Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lo, I am With You Always

This year, we spent Christmas at my sister's house. She and I cooked Christmas brunch, instead of the traditional dinner.

The wood stove kept us warm, while the snow fell in huge flakes outside. After the meal, we played a very long game of Taboo, laughing the whole time.

We sang Christmas songs while our friend, Mark, played the piano. Mom and I even played a few duets together that she taught me when I was a kid.

We exchanged a few simple gifts around the Christmas tree, which was a large house plant Sarah had put Christmas lights on.

It was such a happy day. And I found that while I thought about Sage and Dad, I was not overcome by sadness as I was on Thanksgiving.

Last night, though, the sadness was like a pressure in my heart, and I was awake until 4:00 in the morning. I spent most of that time doing what I could to push back the pain and avoid facing it. What exhausting and pointless work that is!

This morning, I have come down with a head cold, and I am depleted from lack of sleep, but I feel myself able to let the sadness be here. And there is some release in that.

I don't know if it is a coincident that I feel this way today, the 9-month anniversary of the accident. In 5 more days, Sage will have been gone as long as he was alive. I don't really intend to keep track of these dates. What are they but numbers? But I do find myself aware of them . . . So it is.

This is a photo of last Christmas. Sage is opening one of his gifts, a wooden xylophone, which he was quite interested in chewing on.

When I look at photos of Sage, I still feel so incredulous that he is gone. There is this extraordinary impotence - what in the world can I do? And, the real question - how can I be? How can I be with my experience of Sage, including his death?

Lo, I am with you always.

You promised that,

and when I realized it was true

my soul flared up.

Any unhappiness comes

from forgetting.

-Rumi

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Blessing


May each one of us
perceive the vision
of love and peace
this season,
and have the trust,
fearlessness
and compassion
to manifest it
throughout the year.

May our thoughts
that obscure
the inherent beauty
be transmuted,
revealing the means
of right relationship.

May we come to know
ourselves with
loving-kindness,
while turning aside
aggression and fear,
calling forth harmony
and joy for all beings.

-Michael Carpenter

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Snow Light

The Relief Nursery (my work) is closed today due to snow, kicking off our two week winter vacation a little early. We've had alternating snow and sleet and rain all week.

Some mornings everything is covered by a pristine blanket of white. Other mornings the roads are layered with grimy brownish ice. Last night we had a fresh snowfall, so it is beautiful out there.

I am not feeling sad, as this poem might imply, but I really wanted to post it because it is so lovely.

The Snow Light
In the snow light,
In the swan light,
In the white-on-white light
Of a winter storm,
My delight and your delight
Kept each other warm.

The next afternoon
And love gone so soon!—
I met myself alone
In a windless calm,
Silenced at the bone
After the white storm.

What more was to come?
Out from the cocoon,
In the silent room,
Pouring out white light,
Amaryllis bloom
Opened in the night.

The cool petals shone
Like some winter moon
Or shadow of a swan,
Echoing the light
After you were gone
Of our white-on-white.

-May Sarton

Monday, December 15, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Michael and I have decided to buy a house! I can't begin to express how excited we are about this.

The house is perfect. It was built in the 40's. The previous owners remodeled it, adding many unique and beautiful details. It has wood floors, a claw-foot bathtub, a "mother-in-law suite" that my mom might choose to live in, a workshop for Michael, an extra bedroom that I can use for . . . whatever I want (and hopefully someday it will be a child's room).

We will definitely have a house-warming party when we get moved in (which we expect to happen within 30 days or so). Here are some photos:

THE HOUSE


THE BACKYARD


THE KITCHEN




THE DINING ROOM


THE MASTER BEDROOM


THE LIVING ROOM


THE UPSTAIRS BEDROOM

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sister


I am waiting for the words
I have been unable to say
since that day when I was five years old
and you came into my life.

Being older,
I thought it was my job
to know.
But I never did,
and that felt
like failure.

And you always seemed so
self-contained
and bright and
lovely,
extraordinary.
Of course I was jealous!

I didn't know how
to hold you.
I didn't know
if I was
worthy.

And now
we are adults,
and on Thanksgiving morning,
I cry like a child,
and you hold me.
And I wonder what it means
to be a big sister.

I guess it means
saying "I don't know"
when I don't know,
and saying
"I love you,"
because
I
do.

