Tuesday, October 24, 2006
I just wanted to share with you what we did Saturday night. Several weeks ago we were asked by our pediatric hospice foundation, Noah's Children, to speak at their annual fundraising gala and of course I immediately said yes. I was told only to share our story--in about 10 minutes!--and to say what was on my heart. I had thought and thought about it and early this week was getting worried as I still hadn't come up with the "perfect" speech. I knew that what I said was meant to move people there to spend as much money as possible, to make their donations real, to show them where their money goes. The organization is non-profit and exists because of donations from others.
This past week (Wed-Fri) I went to Massachusetts for some yoga training. I decided that while I was there, I would come up with something. I went alone and it was a long drive and the place is very conducive to thought and contemplation. Jamie was getting really worried that I was waiting till the last minute. I took a workshop on Life After Loss which focused on yoga as a path to healing after loss, as well as structuring a yoga class specifically for people dealing with all kinds of losses. I already know how healing yoga can be. I couldn't have gotten through this last year without the teachings I learned in my yoga teacher training (yoga is so much more than a bunch of physical postures). The spiritual basis and teachings helped me to feel connected to a Divine source, even when I was angry at God, feeling lost, betrayed, abandoned. Anyway, I asked Theo to help me come up with something (and also to be with me and help me not to have a breakdown while I was up there trying to speak--I did get teary eyed, but not to the point that I couldn't go on). And he did help me. I know that he was guiding me and that he gave me the perfect thing to say--almost as if he whispered it in my ear. I came up with the whole thing on my drive back Friday. That night, Jamie made me write down what I was going to say just to have a guideline--even though I had said it over and over all the way back from Lenox, Massachusetts to Richmond, Virginia (It did an awful lot to help me deal with the traffic on the NJ turnpike and NY thruway and the dreaded Beltway around DC!).
The theme for the gala, held at Richmond's posh and world famous Jefferson Hotel, was " A Toast for our Children". They opened the evening with hors'doevres and wines from Italy, France and Spain, then they showed a DVD slideshow of several of the children who had died this year (including Theo) and some currently in the program. Dawn, the director, who was so supportive to us and who spoke at Theo's memorial service and performed our wedding, gave a speech about the organization and then asked us up to the stage. Jamie opened up for us and then introduced me to a large crowd all dressed up in tuxedos and gowns. After I talked, they had a big auction, auctioning off art work, packages to VIP sporting events like Bowl Games in Florida, Box seats at NASCAR races and driving the cars, other sports tickets packages, ski trips, vacations to Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, New Mexico, different golf trips to exclusive courses, packages of luxury spa treatments, service packages like catering, home decorating and certificates for all sorts of services. I don't know yet how much money they raised, but tickets were $125 per person and during the auction, I heard things going for a lot of money. Afterward they had open bar, dancing and desserts. It was an amazing night and I am so proud of my baby and of myself and Jamie.
After the speech, so many wonderful people came up to me all through the evening, telling me about their own children, some had lost their own children which is why they felt moved to support Noah's Children. I just wanted to share this with all of you, since this was such a huge step for me. My mom and grandmother and Jennifer and my Dad came. It was a nice night and it felt good to be able to do something to help other families who will go through similar circumstances and to make Theo proud of me. Thanks for listening!
Love to all--
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
It’s been about two and half months since my last post. I have heard from several people that they have been checking the blog and have been disappointed to see that I have not posted anymore since our marriage and honeymoon. We’ve been doing ok, I guess. Ups and downs. Just when I think I am doing better—it hits me really hard again. That keeps happening. We had a really wonderful party at our house in the first weeks of July. About 60 people came. Everyone brought a wonderful a dish and we had a really nice time. So many of our friends and family came, and there were several children there. It was nice.
Another reason I haven’t posted in a while is that I have needed a break from the blog. Both of us have, really. Our good friend David Robbins, a successful writer here in Richmond, came to Jamie shortly after Theo’s funeral and shared that he would like to sit down with us and talk with us about changing the blog into a book when we were ready to talk about it. I was very happy to hear that he felt it would be a worthwhile endeavor. The thought of having Theo’s story in book form seems more permanent to me than this blog that exists really only in some “virtual” reality. The thought that all we have been through, and continue to go through, could be a help to someone else going through any similar situation—the loss of a child, a loved one with a terminal illness, cancer, etc.—makes me feel comforted. The idea that Theo can continue to change lives and leave behind a legacy that can reach others, over and over for years to come is a comfort to me. I am so proud of my sweet boy, who endured so much and was so very strong and brave. I know that he wants to do whatever he can to help anyone in the kind of pain that he went through and that we go through and our whole family. So, we have both been spending a lot of time since that last post putting the blog in chronological order, in a readable book format, editing, things—but not too much—part of what makes it good is the immediacy, being in the moment as things, feelings happen. So I went over the whole thing a couple times, and Jamie went over it behind me, being a very good editor and able to see things that I can’t. It was very hard for both of us going over and over these past entries. Reading posts when I had such high hopes for Theo’s recovery, the chemo-day, pain and anguish, his funeral—all of it. And for Jamie it was even worse, because not only did he have to go through the events in each post again, experiencing his own pain again, but he also had to re-absorb all of my pain again. I never really thought about that—since it’s my writing, my hurt, coming from me, it actually helps me to write about it, but he is experiencing his own heartbreak and then by reading mine, takes that into himself as well. So he did that, throughout the time I kept the blog, reading posts along with everyone else, but as the editor of what will be the book, he had to relive it again and again, double. So, it has taken a lot out of both of us. He has written a beautiful introduction and I wrote an epilogue, and we have a few appendices, with readings from the services, and select comments that were posted. We have not used anyone’s name, only initials.
I think what I would like to do is turn the blog into a memorial site for Theo, keeping a section for updates on how we are doing and such. But I need to talk to a web site designer for that, I have no idea how to set up a really nice one.
I have been going to a support group regularly, which has been a great help. I’ve been attending a group called MISS, Mothers In Support and Sympathy, which is a group for parents experiencing loss from infant deaths, miscarriages, stillbirths and any death up to age 1. Jamie went with me once, but says he didn’t get as much out of it—“it is for ‘mothers’” he said. And I guess that’s true—certainly only women really come. But I find it very comforting to spend time with other mothers who have lost their babies, other parents who know how it feels. It is really true that if you know, no explanation is needed and if you don’t, no explanation is sufficient. There is a certain comfort in not having to worry at all that the person I am talking to will think I am over-reacting, will be made uncomfortable by my talking about Theo, or my tears, or if I don’t cry, lack of them. And also, just the knowledge that this person knows what it is like. I have also been to one Compassionate Friends meeting which was really nice as well. Their groups are for parents who have lost a child at any age. I think Jamie would like that group better. There were several men present at the meeting—three men were there with their wives and one was there alone. One couple who were also at the meeting for the first time had a son who died of a brain tumor at 14 months old. I was really surprised when we went around the circle, saying our names and our children’s names and how they died, to hear of another child who died of a brain tumor—I just didn’t expect it. We had the same doctors. His tumor was different, but he also had extreme damage to his brain following the first chemotherapy treatment. He died just a few days after the nerurological devastation. Their son died near Theo’s first birthday, just this past May.
As I said, I am having lots of ups and downs. I try to remind myself that it has only been 7 months. I don’t know how I am supposed to be. I know that I am not supposed to be any certain way—it’s just so hard. I get the feeling that so many people, if they think about it at all, think I should be better, and I guess I do seem that way most of the time, but inside, I am not “better”. I heard a mother quoted on 9/11 talking about having lost her daughter in the attack saying, “You don’t get over the death of your child. You learn to handle it better so you don’t go around crying in public and everywhere all the time”.
