Friday, August 14, 2009

Writing . . . A New Direction

As you may have noticed, I have not been posting on The Encouragement of Light for a while, now. As my pregnancy has progressed, I have felt less inclined to write here, and as incredibly meaningful as this blog has been, I did not want to force myself to continue it if it did not feel right.

So, in the natural way of things, this blog seems to be winding down. Of course, my story of Sage and Dad does not end here. They continue to be part of my life and the lives of the many people who loved them. And, my journey of grieving and healing is not over, either. I imagine it will never truly be over as long as I am alive. It will simply keep changing, as all things do.

Dad, who was a writer himself, told me that he thought the best writers were not the ones who churned out lots of books, but the ones who didn't write - who waited - until what they had to say could not be contained, and they HAD to write. This blog was that way for me for the last year and a half. I HAD to write it... And now I don't.

What is inspiring me and driving me to write now, is my experience being pregnant with our second son, Mateo Kenika Carpenter, who is due in about a month. And although after he is born I will have less time to be on the computer, I would like to have a way to share him with friends and family. So, I have decided to begin another blog.

My hope is to create an online baby book - the story of Mateo's life during these first years, which he will not remember, but which will shape who he becomes. I hope that reading his blog will someday nourish him as writing it will nourish me.

Blessings to you all.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sage

On this day, two years ago, Sage Sebastian Carpenter was born. I thought I would have a lot to write today, but I am feeling quiet. All there is to say is
"I miss you. I love you.
Your presence in our lives
was a precious gift."

The first two photos were taken just after he was born. The last was taken on my 31st birthday. Sage was 6 months old.

The End

It is time for me to go, mother;
I am going.

When in the paling darkness
of the lonely dawn

you stretch out your arms
for your baby in the bed,

I shall say, "Baby is not here!"
-mother, I am going.

I shall become a delicate draught of air
and caress you and I shall be ripples
in the water when you bathe,

and kiss you and
kiss you again.

In the gusty night
when the rain patters on the leaves

you will hear my whisper in your bed,
and my laughter will flash with the lightning
through the open window into your room.

If you lie awake, thinking of your baby
till late into the
I shall sing to you from the stars,

"Sleep, mother, sleep."

On the straying moonbeams
I shall steal over your bed, and
lie upon your bosom while you sleep.
I shall become a dream,
and through the little opening of your
eyelids I shall slip into the depths of your sleep;
and when you wake up and look round startled,
like a twinkling firefly I shall
flit out into the darkness.

When, on the great festival of puja,
the neighbors' children

come and play about the house,
I shall melt into the music of the
flute and throb in your heart all day.
Dear auntie will come with puja-presents
and will ask,"Where is our baby, sister?"
Mother, you will tell her softly,
"He is in
the pupils of my eyes,
he is in my body
and in my soul."

--Rabindranath Tagore

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Goodbye to the Birth Center

Michael and I attended the Peace Health Nurse Midwifery Birth Center farewell gathering today. The house that has seen the births of so many babies, including Sage, is closing, and the property is being sold. The midwives will continue to operate out of a hospital until the opening of a new birth center next spring.

It is sad for us to see the center close. We have had wonderful prenatal care there for both pregnancies, and Sage was born there. After his birth, I went there almost every week for the Well Baby Clinic, where I got to know other mom's and babies, had Sage weighed, and got breastfeeding advice from the lactation consultants.

Today, Michael and I were able to spend a little time in the room where Sage was born, just remembering and honoring how sacred this place is to us. We always imagined bringing our children there and saying, "This is the room where you were born."

Also, because we don't have a gravesite where we visit Sage, we saw the Birth Center as a place to connect with our memories of him. It is where we held him for the very first time.

Here is a photo of us with our extraordinary midwife, Chris Heritage. Chris has been a touchstone for us during the profound experiences of birth and death. Her compassion and genuine care go beyond anything we have ever experienced from a health care provider.

The one consolation we have as we say goodbye to the Birth Center is that we will be able to continue working with Chris and the other midwives, and even though our next birth will be in a hospital, we know they will provide us with the same high quality of care.

Blessings to all the parents, babies and professionals whose love and tears and courage gave the Birth Center its spirit.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dad Flashes a Smile

Baked Beans: A Word from the Dead
(A poem for Dad by his sister, Margie)

How I long for a voice to break
the long silence,
a country strange and vast without sustenance.
A word in dream or vision to say, "I'm safe home.
I'm happy.

I'm myself and more, the person you knew and loved
and didn't know."
Day and night I'm listening
but not a word
my brother as silent in death as he was
in life when his mother and sisters waited months or years
for a letter or a call
as he trudged West, shedding people and possessions.
Just at the end he turned and flashed a smile,
and then was gone.
Though he's in that new place where distance disappears
in the twinkling of an eye, or so they say,
he is as silent as god
withholding comfort
in the conspiracy of death.

