trying to find the perfect words for my daughter’s memorial cards.  It’s not the greatest in terms of the techniques of poetry, but that is of absolutely no matter.  If you or someone you know is in that same position, maybe this poem will help:

The world may never notice

If a Snowdrop doesn’t bloom

Or even pause to wonder

If the petals fall too soon.

But every life that ever forms,

Or ever comes to be,

Touches the world in some small way

For all eternity.

The little one we long for

Was swiftly here and gone.

But the love that was then planted

Is a light that still shines on.

And though our arms are empty,

Our hearts know what to do.

Every beating of our hearts

Says that we do love you.

Six Months

In a few hours we’ll reach the six-month mark of when my beautiful daughter was stillborn.  In part, I feel like it’s an accomplishment- I’ve lived with this pain for six months.  The prevailing feeling is one of fear, though.  I feel like she’s getting further and further away as time passes.  I always want her close.

My greatest fear is that she will become no more than an afterthought.  For me, she will always be significant.  I just want to find a way to make her part of my present life.  I want to know that the world won’t forget that she was here and that she mattered very much to those of us who love her.  I need to know that those close to me will hold her memory in their hearts, as well.

Tonight, I’m re-living her birth and her memorial service detail by detail.  I can’t stop the images, no matter how hard I try.  I miss my baby more than I can say.  She was supposed to have a chance at life.  I can’t imagine anything more cruel.

Across the Abyss

I was doing well today.  Actually, the day was average.  I’m fine with average.  Boring can be really good.  Then tonight came, and I miss my daughter.  I’ve been having horrible dreams about the day I walked in and found my sister’s body.  That sight still bothers me tremendously sometimes.  In the dreams, though, my baby is lying on my sister’s chest, and they are both covered in blood, both dead.  I guess it only makes sense– the child I raised lying dead with the child I never got the chance to see alive.  There’s just too much pain in my mind right now, and I feel like I’m being devoured.  Some days it’s like the pain becomes me and I no longer exist outside of it.  Tonight is one of those nights.

There have been so many I’ve lost, and there’s all the years of SRA.  However, I’d go through every second of it again if it meant having my daughter alive.  I wouldn’t even need a second’s thought.  This pain is all-consuming.  I feel it physically.  Even as I type, my breath is hard to find.  The worst part is I know this pain will be part of me forever.  There’s something about your child’s death that shakes you to the very core.  I don’t understand it, nor do I really want to.  There is no making sense of my baby’s death.  I’m just trying to make some sense of life.  It seems futile, though, when babies die to assume that their parents can live, truly live, without them.

I’d give anything to have her back.  It’s a feeling of panic, like I’m not truly sure I *can* stand this pain for the rest of my life.  Even on the best days, my daughter is the first and last of my thoughts.  It just hurts more than I can say, and I know there’s no way to fix it.  My child cannot live, no matter how much I’d give to have her, and I’m not sure how to cope with that.  It’s a loss like no other, even with all of the losses I’ve faced before.  She was my precious child, and I ache for wanting to hold her.  I hope she can see or hear me somehow, and I hope she knows how I love her with every cell in my body.

When I think of her at night, sometimes I sing a lullaby in my mind and hope that she is listening.  Mothers are supposed to be able to hold their children, though, and their children are supposed to get a chance to live out their lives.  In place of where my baby’s pictures should be, there’s a little ceramic urn with an engraving of an angel holding a baby in her wings.  I’m not a Christian, and I have no idea what, if anything, happens after this.  I do know that I want my baby cared for, safe, and loved.  What gets me through these long nights is meditation.  I think of her and send out my love in light and energy, hoping that my love reaches her.  I’m not ready yet to say goodbye.

Month the First

One month ago, at 3:17 AM, my daughter was stillborn, and another version of me came to be. I feel so very much older than I felt before. My therapist tells me I’m living my life in reverse. I think she’s right. I think I’m stuck in a moment before The Moment. So much has happened since then, but as I sit here staring at this screen, I can’t even think of one thing other than my daughter. Today, I stood in the same classroom where I first realised I might be pregnant, and my blood ran cold. It literally made me nauseous. And angry. I’m angry that the world went on without my daughter and terrified that she will somehow become an insignificant part of it. She’ll always be a significant part of who I am. She died before she truly lived, and that is the most unfair situation I can imagine. But she *was* significant. She *is* significant. She brought so much joy to my life and to the lives of my best friend and his mother. I remember feeling her kick for the very first time, and I remember the smile on my best friend’s mother’s face when *she* felt the baby kick on the side of my stomach. I read stories to my child, sang lullabies to her, and found myself subconsciously resting my hands on that not-so-little bump as it grew. Today, my arms have ached for her, and I’ve felt an empty, hollow space where she should be. I miss her more than I can say.

To My Daughter

I wrote this letter to my daughter and wanted to share it here as a sort of tribute to her…

Dear M N,

I love you so much, and I would give anything to hold you in my arms. Even though you’ll never get the chance to smile, I’ve seen your smile a thousand times. I’ve heard your baby giggle, watched you take your first glimpse at this world, and felt the warmth of you growing heavier as you fell asleep in my arms. I lived these things over and over in our brief time together. I imagined you as a toddler. M and I were in awe simply thinking of you as a teenager.

We’ll never get to see or know these things about you. One thing I’m sure of, though, is that you were meant to be in our lives. I’ll never understand why you danced through our lives so quickly, but you gave us such hopes and dreams. You brought so much happiness as we imagined our lives with you as part of them. T, who would have been like a grandmother to you, already had you decked out in princess gear. M was already thinking about the fun you would have had. And I was dreaming of all the possibilities that would have been laid out before you. You definitely would have been a star in our lives.

Now, as I tell you goodbye before I get a chance to tell you hello, I want you to know how proud I am of you for the difference you made and the dreams you inspired. We love you so much and hope that you are surrounded by happiness and peace. My beautiful daughter, I miss the child you would have become, the teen who would have brought both grey hair and laughter, and the strong, courageous woman you would surely have grown up to be. I miss the very thought of you.

Now there’s nothing left to say except goodbye, my beautiful baby girl. You will always be a part of me, and no matter what variety of time and space separates us, a part of me will be there to guide and protect you. We will be bonded by the love that can only be shared between a mother and a daughter, and you will always be the beautiful little star who twinkled so briefly in our lives but changed them forever.

All my love, dear child, is with you.

Love, Mummy

Stillness

My daughter was stillborn on Monday, 27 Dec. at 3:17 AM. I had been having cramps and spotty bleeding, but nothing showed up on ultrasound, so the OB wasn’t overly concerned. He just told me to rest and keep watch on things. Late the night of the 26th, though, the cramps developed in contractions and the mild bleeding became heavy. The baby and I suffered a placental abruption, and she did not survive. Since she was fully formed, I had to deliver her as one would deliver a live child. However, she was still too young to live outside the womb. I picked up her ashes this morning, and we will be holding a memorial ceremony for her next week. This is a pain I cannot describe, and I extend my great love and thanks to those who are supporting me. The world has turned upside down and hung suspended in what feels like nothingness. My FOC are doing everything they can to set the world at least partially right. I can’t thank them enough.