I am trying to be very patient with myself. This whole grieving process is so unpredictable and so hard. Just when I think I am doing better (whatever that means—feeling a little better, more often, able to talk to him, about him, think about him without crying as much—I don’t even really know what I mean) –but, just when I think things are getting a little better, it hits me even harder. It is like one tiny step forward and then, 2 or 3 or 4 or more—depending on the day—backward. I have been going through a really deep funk lately. Just sad, sad, depressed, missing him so much. Wondering what to do with the rest of my life. Wanting something—some mission, some thing that I can do to make a difference, to help others and to help myself really. And it isn’t a question of doing something to make his life and his death not have been vain—it isn’t for Theo, but for me. I know that Theo is ok—he is ok, he is just not with me. I know he loves me, I feel him with me all the time, sometimes stronger than other times, but with me all the time. But I feel this need or desire, to continue, I think, whatever work he began. I know that he did what he came to do—whatever that is, I have no idea how far reaching the impact of his brief life —but I don’t know what it is that I am supposed to do now. Maybe my part is over, but I don’t think so. Part of me says, well, you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing, but then sometimes that just doesn’t feel like enough. I have always been like that though—wanting…instructions or something…from a higher power. I am more worried that I might miss the right opportunity to do what it is I am supposed to be doing, to stay on the right path. Or that I might not see the sign…or something…or maybe that there won’t even be one. My experiences with my sweet baby are the most beautiful and mystical I have ever had, and I am so thankful for such beautiful gifts. I have looked for those kind of esoteric messages, moments when there is an opening in the gauzy fabric that separates us in our own minds from Divine and we can see and feel clearly, with all our senses, the beauty, the purpose, of our existence and that of others, of the Whole itself—but I have rarely found them, until I met Theo and traveled this road with him. Now I don’t know where to go or what to do. I feel like there is something, some thing I am supposed to do, I just don’t know what.
I will try to continue to post occasionally and let everyone know how we are doing—I hope that I will be able to re-do his site and make it more of a memorial site eventually. Thanks again, to everyone for all your love and prayers. We still need them.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
I wanted to share some photos from the weekend of Theo's memorial and birthday weekend.
His memorial service was just beautiful with wonderful music and readings and so many people there to honor his life. Several people stood to speak and share with us how Theo touched their lives. I am so thankful to everyone who came to honor and celebrate him.
The candle light photo is just after the service before we all sang "Happy Birthday" to him and had birthday cake (with dragonflies on it, of course!).
The following Sunday, on May 28, we had a very small private dinner for our family and for our closest friends--all the people who have been so supportive to us throughout this very difficult year. Just before we had dinner, we shared a surprise with everyone there and................got married! Our wonderful chaplain from Noah's Children, Dawn Colapietro, who has been so helpful to us throughout this difficult time, spoke at Theo's memorial service and performed her very first wedding with us on Sunday evening. Everyone was so surprised. It really was wonderful though, because Theo was a part of the ceremony. It was a perfect way to express how his presence, his life with us, has made such a difference in our lives, in our relationship with each other. Having a wedding, with our closest friends and family on the anniversary weekend of his birth, was just perfect. Our friend Chris, co-owner of my favorite restaurant Bacchus, cooked for us and we had the space to ourselves and it was all just beautiful. It was so nice to celebrate Theo's life, our family and our love and friendship, in that way with all the people we love.
The next week we went to the beach for a few days and that was nice. The weather was beautiful and it was good to be able to spend time together, relaxing. It was a bittersweet honeymoon though. We are very happy about our wedding, but missed Theo so much. It was a very sad week for me. I spent a lot of time just thinking of him, missing him. Taking him to the ocean was one of those "firsts" that I was looking so forward to doing with him. Vacations on the beach, watching him build in the sand, run from waves, laugh and play. We both wanted him to be there with us. There were other children and babies, but a lot of it I think had to do with the way the ocean opens up your heart, brings all the emotions to the surface, stirring up feelings, brings the unconscious floating closer to the surface. Water does that. Also having the time to reflect, to really be with my feelings, not having to (or being able to) go to work, focus on the house, talk on the phone, no computer, no cell phones, no things to do. All of those things together I think made the pain of his absence greater. I spent a lot of time crying, but also feeling good, feeling love. Water does that too. Especially the ocean. When I would cry and feel all the hurt, missing him so much, Jamie would remind me to go into the ocean and it always made me feel better. Playing in the waves, allowing the water to wash away the hurt for a moment, allowing myself to just float, my mind and my heart to just float with the soothing motion of the water. Closing my eyes and totally relaxing, I could just float and let the ocean heal me. I imagined I was floating and swimming in a sea of tears, mine, all the mothers who have lost their children, tears of sorrow, tears of joy, tears of pain and of healing. I made a sand scultpture of a dragonfly and we decorated it with seashells. We wrote Baby's name in the sand. We walked on the beach and collected lots of seashells. I decided to make seashell chimes as a souvenir for our honeymoon when we returned home and so I was looking for shells with natural holes. At first, I looked for shells with no flaws but the small holes at the top, but I found that as I looked, I preferred the ones with bigger or multiple holes, the ones with ridges and broken places, to the pristine and perfect ones (of which there are very few anyway). The ones I chose instead aren't the perfect, unmarred ones, but they are just as beautiful. Even more so, because their holes and broken places, the strange ridges and crevices making patterns across their surfaces, give hints to all they have been through; tossed in the sea, thrown to the shore and sucked back out, hundreds, maybe millions of times, dropped from the sky by hungry gulls, hosts to parasites eating away at their shiny surfaces; all of these things illustrate the life of the shell, show what each has experienced, all these things leaving marks that change the shell into something new and different--the same shell, but changed, unique. They are just as beautiful, and made more interesting by their trials and tossings.
I found myself thinking many times as I sat and looked out at the horizon about a poem I read a while back about watching a ship sail off into the horizon. I thought of how Theo is the whole ocean now, the air, the sky, the love in my heart and everything good and beautiful. I kept imagining how glorious his existence is now and how none of that makes him being gone from me any easier. But I am comforted by knowing those things. I feel him around me and with me and in me all the time. I know he is with me always.
I think the poem was written by a man named Henry VanDyke, though I have found varying versions of it attributed to other people.
I have changed it a little here for Theo.
I am standing upon the seashore. Before me, a ship spreads white sails to the ocean. An object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch until at length the ship hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says: “He is gone!”
Gone from my sight. That is all.
The diminished size of the ship is only my perception.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says:
“He is gone! He is gone!”
There are other eyes watching the ship come nearer,
Other voices ready to take up the glad shout:
“Here he comes! Here he comes!”
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Theo's yoga class was just wonderful. I can't thank my teacher Nora enough for doing such a wonderful kindness for us. 25 people came and did yoga with us in a sacred space. I know Theo's spirit was there too. Very close friends from all different areas of our lives, fellow yoga teachers, people we have met recently and a few people who we had never met, but who were touched by Theo's story all came to honor his life and to share their love and support with us in a peaceful and relaxing space. Several things were left on the class altar in Theo's honor for us to take home with us, sprigs of rosemary for remembrance, a copy of The Little Prince, personal notes to Theo, flowers, a sparkly purple dragonfly to stick to a window, a crystal pair of praying hands and a beautiful silver bag with a lovely pair of dragonfly earrings made of silver with an amethyst body and opals for wings from two of my dear friends and fellow yoga teachers. Donations from the class were more than enough to pay the rent for the space for the class, for the memorial service and for the birthday cake I want to get to serve after the service to celebrate Theo's first birthday on May 26. After class, my friend Angela handed me a wrapped package from her mother Carol, whom I have never met, but who sent me an email several weeks ago sharing with me her experience with her baby boy Curtis who died at 5 days old in 1978. When I got home, I opened the package and found a long letter telling me all about his birth and death and how her life was changed and about the charm bracelet she had made when her second daughter was born a year after Curtis's death. It had girl shaped charms with her daughters' birthdays engraved on them. She said she felt that something was missing when she wore it and so took it back to the jewelry store where she had made a charm of a boy's head engraved with Curtis's name and birthdate to place beside the charms for her girls. With the letter was a black velvet box with a charm bracelet for me inside. On it was the same kind of boy's head charm with Theo's name and birthdate engraved on it, a silver dragonfly charm, and a heart shaped charm engraved with the date of his memorial service (and first birthday). I was so touched that she would think of me, put so much love and thought into such a special gift for me, someone she has never met, but whose grief she shares in her own loss. I was just brought to tears. So many people have done so many wonderful things to express their love and support, and to demonstrate how special Theo has been to their lives and I am so grateful. I said in our yoga class (through tears), this whole experience would not have been bearable without the love, support, prayers, healing and comforting energies, from so many people who love us, some without even knowing us. I can't imagine what this would be like without all of you who have been here for us, offering your strength, support and love.