Sarah, you are the poet of my heart . . .
All I ever wanted was to know that you were dreaming.
-Fleetwood Mac

Monday, November 24, 2008

Love will Endure

If I can let you go as trees let go
Their leaves, so casually, one by one;
If I can come to know what they do know,
That fall is the release, the consummation...
If I can take the dark with open eyes
And call it seasonal, not harsh or strange
(For love itself may need a time of sleep),
And, treelike, stand unmoved before the change,
Lose what I lose to keep what I can keep,
The strong root still alive under the snow,
Love will endure - if I can let you go.

--May Sarton

Things keep shifting, yes? I want to write about the epiphany I had a few weeks ago when I finally found I could put the co-sleeper and the Jumperoo in the closet, and how happy I was to find that my connection with Sage is not about these things.

I want to write about the kindness of friends who have looked tenderly at Sage's photo album or gently touched the memory quilt, or who sat with me while I cried... or cried with me.

I want to write about gratitude, but in this moment all I can think is . . . LOOK at him! Look at how he stuck out his tongue, and how his hand rested so casually on mine. Look at how much I loved being his mama!

Thanksgiving is the 8-month anniversary of the accident.

I hold on AND I let go . . .
and love endures.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What We Need Is Here


Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

-- Wendell Berry

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Where to Go

Since losing Sage, I have encountered quite a few women who have experienced pregnancy loss, and one thing I have heard over and over is how the baby, which was so very real to them, was not exactly real to most people around them, and so there is sometimes less acknowledgment of the loss. It is almost invisible.

If the loss was early on, there may be a question of whether or not to have a memorial service, and so often parents miss out on that communal ritual. With late-term losses sometimes the hospital will whisk away the baby without giving the parents time to see, hold and connect with their child. Thankfully, this is changing. Now many (but not all) hospitals offer parents time to be with their child.

There is also a network of volunteer photographers who are part of an organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, that does bereavement photography - photos of the parents and child together, documenting the bond that would have otherwise remained unseen and unshared.

Another thing I have heard from mothers who have experienced pregnancy loss, is that many people assume that the words "You are young. You'll get pregnant again," are comforting. For many mothers, these words utterly miss the point. Yes, maybe she will have another child, but that doesn't lessen the loss of this unique and precious child.

And in addition to losing a child, parents lose the dreams, hopes, and wishes for that child. They go home to a thoughtfully decorated nursery with empty arms.

I want to share a poem written by my friend, Liz, after she miscarried her baby. I am so touched by the simple, beautiful honesty of this poem, and of Liz herself, whose heart is very tender and open to life.

Where to go
(For our unknown love)

You grow and grow
You hope and wish
You plan and question
You grow and grow
You kiss and talk
You love and look
You grow and grow
You pray and sing
You rub and comfort
You grow and grow
And love grows and grows
And each day all of it multiplies by hundreds and thousands
And then one day it's all gone except love and prayers
Your hopes and wishes
And planning and questioning
And kissing and talking and looking
And singing and rubbing
And comforting and growing
And all that is left is tons of love with no where to go but in prayers

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Unknown Between Us

A message of love to my husband, who is on
retreat in Maui for the next three weeks.

With respect
And reverence
That the unknown
Between us
Might flower
Into discovery
And lead us
Beyond
The familiar field
Blind with the weed
Of weariness
And the old walls
Of habit.

-John O'Donohue

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Strange Conviction

Sarah and Jessie

I haven't written about Dad for a while. Yet, I think of him daily, especially now that it is autumn, his favorite time of year. So many small things remind me of him. A few days ago, my teaching partner and I took the kids out to the field behind the school and we played beneath the trees, throwing handfuls of yellow leaves in the air. As the leaves rained down on my head, I thought of Dad.

I remember when we were kids, Levi and Sarah and I would help rake all the leaves from the giant maple tree in front of our house. Dad would give us rides in the wheelbarrow on top of a mound of leaves. We had leaf fights, buried ourselves in leaves, stuffed leaves in our clothes. And that scent of sweet decay, that crinkly sound, the richness of color - these things make me think of him.

Sarah, Levi and Jessie stuffed with leaves

In October of 2000, Dad wrote me an email saying "I begin each day with an overwhelming sense of expectation and excitement. I simply sense that I am leaving one plain behind and moving onto the next." That was one of Dad's amazing gifts - the ability to see possibility, not just in the obvious blossoming of spring, but in the necessary decay of autumn. He ended his email with the following poem.
It is autumn here.
The defoliated trees look frightened
at the edge of town,

as if the train they missed
had taken all their clothes.
The whole world in unison is turning
toward a zone of nakedness and cold.