But then from the friendly darkness of my recipe box
I hear his voice, laughing, defiant -- sandwiched between beets
and broccoli bake
his recipe for baked beans, sent just before he died:
"I use pinto beans but I suppose great Northern would work too. I
just don't trust anything that is white. Does that make me racist?"
"Mix in two tablespoons of mustard (make this stone ground not
that yellow crap that people put on hot dogs.)"
"Bake at 250 for 9 hours."
These are earthly words.
Like dreams and visions they tell me only what I know:
In a kitchen smelling of onions and molasses
feed each other food cooked slowly while you
laugh and talk

and do good work.

It isn't much.

People have lived on less.

-- Margie Faulkner

Sunday, June 14, 2009

BabyLoss Eugene Website

I just finished creating a simple website for our BabyLoss Group! It took most of the weekend, but I am happy with the result. Check it out, and please, let me know if you have any suggestions or feedback. I will be adding more to the links section as I have time, so if you know of any great links for bereaved parents, I would love to hear about them.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pregnancy After a Loss

In the fall of 2008, two other women (Csilla Andor and Leslie Finley) and I created the BabyLoss Support Group of Eugene because there were no services of this kind in our community.

Recently, a couple of members and I have decided to branch off from the main support group to bring together parents who are pregnant or parenting after a loss.

The needs of parents who are are trying to conceive, are pregnant, or are parenting after a loss are unique, and it can be difficult to find others to r
elate to about aspects of this experience.

A typical prenatal class might not address the topic of previous losses at all, and a baby or child loss support group might not be a comfortable place to talk about pregnancy because pregnancy is a common and painful trigger for many parents who have lost a child.

We hope that with two groups, more people will be able to get their needs met. Anyone in the Eugene area who is interested in either the original BabyLoss Support Group or the Pregnancy and Parenting After a Loss group, can contact me at for more information.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Between Two Worlds

Lately I have been going through a blogging identity crisis. I find that at this point there are topics in my life other than grief that I feel compelled to write about, the main one being the little boy growing inside me. And yet, I still have a lot of passion for the deeply important work of healing after a loss.

I have been unsure whether to turn The Encouragement of Light into a journal of my many varied thoughts, including those about my pregnancy, or if I should honor its original intention, which was to have it be about Sage, Dad, grief and healing.

I have finally come to some resolution about this . . . The Encouragement of Light will continue to be what it has been, a haven for me to explore my continued process of healing, and to share ideas, information and inspiration with those who have experienced a loss.

I will be creating a new blog for our second son. At some point, I may end up posting much more on that second blog and this one may come to completion. Right now, I am still immersed in both worlds.

When I have the new blog set up, I will post the address, so those who want to read about our second child will be able to. I am excited to create that blog because it will be my form of a baby book that our child will be able to read someday. It will also be a way to share him with our family members who live so far away.

In the meantime, I just want to acknowledge that what I post here is an important piece of my life, but it is not the only piece. I hope by defining my intention this way, it will be easier for me to write without feeling I have to give a complete picture on this one blog.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Call of Courage and Love

Yesterday, a friend told me about a family she is close to who had to take their newborn son off life support. My friend is pregnant, also, and although she has not lost a child herself, she is facing, with open eyes, the uncertainty of pregnancy, of life. My heart is filled for the baby and his parents, and also for my friend, who must walk forward, as we all must - with courage.

"Making the decision to have a child - it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body." - Elizabeth Stone

To face uncertainty without getting caught in fear is not just the task of parents who have lost a child, but of all humans. I remember when my dad was first hospitalized with cancer, I worried he would die, and I pleaded, "Wait! He hasn't had enough time! I haven't had enough time with him!" And then I realized that no amount of time would have ever felt like "enough."

It is the same with Sage. Of course, nine months wasn't "enough" time with him. And yet, when I hear about this family who had only a few days with their son, and he never opened his eyes . . . Well, I can't help but feel immeasurably grateful for the blessing of those 9 months.

Here is part of a John O'Donohue poem - posted here for baby Joshua and his parents, and also for Blair, who is serving the call of courage and love.

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.

Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.

May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.

May you continue to inspire us:
To enter each day with a generous heart,
To serve the call of courage and love.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Walk to Remember

For those who have lost a child . . .

The Compassionate Friends (an organization for bereaved parents and siblings), will be holding their national conference in Portland, Oregon this year, on August 7-9.

One aspect of the conference is an event called the Walk to Remember. "Volunteers will be carrying the names of thousands of children loved, missed and remembered." You can submit your child's name on their website at no charge:

Friday, May 15, 2009

To Suffer is Not Enough

Thich Nhat Hanh on suffering:

"Life is filled with suffering,
but it is also filled with many wonders,
like the blue sky,
the sunshine,
the eyes of a baby.
To suffer is not enough.
We must also be in touch
with the wonders of life.
They are within us and all around us,
everywhere, any time.