There are so many times throughout the day that I just miss Theo so much. I have thoughts of Why? Why? Why? still, not always, but sometimes. I just want him back so badly. I have flashes of memories, sometimes good memories, sometimes bad memories. I know that it will be this way for a long, long time. Every one I talk to who has lost a child says, "You never get over it. It gets easier, but it never goes away." One woman told me she talks to her son every day. He died when he was 2 years old. Now he would be 19. I know that one day, when I see Theo again, it will be as if no time has passed at all, and we will talk about all this with no pain and no sorrow, but in the meantime, living here without him is just so hard. I was talking about Theo with a friend the other day and I said something about his having died two months ago and she said, "Was it really just two months ago? It seems like it was so long ago". It made me aware of the differences in how other people experience time and how, to others, his death may seem like something long past. In some ways, sometimes, it feels like it all happened long ago and in other ways, it seems like yesterday. Sometimes I can't believe that this time last year, I was still (hugely!) pregnant. On May 4, 2005 he wasn't even born into the world yet.
I was able to hold the new baby boy of one of my co-worker's today. After I gave him back to his mother and went back to my office, my heart hurt terribly, but I didn't cry and I was able to get back to work.
Things are going well with the new house. Right now, both places are just chaotic, with things everywhere, out of place. We have moved a lot of things to the new house as we have been painting and getting things ready. I still need to paint the guest room and the upstairs hallway and the kitchen cabinets. This coming weekend we are going rent a big truck and move the rest of our things--bed, sofa, dining room table and hutch, the rest of our clothes and few other things and start living in our new home. We have both been just exhausted with so much going on, painting and moving things every weekend. We look forward to having a cook-out/housewarming sometime in June when things are more settled.
Love to all,
Monday, April 24, 2006
I do believe Theo had something to with our finding the house and with how easy the whole thing has been. We had an inspection on the month anniversary of his death, March 20, and everything went great. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the house that we didn't already know about. It's in perfect shape for a house built in 1948. And now we will have our own backyard to plant a tree for him. I've had his placenta in the freezer since his birth. Some people think that's really strange, but I wanted to plant a tree and bury the placenta under the roots to nourish the tree. Theo would watch the tree grow as he grew--but I didn't know where I would plant the tree. I was just saving the placenta it until I could figure out a good place to plant or until we bought a house. We were originally planning on buying a home when he turned 2 or 3. Now I have a yard to plant his tree in. His placenta is part me and part him. It sustained him and nourished him as he grew and now will be part of the tree as it grows. In the H'mong culture, they believe that where the placenta is buried (usually under the family home) is where the soul will always return. It acts as a beacon so the soul does not get lost in the land of the dead, always showing the way home to family. I know Theo is with me all the time, no matter what, and would never be lost, but I am very glad to have a place to be able to plant his tree and give him a place to call home.
We closed on the house April 14 and have been extremely busy. Getting ready to move, making plans, painting, thinking about decorating, where to put this and that, has given me a creative place to focus my energy and thoughts. We have been going through our stuff cleaning and tossing out and giving away things--I have accumulated so much stuff over these years of living in our current house. I am really looking forward to the move. I feel it is exactly the right thing to be doing right now. I know that Theo is connected to the house and that it will be his house as well. I think he picked the house out especially for us. At one point, our realtor called and said that he didn't want me thinking that all real estate deals went this smoothly. I told him I knew it. The house is absolutely perfect for us and I am so very grateful for it and how easy and smoothly the whole thing has gone and continues to go. We are in the midst of painting and taking boxes of things over. I think next weekend we will probably move the big things in and move in completely. We don't have to be officially out of here until May13 so that gives us a lot of time to get things ready and take our time.
I have continued to have some very difficult days and moments--I am sure that I will continue to do so. There are days that I just feel exhausted and sick with grief. I just miss him so much. It's hard for me to believe that things can be so much more difficult and harder than they were right after his death, but it is true. I know that is normal. The inital shock and adrenaline rush wear off and then you're left with the reality that he is really, really gone. I will never see him again in this life. I find myself still have some very difficult moments with the "whys" and the unfairness of it all--seeing parents yell at or mistreat their children, stupid parents on tv abusing their children, etc. I have many moments of feeling jealous of mothers and really sad when I see them with their children out places. Especially when I see pregnant women with other children or toddlers. I'm sure it's all normal--it's just really hard. I'm not around that many kids (babies and toddlers I mean), but I don't tend to have those feelings with people and children I actually know, just strangers.
I will post more later to update you on the move.
I would like to extend my gratitude to my teacher Nora who is offering the yoga class dedicated to Theo. It means so much to me. 25 people have already signed up for the class. I don't think she has anymore space unless we try to find another location and since it is next Monday, that probably is not possible. Thank you so much to Nora and to everyone taking the class. Having people who care about us there, in Theo's honor, to do yoga together, is such a wonderful thing. I am looking forward to the class.
Love to all,
Thursday, April 20, 2006
My name is Nora Vimala Pozzi. I have been Karla's yoga teacher and her trainer while she was training to become a yoga teacher two years ago. I have been wanting to do something for her.
As you all know it is very difficult to do anything at all, without feeling it is never enough. The journey that both Karla and Jamie have traveled since last August, has been painful and dramatic. They have survived and have become stronger in their spirits, but to the expense of a lot of grief, which just two months after Theo's passing, is probably in its earliest stages. The emptiness that Baby Theo has left in their home and hearts is almost more than anybody can endure. What is more, now that Baby Theo is not around in his physical form anymore, most probably, the wonderful support from friends may start to dwindle.
The upcoming Memorial Service and Theo's Life Celebration will be an opportunity to bring us all together.
I wanted to offer Karla a gift of a Yoga Class for her friends and supporters at The First Unitarian Church, the same church where the Service will be held. The purpose will be a means to raise some money to help pay for the rental of the space for the service ($200), since I will be offering my teachings for free, the income will go directly to Karla and Jamie. The class will also serve to bring some of her friends and supporters together to share an activity that is both spiritually uplifting and physically relaxing. The class will be dedicated to Baby Theo. The donation for the class will be a minimum of $12 (which is a standard class fee) or more if you feel that you would like to donate more. All donations will go directly to Karla and Jamie as a gift to help pay for the cost of the service, rent of the space, flowers, refreshments, etc. However, if your budget is low and you cannot afford it, just donate whatever you can.