But me, I have this strange conviction
that I am going to be born.

-Tony Hoagland

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Before You Know Kindness

One thing I have always loved about my husband, Michael, is his appreciation of beautiful poetry. We began exchanging poems literally within hours of meeting each other, and in that first year there was a flurry of Rilke and Rumi and Hafiz and cummings.

We have been together for almost 7 years, and we send fewer poems now, but occasionally I find one in my inbox, or I send one to him. As I was sorting through some old emails, I found this one, "Kindness" by
Naomi Shihab Nye. Michael sent it to me over a year ago. As I read it now, it resonates with me in a way it couldn't have back then.

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

I have to say, even having known sorrow, I am still so forgetful of kindness at times! I still grasp after my own comfort and security. At times I find myself angry. And then, something startles me awake, and I have to laugh. Security? This is all so fleeting. Anger? Ah, yes, sometimes I suffer that way. Sometimes I forget that I always have the choice to soften my heart.

Thich Naht Hanh recommends a meditation when you are angry with someone you love:

I close my eyes and look deeply.
Three hundred years from now

Where will you be and where shall I be?

How wonderful, you are still alive!
I am so happy!

How could I be angry with you?

Both of us have to die someday
and while we are still alive and together
it is foolish to be angry at each other.

May kindness go with us everywhere, like a shadow or a friend.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pilgrimage

Michael and I recently celebrated our 2-year anniversary. We spent the day at Waldo Lake. This is the third year in a row that we have gone there in October. The first time, we said our wedding vows. Then, last year, we took Sage there. Both times, we enjoyed beautiful autumn weather.

This time, the closer we got to the lake, which is in the Cascade Mountains, the more icy patches we saw on the road, and soon we were driving through a snowy winter landscape. I felt really nervous, so I just focused on breathing and tried to stay calm. Icy mountain roads will probably always remind me of the accident. Michael drove slowly and carefully and offered me lots of reassurance, but I wasn't really able to relax until we reached the lake.

Michael and I had brought some food for the little gray birds we always see there. They swooped down from the trees to perch on our hands and fill their small mouths with pine nuts.

After feeding the birds and eating a picnic lunch, we hiked through the snow to the point where we got married. I kept thinking, as I do in so many situations, 'the last time we were here, Sage was with us.'

We sat on the rocks near where we got married and where Sage's placenta is buried, and Michael brought out the box that holds Sage's ashes. We have talked about releasing his ashes here, and maybe some day we will, but we agreed that we are not ready yet.

Michael then brought out the Native American flute that his father gave to us after Sage's death, and we each played a little music for Sage and Dad. The following is a short video that Michael created of our trip.

video

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Kyle David Miller's Legacy

This is a four minute video offered by the Kyle David Miller Foundation to share 3-year-old Kyle's story and to educate people about car seats. I work with kids and parents every day, and I did not know the information in this video. Please take a moment to watch it.



The main points to consider are:


- Keep your children in a 5-point harness as long as possible. Booster seats rely on seatbelts, which do not always work, especially in roll-overs. Also, children often pull the seatbelt off their shoulder. It takes a certain level of maturity for a child to correctly use a booster seat.
5-point harness seats are available for kids up to 80 pounds
- Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. Because 96% of accidents are front or side impacts, rear-facing seats provide a huge advantage in supporting your child's body during an accident. Children in Sweden ride rear facing until they are three to five years old or as much as 55lbs, lowering traffic death and injury rates in Sweden considerably. It is uncommon to turn a child to forward-facing before these ages.

"From 1992 through June 1997, only 9 children properly restrained rear-facing died in motor vehicle crashes in Sweden, and all of these involved catastrophic crashes with severe intrusion and few other survivors."
(source:
CPSAFETY).

Please, check out the Foundation's website for more information. It is possible to offer a donation to help the foundation provide free 5-point harness car seats to needy families. The seats are often quite expensive, and as their brochure says,
"We believe that keeping our children safe
should not be a privilege."
http://www.kyledavidmiller.org/

If you would like to help spread this information,
please feel free to copy and paste
this post into your own blog.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wave of Light

I stumbled upon this on another blog and wanted to spread the word. Imagine the collective energy of all the people in the world who have experienced the loss of a child. Imagine thousands of candles glowing in remembrance and the invisible connections that link us all.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Evolution


As you can see, I have made some changes to my blog. The title, "Our Loss," seemed so appropriate in the beginning. I was consumed by the loss of Sage and Dad, and that is what I wrote about. My grief and my writing have changed since then, and I want to let this blog reflect my evolving experience.