The space can hold approx. 15 people or very crowded, 20 maximum. If you think that you want to attend, please send a response ASAP so that we can reserve your space. If you sign up and decide not to come, let us know, so that we can give your space to someone else. YOGA CLASS with Nora Pozzi in honor of BABY THEO to raise funds for the Memorial Service DAY: Monday May 1, 2006 TIME: 7:45-9pm LOCATION: First Unitarian Church 1000 Blanton Ave (across the Carillon in Byrd Park) entrance through Douglasdale Rd. DONATION: $12 or more WHAT TO BRING: a Yoga Mat or a big towel Don't eat a big meal at least 2 hours before class
Email Karla at this address or Nora directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, March 31, 2006
I apologize if I hurt anyone's feelings or caused any discomfort or pain with my comments on the last entry. I don't want to make excuses, but I am anyway. They are, at least, good ones. I don't have a choice but to go through these feelings. Anger, misdirected and otherwise, happens through the process of grieving. The work of greif can't be done without the negative feelings that are part of the process. Anger is one of the chief negative feelings. Eventually the negative and difficult feelings have to come out, the fear, the anger, the sadness, the pain. Otherwise, those angry, depressed, desperate feelings stay bottled up and eventually start to wear away at the heart. I can't keep bad feelings inside, I have to let them go and let them be changed to something else; hopefully something that can do some good; for me, for others, for some constructive purpose.
I hope that you can bear with me. I do appreciate and need support from all of you, in whatever form. Whether you email me, or post a comment or pray for us or meditate on us, chant for us or send positive, strengthening, peaceful energy and light.
We still need your love and support. Thank you.
Love to you,
Thursday, March 30, 2006
I've been hearing from a lot of people that I am doing really well. So many people ask, “How are you?” and I can’t tell you how difficult it is to answer that question. Even when I know people are asking because it's a social thing and the expected answer is, "fine" or "good, how are you?". I usually just say, "I'm doing ok". I think I am doing ok. But it isn’t that simple. I frequently hear, “You seem to be doing really well” or, “You look great” or, “You are such a strong person”. These comments set off strange feelings. Sometimes, I have a lot of mixed feelings about everybody thinking I’m doing so well. Sometimes I feel as if people are surprised, that the expectation is that I should be devastated, barely able to function, with swollen eyes, tear-streaked face, glazed eyes. As if I should be commended for doing so well and it bothers me sometimes. I know if nobody asked me how I am feeling or how I am doing, I would be upset and feel that nobody cares. I don’t want anybody thinking that I’m some poster-mom for strength in a tragedy or an example how to do well while grieving. And I would never want anybody else going through this to get the impression that it's been easy. I'm not always doing so great. I cry a lot. I get angry. I still feel shards of bitterness. People still make inappropriate comments about the afterlife and Theo’s new state of being and Universal plans.
There are certain things that people should not say to parents who have lost a child. Especially when people don’t know the parents all that well. My baby is not in a better place. God does not need another angel. I do believe that Theo is watching over us, that he sees and feels us, and that he is helping me in many ways, but I don't for one second believe that he is dead because "God needed another angel". People tell me I can have another baby. Some people who bring up new babies (usually people bring it up more with me than with Jamie, but it happens to him, too) ask whether we will have another baby or if we want another baby or tell me (or him) that we should have another baby. Things like, “You’re young, you can have another baby.” Nobody tells a widow she can get another husband; or an amputee that he can get another arm; or a brain injured person she can get another brain. No new baby could ever fill the empty place that reminds me near constantly that my Theo is gone and I can never again hold him, never coo to him, never smell his scent again. Sometimes asking whether we plan to have more children might be appropriate, but sometimes not, and so much depends on how it is said. Another hurtful thing is the "he is in a better place" comment. No parent who has lost a child, even if they comfort themselves with the thought that their baby is somewhere safe, warm, comfortable and happy, really feels there is a better place than in the loving embrace of mama and daddy. I am so very glad that he is no longer in any pain, but I don't think he is in a better place. A different place, a good place, but not better. Sometimes I wish people would refrain from telling us that “God has a plan.” This might make some people feel better, and may even be true; but most of us who have lost our children don’t care that God has a plan,even if we believe there is a plan. There very well may be a plan, but we don’t much care for it. Or when people say things like, “he was too good for this Earth.” That bothers me. He was goodness itself, and would’ve done Earth a world of good had he been able to stay. I know he would have. When our child is terminally ill, don’t tell us things like “your doubt may be keeping your son from being healed.” I shouldn’t even have to explain the reasons behind that one.
I know that people who say these things are trying to be helpful. I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings or alienate anybody or sound unappreciative. I appreciate the gesture, the attempt. I know that I have put our lives out on display by writing these posts and allowing hundreds, maybe thousands of others inside our journey. I know that by doing that, I am inviting comments and making it possible for people who don't know us to know us through these words. And I am glad that I have done it. But I would like to ask that people please think about what is said to a parent who has a terminally ill child or whose child has died. Say, “I am so sorry”, admit that it is awful and sad and that you may not know what to say. We know how terrible it is, talking about it doesn't make it worse, it makes us feel not so alone. Don't be afraid to mention the child's name, we are already thinking of him and we like to hear other people talk about him or remember him. Let us know you care, let us know that you are there for us, that you’re thinking of us, that we are loved. That we are in your thoughts, your prayers, your meditations.
Sometimes when people talk or write about how well I’m doing, I can’t help but feel disturbed. I know people mean well, but sometimes I just feel that saying how great I seem to be doing minimizes the gravity of the situation--not that anyone thinks that, it's only how I feel. I know no one thinks that. Or I feel guilt over the thought that so many people have the impression that I’m doing so well. And I know there are a lot of people who think I am doing really well. And I guess in the whole scheme of things, I am doing well, I know that I am doing better than a lot of people would be. But I also think it’s normal to go through feelings like these. I think about and talk about how normal all the things I go through are. Telling myself, this is normal to feel this way, or that way or to feel angry or bitter or to have good feelings. Several times people have said things or posted things or wrote things that spark feelings of anger or dismay or guilt or puzzlement, and I know that many of those feelings are due simply to the fact that I am bereaved, I am grieving. I am very sensitive to things; not all the time, but sometimes. But I feel these things, I take them in, deep inside, and I wonder what people are thinking when they say them or write them down. And I know that mostly people don’t know exactly what to say, and mostly it’s my reception or my impression at the time that brings on a negative feeling or a bristling, but still, I can’t take full responsibility for others’ words: my grief colors everything in my life now, but I don’t control what others do or say. People can know that there are things that shouldn't be said, like, “You’re doing so well after just a month”, or “He is in a better place”, or “God has a plan”, or “He was just too good for this world” or “God needed another little angel”. Unless you know me very well and can have a conversation or a discussion with me about your own thoughts and feelings on these things, try not to just cast about for things to say because you don’t know what else to say. Consider carefully what you say to us. Not just Jamie and me, but any parent who has lost a child. Really, any person who has lost a loved one. To us, these are not just passing comments. We think about everything. I search and search for meaning, for an answer to the “Why?” that screams through my mind. I spent a great deal of time over the first four months or so after the diagnosis screaming it; asking other people, asking God, begging God, crying out “Why? Why?” and begging, crying for help, healing, miracles, answers to “Why”, much of the time wondering if Anybody was even listening or cared. The last two months I’ve said “Why” it in a quieter voice; still the question persists, now mostly in silence. But it’s still there, it will always be there, it’s just that the need to know “Why” right now doesn’t seem so urgent as before. There is nothing else the human mind can do but allow “Why” to rest, to seep below the surface; otherwise, it would make a person --- me, you, anyone --- crazy. The answer to the question isn’t going to come anyway. One day, when I can be with Theo again face to face, soul to soul, I will know and he and I will talk about it, but until then, I will have to endure the persistence of “Why?”