The new title is from the Hafiz poem, "It Felt Love" (posted on the side bar). Dad and Sage both offered me the encouragement of their love, and each in his own way helped me open my heart more to life. The title also refers to the encouragement I have received from my family, friends and even people whom I have never met but who have connected with me through this blog.

Finally, I hope that in some small way, this blog can offer the encouragement of light to others who have experienced loss and are journeying (as I am) toward a deeper sense of meaning and connection.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sage's Quilt


A few months after Sage was born, Michael and I joined a parents' group called Birth to Three. We met once a week with 9 other families with babies around the same age as Sage. While we met and shared our new parent triumphs and woes, the babies snuggled, nursed, slept and played. We watched them grow and gain new skills, and we as parents gained skills as well.

Becoming a parent is like finding yourself in a foreign land. How grateful we were to have people to share our experience with, hear our stories, comfort us and laugh with us. We could talk endlessly about whether our babies were rolling over, crawling, eating solids, or sleeping "through the night" (which in babyland means more than 4 hours at a stretch).

When Sage died, our Birth to Three group stood by us, continued to care for us. They prepared all the food for Sage's memorial. And one of the mothers, Caye, began working on a memory quilt for us. When she asked us for pieces of Sage's clothing in early June, we looked through what we had, and in the end could only part with a few things . . . a jumper, some onesies, a flannel shirt, a special blankie. She asked us about Sage's nicknames and what animals, colors and themes made us think of him. We had no idea what Caye would create with all of this.

Yesterday, Caye met me and Michael in the baby room at the Relief Nursery and presented the quilt to us. This is by far the most incredible piece of fabric art I have ever seen. I was so in awe, I could barely speak. Michael and I stared at it and ran our hands over the lusciously soft material.

One side is an ocean scene with fish, dolphins, coral, and three turtles, two large and one small. On the other side are squares, one from each of the Birth to Three families, and a myriad of photos of Sage's life. There are also some photos of Dad. The quilt is large, soft and inviting. It is a tangible expression of warmth and comfort. We will treasure it always.

To see more detailed photos, please click on the link below.
Sage's Quilt Photo Album

Saturday, October 4, 2008

BabyLoss Blog Directory


Here is a resource for my babyloss / childloss friends. It is a directory of blogs by parents who have lost children. You can read other people's blogs and you can also add your own to the directory if you have one.

http://babylossdirectory.blogspot.com/

The categories in this directory are:

  • Miscarriage and other losses, up to 20 weeks
  • Stillbirth and other losses, 20 weeks to term
  • Medical Termination
  • Loss at Birth and Beyond
  • Multiple Losses
  • Related Topics
  • Films
  • Recommended Reading
  • Recommended Online Links
  • Recommended Online Articles

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tattoos, Tears and a Ritual

One of the other parents at the MISS Conference is a talented henna tattoo artist. She offered memorial tattoos for anyone who asked. I got this sweet little turtle and Sage's name on my leg.

The conference is officially over now. I have the rest of today to relax, and I leave for Eugene tomorrow morning. I am so glad I came here, and I have no doubt that I will come back next year.

The first two days were pretty exhausting. Imagine the intensity of emotion present in a room full of parents who have experienced the death of their children. At first I felt on the verge of tears almost constantly.

Then on Saturday morning, I woke up feeling strong and happy. I think maybe I felt so good because I was able to cry the day before. I always imagine that if I give into the urge to cry, I'll just never stop. But really it only takes a few minutes of good solid crying to release a heck of a lot of tension, and then I feel so much better.

Saturday was the 6 month anniversary of the accident. What a gift to be able to feel happy on that day! And what was really amazing was that Saturday evening all of the parents at the conference joined together for a candle-light memorial service for all our kids.

So, exactly 6 months after Sage's death, I was able to see his name on a giant projection screen, knowing his life was being honored along with those of so many other children. Like all the other parents, I lit a candle and said his name aloud for all to hear. I lit a candle for Dad, too. This ritual meant more to me than I realized it would.