Lots of people think I am doing really well. I guess I do seem to be doing really well when people read what I write or see me day in, day out, working, shopping, conversing with people about things not having to do with Theo, not in tears, going about life, not in a psych ward someplace, laughing, not in a puddle on the floor. Maybe that people think I’m doing so well means that I am not grieving publicly enough, or deeply enough. It’s like feeling guilty for laughing about something. I laugh a lot, I’ve always laughed a lot, it’s one of my favorite things to do. I choose my friends largely on how much I laugh when I’m with them. Every person I love can make me laugh. But now, every single time I laugh, I think about how inappropriate it seems --- even though it isn’t --- or how I shouldn’t be laughing or cutting up or making jokes about anything. Even when I know that laughter is good for us. But my child is dead. My child is dead. My child is dead. Nothing should be funny. It feels unseemly or improper, out of place, wrong to laugh when my heart is so broken, when I have only lately buried my first and only child. I don’t know how I am supposed to be doing. And I know as I write that, the response is that I am not supposed to be doing any particular way. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, everybody goes through it differently. Even people who suffer the same loss go through it differently. It’s different for me than it is for Jamie, for my mother, for my father, for both my grandmothers, for Theo’s aunts and uncles, cousins, for other people who knew him and love him. I know all the “right” answers for these things, what I would tell someone else if they came to me for counseling or help. None of those things, the textbooks, the therapist’s responses really mean anything in the face of this. Maybe later they might, but even as I tell myself the right things, even as I put those to use in my life, knowing this is normal, knowing it’s okay to have conflicting feelings, knowing there is no schedule for grieving, no right or wrong way to go through it, none of these things feels really meaningful in the midst of pain. It’s a cumulative effect. I know that all the feelings and pain, the things I do and think and say, the comfort I take from others, the help the support, the anger and the resolving of that anger all are part of the process and later will serve to help me come through to the other side somewhere. But in the meantime, nobody else sees me when I am in a puddle on the floor. Nobody else sees me look at his pictures over and over throughout the course of a day, studying each little feature intently, his hair, the bend of his finger, the shape of his mouth, or at other times, just stealing quick glances. Nobody else sees me holding his little socks between my fingers, picking up a piece of clothing or a blanket and holding it to my nose, breathing in deeply to take in what might be left of his scent on the fabric. Nobody else sees or can know how often in the midst of meetings or conversations or other normal every day activities, I am thinking mostly of Theo. Nobody else knows that he is always in my mind, even when something else is going on; he is never away from my thoughts. Nobody else knows what it is like when I lay down to sleep and stare, wide awake at the darkened ceiling or at the empty bassinet still next to my bedside. Nobody else sees how hard it is for me to behave normally after running into a co-worker and her new baby, or while seeing babies in the store when I really want to just break down and cry. Nobody sees how hard it is to keep that inside. I know that it’s good to cry, to get it out; trust me, I cry a lot. I just prefer to do most of my crying alone. And I don’t like to lose it in the middle of a store or at work or other public places. Crying and sobbing and snotting all over the place are, I feel, personal things. Sometimes I cry with Jamie, on his shoulder, sometimes with a trusted friend, but for the most part, I cry when I’m alone. I feel that’s the best way to really get it out. Not having to worry about how the other person is feeling. Are they getting tired of it? Are they wondering when I’m going to stop, have they had enough? It’s just easier and better for me emotionally to get all my crying and sobbing out when I’m by myself.
Yes, I’m functioning pretty well. We both are. No, I’m not in a psych ward or having to take a bunch of “nerve tablets,” as my grandmother would say. Yes, I feel peaceful and even happy sometimes. As far as grief goes, we are both doing pretty well. We are working through it, doing our “grief work” pretty well. Neither of us is denying how terrible it all is, nor are we denying that there are still lots of good things about life. Each other, laughter, springtime, flowers, new things, plans, dreams. But I don’t want anybody under the impression that there is anything, anything, easy about any of this. And I don’t always do remarkably well. When I sit down to write these posts, I know I am writing for an audience. These posts are not just for me. If they were, they would be very different. I am writing to you, sharing our lives with you. When I sit down to write, I don't tell about every agonizing moment of knowing I will be forever in this life without my first and only and beloved child. Knowing always, every second, that he is dead of a terrible and extremely rare brain tumor that ate big holes in his little, perfect baby brain. A brain tumor that one in 30 million people gets. That's about 4 times the population of New York City. Or about the combined population of the states of Virginia, Florida, Mississippi, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. That's some of my bitterness coming out. The memories of our hospital time border on traumatic. When I look at the pictures we took in the hospital, I have trouble breathing, my chest hurts, my stomach feels knotted up, my eyes swim and my throat goes dry. I am not going to look at them again for a very long time, maybe ever. I took them thinking that one day I would show them to him. Show him what he went through because he would be too young to remember. Those memories sometimes replay over and over. Sometimes I will have a thought of Theo and something will trip in my brain and I will just start to cry. No trigger, no baby in a grocery store or work corridor, no picture, no poem or song, just a thought and then a flood of tears. That happened the other day when I was driving on the highway. I thought I would have to pull over, but I did okay. It went on until I got home and could cry on Jamie. I don’t write about every little thing that tears my heart out.
There are many things that feel nearly unbearable. This whole past 7 ½ months has been unbearable, but had to be borne. We had no choice but to bear it and we did it in the very best way that we could. We didn’t run away from it even when we wished we could. We didn’t abandon Theo or each other. We went through it. And it will be with us forever. I know that we spent in these last 10 months since his birth last May more time with Theo than some families spend with their children in whole lifetimes. Whole days and nights were spent just holding him, looking at him, talking to him, singing to him, breathing with him, devoted to him. I know that the time we had with him was sacred. I know that I was lucky. Lucky to be the mother of such an extraordinary, special baby boy. I know all parents think their babies are special, but Theo was truly extra special. I am not the only one who knows this is true. I may never know in all my living days why this happened to him, to us, but I will always grateful to have known him and loved him and cared for him. He touched people, not only through his story, but through his being. A friend of mine visited him in the hospital and told me how upon seeing him, she was overcome with an incredible sense of peace and well-being. Another friend who stayed with Theo for a few nights so we could sleep in our bed tells me of how she was different, how something inside her has been changed for having spent those nights with Theo. There was something about him. I will wish for him to be with me for the rest of my life. I may be doing well, but there will always, always be an empty place in my heart that longs to be filled with no one else but Theo. His love and his spirit will always be with me, in my heart and soul and all around me, but my arms will always long to hold his little warm body close and that longing will never go away.
I hope that none of this upsets anyone who as told me how well I am doing or who may have made any comment that you think might have bothered me. It isn't about you at all. If you didn't say anything at all, I would feel abandoned and as though nobody cared. I just feel the need to explain all the facets of this process. To be honest about how I feel, how things are for me, for us as a family. I just wanted share some of these things. And I can't do that without talking about the hard and sad and bitter things. It has been, at times, harder now, a month and ten days later, than it was in the very beginning, right after his death.
Grief really is, just like all the books say, like waves in the ocean. The waves come and go, moving in and receding, high and low tides, sometimes smooth and calm, sometimes rough and choppy. And when you get hit by a wave, there is really nothing you can do but allow it to take you with it until it is over. If you struggle or fight it, it only makes things worse. It might be a little wave that just kind of knocks you off balance a bit, maybe you fall down and scrape your knee on a sharp piece of shell or this time, it might be a really big wave coming up fast, out of nowhere, crashing down on you, knocking you sideways and under. You might feel scared, or on the edge of panic, totally at the mercy of something much bigger and powerful than yourself. You might feel like you're drowning, like you can't breathe. Rolling over and over, seeing the light above, then dark murkiness, being pummelled and tossed about, maybe bruised and disoriented, until you are left to dry on the sand. The waves of grief are just like that; and as unpredictable, except in that you know that the waves will come, just not how or when or whether they might be calm or rough. But if you try to float with them, relax as much as you can and trust that you can float, it is a little easier.
Today we recieved several more cards from Noah's Children acknowledging those who have given donations in Theo's memory. Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity. And thank you again to everyone who has been so caring and kind to us. We really appreciate your love and support. I know I say that a lot, but not enough. We are very grateful to you all.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Yesterday was the Spring Equinox and the one month anniversary of Theo's death. It seems kind of appropriate that Spring came on that day. On the day of the equinox, the earth experiences equal times of daylight and dark. After that we begin to notice more and more as the season goes on longer periods of light each day. It kind of feels like that for me right now. Periods of darkness, hurt and grieving feel a little more balanced by times of lightness. A little more laughter, a little less pain, a little easier to remember him and not hurt every time. Hopefully the lightness in my heart will continue to grow with the light outside. I have tried really hard, throughout his illness and his death and now through the grieving and bereavement, to be as open as I can, to allow myself to continue to be open to my feelings and to grow, to not shrivel up or stay tightly closed. I only hope that as the flowers and plants grow and bloom, I can as well. But, then again, even when spring comes on the calendar and the light stays a little longer, we still have periods of cold and frost and rain and snow, especially early on in the season. It's like that outside today. Cold and dark.
One of my coworkers brought in her newborn baby today and I didn't expect to walk around the corner and see a brand new baby. It was really, really hard for me. I had to work really hard not to fall apart in the meeting I was sitting in after I ran (almost literally) into Jill and her new baby boy. He looks nothing like Theo, but it was just the memory of him that little, in my arms, sleeping, nursing. After that I've just been nearly in tears all day.
I just miss him so much. We both miss him so much. I told Jamie yesterday that it feels like he is still here. It's hard to really explain. I've mentioned the feeling to other people occasionally and others have thought I mean that sometimes I forget that he is gone. That isn't it at all. I never forget that he is gone. It's the first thing I think of every single morning. Most of the time I open my eyes from sleep and have that brief moment when I'm thinking of nothing really, and then the thought comes floating up -- "Theo is dead" -- and the heaviness settles around my heart. Or sometimes, more rarely, the thought doesn't float, but crashes in, mean and shocking. Rushing in like freezing air or having the breath knocked out of me. Sometimes it wakes me up in that way and it feels like a shock. But usually the thought just kind of floats in, reminding me, as if I need a reminder, "Psst...hey, remember...your baby is dead...don't forget..."
So forgetting for a moment that he is gone is not what I mean by saying that it feels like he is still here. I mean it feels like he is still here. I can feel him around me or nearby. Not in a "woo-woo" (as my friend Lenore says), ooh I can feeeel him all around me kind of way, just a matter of fact, Theo is here way. As is maybe he is asleep in the next room or just downstairs. Like when somebody comes into a room, and something, the energy in the room, your perception of the presence of another person, changes the way the space feels. Parents, lovers, close friends have a certain knowing about the particular kind of feeling that surrounds the one they love and I can feel that "Theo-ness" around me and in the space where I am. It isn't something that comes suddenly, like all of sudden noticing that he's here or anything like that, more of an overall perception, a feeling that dawns on me slowly at times. I can't really explain it. But Jamie knew exactly what I meant. It feels like he is still here. And somehow, I think he is. But it still isn't the same as having him, nothing at all like having him here.
I was reading a passage from the Bhagavad Gita about the True Self, that Self that never dies, which says:
The Self dwells in the house of the body,
Which passes through childhood, youth and old age.
So passes the Self at the time of death into another form.
The wise know this truth...
Not pierced by arrows, nor burnt by fire,
Affected by neither water nor wind,
The Self is not a physical creature.
Not wounded, not burnt, not wetted, not dried,
The Self is ever and everywhere,
Immovable and everlasting.
There are some who have realized the Self
In all its wonder. Others can speak of it as wonderful.
But there are many who don't understand even when they hear.
Deathless is the Self in every creature.
Know this truth,
and leave all sorrow behind.
I have been thinking a lot about this passage. If I believe what it says to be true, and I know there is no death, then why have do I have such sorrow? Does it mean that I don't truly believe it? I thought long and hard about that. But I do believe it. Maybe it's that I believe, but don't know. But that isn't the case either, because I know without any doubt that Theo exists, Theo's Self, his true essence, is still here, is everywhere, is with me and in me and all around me. I know he sees me and that he feels me and that sometime, I will see him and be with him. I will be able to interact with him and we will talk about all this. But in the meantime, I have no choice but to be here without him in physical form. I hurt because, even if I know that he has not "died", even if I know that the Self, in Theo, in me, in you, in all of us is deathless, he is still not here with me and that is what hurts so much. So I guess I am just selfish and attached to wanting my baby here in physical form and that's just the way it is. I can't imagine being anywhere near wise and enlightened enough that I will not miss having the physical form of my baby here with me. Maybe one day I won't feel so much sorrow, maybe more and more the light will outbalance the dark, but for now, even knowing that there is truly no death, doesn't keep the pain from my heart.
If anyone has tried to comment and cannot, I am sorry. There is something wrong with the system, and probably too with the changes I have made in trying fix the problem myself. I don't know if it will ever be fixed so I opened an email account where comments can be sent. Feel free to send email to email@example.com instead of posting a comment. Hopefully it will be fixed soon.
I will post reminders about the memorial service periodically. We continue to be thankful for all the support from so many people. I am taking all the stuffed animals we have recieved to the hospital this coming Friday. I also want to thank Jennifer D'Surney Emory who brought many, many more animals to add to the collection. Her baby girl christening was held the day of Theo's funeral and all who attended Campbell's christening brought an animal for Theo. Thank you to all of Jennifer's friends and family for that gesture.
I will continue to post to let you know how we are.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Next Monday he will have been gone one month. Things are still the same for us, up and down. We miss him terribly. We are still recieving cards in the mail almost daily, and I so appreciate the comforting and heartfelt words from so many wonderful people. Often, bereaved parents recieve a lot of support initially, but say that people tend to forget after a few weeks that the pain for us is just as fresh. The whole terrible event seems to have just occurred. It is good to come home to a card from a caring friends, or a small package from a family member, a bouquet of flowers unexpectedly dropped off, a note telling us how Theo touched a life. All of our wonderful neighbors gave us a card from each person on our block with a gift certificate to an area restaurant they know we like. Thanks so much to everyone for remembering to remember. No matter how small you think a gesture might be, it does not go unappreciated or uneeded. None of your acts of love and kindness are taken for granted. All are significant and are like a soothing balm to our hurt. All the gifts and donations to us and in Theo's name are so appreciated. There is comfort in knowing that so many people hold us in their hearts and thoughts and that Theo meant so much to so many people.
I have many moments throughout the day when I feel so sad and broken hearted, missing him, missing what would have been. Thinking of a life with no Theo is so lonely and sad. In those moments, I can feel the grief creeping in, slowly squeezing my heart and my belly into hard knots. Making me feel anxious and sick to my stomach. Sometimes I indulge in those feelings, taking my mind into the pain, feeling it push through me. If I don't, it only gets worse the next time. Other times the pain of missing him hits me hard, quickly, unexpectedly. Hearing a song we listened to with him but didn't remember was on the cd changer, or hearing a song I'd never heard before about lost love and heartbreak and thinking of it in a Theo context. One of the books I have on my nightstand right now is William Goldman's The Princess Bride (you might know it as the really awesome movie by the same name), and there is a part where the narrator is giving details of the life of one of the characters who happens to be a giant. In this part of the book he compares the weight loss and gain of regular newborn humans to that of the giant babies. I was reading, and all of a sudden I was reminded of Theo's weight as a newborn, his first few days of normal wight loss, his on-schedule weight gain, and the thought of it, of Theo, just made me burst into tears and I cried and sobbed for at least 10 minutes just from reading a fairly inconsequential passage in a mostly lighthearted storybook. Up and down. And like so many parents who lose their children, we laugh, we find things funny; it feels strange to do so, but it also feels good. I know Theo likes it when we are happy. He wants us to be happy. I do know that and I know that he loves us and that he wants us to know.
The date for the memorial service is set for Theo's first birthday, Friday May 26, 2006,
at 7:00 p.m. in the First Unitarian Church at 1000 Blanton Avenue in Richmond.
This is the church next to the Carillon Bell Tower near Dogwood Dell and Maymont Park.
After the service we will have a birthday cake for Theo and some light refreshments. We invite everyone to please come and join us in remembering and celebrating his life. We look forward to sharing this time with all our Richmond family and friends as well as all of you who have been touched by his life through my writing about our journey and who wish to share in his memory. We hope to meet some of the people who have come to know us through his story. Many people have emailed that they wish to come to his service having only known us through his story here. Everyone is welcome.
Friday, March 10, 2006
This dragonfly was designed by my friend Lisa Marshall. This one was a computer version she sent me that I just thought was beautiful. I had enlarged and framed it and took it with us to set up at the funeral home with his pictures. When Lisa came for the visitation, she brought the original watercolor (which I had not seen until then) in blues and purples. She had it framed and matted with the dragonfly and waterbug story that we set up on an easel next to the guest book.
Thank you to Lisa for this beautiful tribute to Theo. (Click on the picture to enlarge it)
Waterbugs and Dragonflies
Down below the surface of a quiet pond lived a little colony of water bugs. They were a happy colony, living far away from the sun. For many months they were very busy, scurrying over the soft mud on the bottom of the pond. They did notice that every once in a while one of their colony seemed to lose interest in going about with its friends. Clinging to the stem of a pond lily, it gradually moved out of sight and was seen no more.
"Look!" said one of the water bugs to another. "One of our colony is climbing up the lily stalk. Where do you suppose she is going?" Up, up, up it went slowly. Even as they watched, the water bug disappeared from sight. Its friends waited and waited but it didn't return. "That's funny!" said one water bug to another. "Wasn't she happy here?" asked a second water bug. "Where do you suppose she went?" wondered a third. No one had an answer. They were greatly puzzled. Finally one of the water bugs, a leader in the colony, gathered its friends together. "I have an idea. The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk must promise to come back and tell us where he or she went and why." "We promise," they said solemnly.
One spring day, not long after, the very water bug who had suggested the plan found himself climbing up the lily stalk. Up, up, up he went. Before he knew what was happening, he had broken through the surface of the water, and fallen onto the broad, green lily pad above. When he awoke, he looked about with surprise. He couldn't believe what he saw. A startling change had come to his old body. His movement revealed four silver wings and a long tail. Even as he struggled, he felt an impulse to move his wings. The warmth of the sun soon dried the moisture from the new body. He moved his wings again and suddenly found himself up above the water. He had become a dragonfly.
Swooping and dipping in great curves, he flew through the air. He felt exhilarated in the new atmosphere. By and by, the new dragonfly lighted happily on a lily pad to rest. Then it was that he chanced to look below to the bottom of the pond. Why, he was right above his old friends, the water bugs! There they were, scurrying about, just as he had been doing some time before. Then the dragonfly remembered the promise: "The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk will come back and tell where he or she went and why."
Without thinking, the dragonfly darted down. Suddenly he hit the surface of the water and bounced away. Now that he was a dragonfly, he could no longer go into the water. "I can't return!" he said in dismay. "At least I tried, but I can't keep my promise. Even if I could go back, not one of the water bugs would know me in my new body. I guess I'll just have to wait until they become dragonflies too. Then they'll understand what happened to me, and where I went.”
And the dragonfly winged off happily into its wonderful new world of sun and air.
Doris Stickney (1982)
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
I went yesterday evening to get my taxes done and the lady who does my taxes, who I see once a year, said, "how was your year" and I just couldn't keep from crying. I said, "The last time I was here, I was pregnant". And told the shortest possible version of the story. She was shocked. I guess it isn't what you expect to hear every day. But she was sweet and very helpful.
I am hoping to hear tomorrow or the next day from the lady in charge of the space I want to use for Theo's memorial so that I can post more details and make plans for his service. Keep checking. I will post as soon as I hear with the location, date and time.
We continue to get cards daily and they are so appreciated. Also, we have recieved nearly one hundred stuffed animals (not counting the small ones like beany babies, of which we have about 40) and I know some friends of ours have more animals to bring over. I am planning to make little cards to tie to their arms or around their necks that say something like, "This animal is given with love to you from Baby Theo". I want to keep a few to have at the memorial, but we plan to take a bunch to the hospital in the next week or so.
It's strange, in some ways it feels like everything happened so long ago. I can hardly belive it's only been two weeks, and in other ways it seems just a few seconds ago that he was here with us. All of his things still around me, everything the same, except he is not here. I can close my eyes and breathe in and bring his sweet face to my mind so clearly. I remember vividly the feeling of kissing his soft skin, his little feet, his chubby thighs. Every time I changed his diaper I kissed his legs and his feet, his toes and his knees. I remember the smell of his hair, breathing in his breath with my own. We watched a show the other night about quantum physics, our perceptions of "reality" etc., and in one part they talked about a study done with brain scans where a person was shown something, a candle burning, an event taking place, whatever, and certain areas of the brain lit up on the scan showing certain kinds of brain activity when the event or object was percieved. For the next scan, the subject was asked to simply recall seeing the same exact thing with the eyes closed and, wouldn't you know, the very same areas of the brain lit up, indicating that the brain doesn't know the difference between what it actually "sees" and what it remembers or visualizes seeing. This is why dreams seem so very real to us--to our brains, and without the benefit of waking consciousness, they are real. So it begs the question of who or what really sees or percieves things, events, reality? If it's true then that what we recall or visualize is just as real to our brains as what we actually, in the moment (in reality)experience, that means that in my mind, with only my memory of him, I can completely and authentically, re-experience being with Theo.
And I have been able to close my eyes, see him clearly in my mind, his face, his eyes, his mouth, his little hands, his soft belly, his perfect, soft skin, and feel the love in my heart, feel him, almost as if he is really here with me. The problem is not with my brain, but with my heart, which doesn't forget that he is gone. When I open my eyes, he is not there, neither can my fingers touch him or my arms hold him. And it breaks my heart hundreds of times throughout the day. But it doesn't take away from the memory, the love and the feeling that for just a second, I can almost sense him close by, filling my mind and heart, feeling his love. So whatever reality is, I don't know. While it is interesting, that study doesn't offer me all that much comfort--even if my brain doesn't know the difference, my heart and my mind do.
I have no idea how to go through this--I guess it is a little different and somewhat similar for everyone who must face it. I am thankful that we have each other and that we have so much love and support from so many wonderful friends and family, even ones we have never met.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
by Algernon Charles Swinburne
A baby's feet, like sea-shells pink,
Might tempt, should Heaven see meet,
An angel's lips to kiss, we think,
A baby's feet.
Like rose-hued sea-flowers toward the heat
They stretch and spread and wink,
Their ten soft buds that part and meet.
No flower-bells that expand and shrink,
Gleam half so heavenly sweet
As shine on life's untrodden brink.
A baby's feet.
A baby's hands, like rosebuds furl'd,
Whence yet no leaf expands,
Ope if you touch, though close upcurl'd,
A baby's hands.
Then, even as warriors grip their brands
When battle's bolt is hurl'd,
They close, clench'd hard like tightening bands.
No rosebuds yet by dawn impearl'd
Match, even in loveliest lands,
The sweetest flowers in all the world--
A baby's hands.
A baby's eyes, ere speech begin,
Ere lips learn words or sighs,
Bless all things bright enough to win
A baby's eyes.
Love, while the sweet thing laughs and lies,
And sleep flows out and in,
Lies perfect in them...Paradise.
Their glance might cast out pain and sin,
Their speech make dumb the wise,
By mute glad godhead felt within,
A baby's eyes.
This poem was beautifully read by my aunt Nancy Helbert Salyer.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
My Dearest Baby,
I don't know what I can write to you that you don't already know. What can I say that you can't feel? How can I make words come for which there are none? That which is between us is beyond words, beyond pen and paper, beyond language or speech, beyond ritual or tears.
A friend told me once that having children is like taking a piece of your heart and sending it blindly out into the world. Like sending you very own defenseless heart out into an uncertain place where you can no longer provide it protection or shelter. Taking chances every day with your heart.
I know that what we have been through,and continue to go through, strikes fear into the hearts of every mother and father. For this is the greatest pain we can imagine. And when I read this, on that day when I stand before all those who love us and share this testament, I will have then realized that greatest fear. The pain, I'm sure will be like a dark stone in my heart, weighing me down, lingering on. But what can I do? I can be devastated, torn apart inside that you are gone, but I can also be thankful that I was fortunate enough to have known you at all. I can be heartbroken that I will never hold you or kiss your sweet face again, but I can also be happy that I felt you move in my belly, that my body was your home, that I was gifted with the chance to gaze into your beautiful eyes, however briefly.
I was there when you entered the world and I held you in the circle of my arms as you left it. I shared your life, I saw your eyes light up, I heard you laugh, I fed you, bathed you, stroked your hair and felt the silky smoothness of your skin. I breathed your breath and held you close and slept with you in my arms. I gazed upon your face and saw myself reflected in your features. I am thankful and glad in my heart to be your mother.
Though the pain of missing you is terrible and heavy and will be with me all my life, and I will always long for you to be here with me, I know that you aren't really gone. You will be with me always. In the wind and the rain and the sunlight. In every flower blossom, every starshine, every snowflake and autumn leaf. In all that is beautiful and bright is Theo. Every blade of grass, every fluffy cloud, deep velvet night and bright shining morning. In every birdsong and butterfly, in every rainbow reflection on dragonflies wings. In every tear from my eyes, with every beat of my heart, every time I feel peace, joy and love, you are with me. And as long as I have breath, I will love you and keep you close.
Until I can see you again.
I love you my sweet Baby.
I finally got out of bed, crying as quietly as possible, nose completely stuffed up, not wanting to wake Jamie and took a long, hot bath, talked to Theo, felt a little better and finally went to sleep around 2:30 a.m.
Turns out that Jamie woke up just after I fell asleep and couldn't find sleep again. He got up and took a shower before coming back to bed.
Today we talked to a man down the street who lost his son in a car accident--killed by a drunk driver--a year ago. I remember when it happened, I was pregnant. It remember thinking "How awful for that family". He saw us walking down the street today and came out to talk to us. He had seen Theo's picture in the obituary.
He told us it gets better with time, although he also said that he still cries every day for his son. He said his wife does not, she holds it all in and has really suffered because of this. He encouraged us, mostly Jamie it seemed, since he was looking at him, to cry when you feel it, "just let it out, get it out. It will be better for you that way". I saw a tear squeeze itself out the corner of his eye and track it's way through the lines around his eyes and then down his cheek. He hugged us.
My friend Lisa said that now we are members of a club that nobody wants to be in, and only the members really know what it's like to be there. Yeah. It's a club I wouldn't wish for anybody in the world to have to join. And that's another thing, you don't get a choice about it. None of us would choose it. But we have to keep paying the dues I guess. Whatever they are. I think they must be different for everyone, maybe similar, but each is different. But we should pay them, if you hold out, you end up like that guy's wife--bitter, sad, broken inside, holding it in, not knowing what to do with all the locked up grief and pain, not able to heal. I hope I sleep better tonight. I still don't want to move his bassinet or any of his things just yet. It's too soon. I want to feel him near me. As much as I can.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
It seems like years ago and in some ways, just like last week. Of the more recent comments, I noted one posted by a girl I haven't seen since high school --- now a woman with her own children --- who was worried by posting a comment as his funeral was starting that she might be in some way invading our privacy. I thought about that and although I have mentioned and thought many times about the many who have followed Theo's and our story through this blog, I really have no idea how many people have really come to know us through this. How many people I have allowed up to the window of our lives. And how there is no way that Kelly could invade our privacy when I voluntarily opened the shades for the world to see in. It started just as a quick way to notify people of the situation and then to update everyone on how he was doing day-to-day without having to send out several emails or take or make so many calls. But it turned into something else, something that has helped me personally in so many ways--sharing my thoughts, even when I have kept much of my private thoughts and pain inside... I have shared a great deal, letting unseen, unknown tens, hundreds, maybe even thousands, for all I know, into our little world. This chronicle has been healing to me, helping me to maintain some objectivity and at the same time explore my feelings, hurts, questions, fears. It has allowed me to share my wonderful baby's life with so many people, all of whom deserve to know him, or at least know of him. And he deserves to be known. And above all, I hope our story might help other people who might be experiencing similar nightmares, or who have done so in the past. I want to continue to write about how we are moving through this next stage of our grief and pain, for all those same reasons.
Yesterday I took the original draft of the "Theo and the Baby Angels" story handwritten by my aunt Dolly with a sketch she drew of me and Theo, to be matted and framed. A man named Ned, who had helped me the day we were leaving to go out of town for the funeral by on-the-spot framing a picture of a dragonfly with Theo's name in the wings (created by my friend Lisa) was there to help me again. I reminded him who I was and he asked how I was doing. He looked at me very seriously, paused, and said, "You never get over it." I told him I didn't think I would. With tears in his eyes, Ned told me about his son Christopher, who was born January 13, 1971 and who died of a vascular problem on February 2, just two short weeks after his birth. We talked, and I was so thankful that he shared his story with me. There are so many people who have lost their babies, who still miss their children, who still feel the hole left in their lives every single day. I hope that Theo's story and our story can somehow help people to know that they are not alone. And help other people who know families who have lost a child, something of what it's like.
As I said before, grief comes in waves. I went to the grocery store yesterday and it seemed there were children and babies on every aisle. And I swear they were looking right at me, directly into my eyes, and they looked as though they knew that I was a mommy without her baby. They looked kindly at me, with love. They made me feel very sad, but somehow comforted and even though I did get teary eyed, and cried a little in the spice aisle, I was ok. Some things make me cry a lot, others don't. Yesterday, the big trigger was a picture we took of Theo just a few weeks ago. He was smiling in his sleep. I loved that he smiled sometimes in his sleep. Jamie sometimes would stand over him with a camera while he slept hoping to catch that fleeting little smile that lit up his sleeping face, just for a moment. Those brief smiles meant to me--to both of us--that he had happiness, he had good, sweet dreams and in them, he was happy. Some way, even with a nearly completely damaged brain, he was able to have lovely, happy dreams and to smile in his sleep. That one photo made me cry yesterday every time I looked at it. Yet I couldn't seem to keep my eyes from it.
And I wondered this morning when I woke up, how many mornings until my first thought is not, "My child is dead"? But we are able to laugh sometimes and love each other, be there for each other. We enjoy moments through the day, especially ones we can share. I am so thankful to have Jamie. He is a wonderful father and a wonderful partner. He took such good care of Theo and he is taking good care of me.
I am very grateful that we had the time we had with Theo. I can only imagine the great pain of parents who wake to find their baby dead in the crib of SIDS or the parents whose child dies suddenly in an accident or the untold horror of the family who may not even know where their child may be, whether she is alive or dead, or a family who knows for certain their child died a violent, malicious death.
We have been fortunate in many ways. We had sacred, peaceful, love filled times with Theo even in the midst of pain and suffering, ours and his. At least we had that.
But the pain of losing our child, no matter the cause, as Ned shared, will be with us the rest of our lives.
Thank you again for all the love and care--the cards, flowers, gifts, support, everything you have all done to help us. Nothing has gone unappreciated. I will continue to post our story. I will share my letter to Theo and details of his memorial service dates and such. Please check back.