A special thank you to my new amiga, Alejandra, who took the time to look at all of Sage's photos and held my hand when his name came on the screen.

And thank you to the parents who shared their children's stories with me. I carry the memory of your courage and kindness.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Selah

Surrendering, Freydoon Rassouli

The layers of my protection are slowly being peeled away, leaving me vulnerable and trembling, my heart slightly more open. This is what I came here for. This is what I long for . . . to be released from my coping mechanisms enough to FEEL.

Right after the accident, feeling was all I had. And as painful as it was, there was also the experience of ALIVENESS. And lately that has been missing for me. I have felt detatched, contained, frozen, except in those rare moments when I don't have the strength to maintain composure, and then there is a little unwitting release.

I don't intend to do this, don't want to. I don't think anyone expects me to be composed.

I have so many ideas. And these get in the way. I have ideas about what my grief should look like, what my life should look like, and who I should be. And these are the senseless prison walls that I construct.

But here, surrounded by stories of unimaginable loss and courage, I am finding it harder to contain my Self, my idea of myself. I am beginning to loosen my grip on the choking safety of certainty and remember that I don't know.

I don't know who I am,
I don't know what to do,
I don't know how to heal,
Except in each moment.

Joanne Cacciatore, the founder of the MISS Foundation, talked today about "selah," a word from the Bible which means to pause, relflect and find meaning. What I see is that I work very hard on reflecting and finding meaning, but those attempts will never be fruitful until I remember to PAUSE.

Being here, for me, is an opportunity to pause.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Miss Foundation Conference

Where Heavens Meet, by Freydoon Rassouli
Yesterday I arrived in Phoenix for a four-day conference put on by the MISS Foundation (Mothers in Sympathy and Support) for bereaved parents and the professionals who encounter them (doctors, nurses, therapists, etc).

I have heard stories from some of the other parents, and shared my story with them. I've participated in a workshop about processing grief through drawing, and another called "Please Say Her Name," in which a woman who lost her grand-daughter talked about the sometimes invisible or marginalized grief of grandparents.

I also heard a panel of parents speak about how professionals did or did not support them during the death of their child. It seems clear that often times hospital staff are ill-prepared to encounter grief and death. Part of the purpose of this conference is to begin to educate people about death and grief so we as a society can better support each other.
I am about to go to another workshop, so I will need to sign off for now.

Here is the MISS web site if anyone would like to check it out: http://www.missfoundation.org/

Monday, September 22, 2008

After the Death of a Son


Ghazal After the Death of a Son
by Jean Hallingstad

Crossing this endless tundra, wanting you,
And my poor heart stumbles, wanting you.

The last moon of summer holds its face
Between still hands, penumbral, wanting you. 

Wolves with their hungry kinship follow near,
Nights without voice, unnumbered, wanting you.

Four chambers within the heart lie hidden
Filled with ashes and wonder, wanting you.

We pitch our tent in the blind of night
And wake by fear encumbered, wanting you.

So this my name foretold, God's bitter gift
Of sharpest love all sundered, wanting you. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Language of Life

About four years ago I went to a workshop by Marshall Rosenberg called "Speak Peace in a World of Conflict." Rosenberg developed a practice and understanding of communication and conflict resolution known as Non-Violent Communication. Hearing his presentation was one of those times in my life that I really felt a new door open.

Rosenberg has offered his teachings to such a variety of people - those caught in tribal warfare, gang members, penitentiary inmates, survivors of domestic violence, and many average people with the everyday struggles of relationship (ie. anyone who is married, has kids, has parents, has friends, or interacts with other people :-). What he teaches really works at all those different levels.

This weekend I had the chance to hear him speak again at the U of O Peace Conference, which led me to a 6-week workshop that started tonight on Non-Violent Communication and Parenting. Michael and I went together. We went knowing that at some point we hope to parent together again, and because we both find meaning in learning about communication and about children.

I don't know if I could adequately sum up the content of what we are learning, but I do want to mention a few books in case anyone is curious.

These three books are by M. Rosenberg:
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
Raising Children Compassionately
Teaching Children Compassionately

And this one is by Inbal Kashtan :
Parenting from Your Heart

Tonight Michael and I left the class feeling hopeful and excited. I can see that what I am learning has the potential to enrich my experience working with kids and with parents. And I could feel the potential for me and Michael to be united and supportive in our approach to parenting.

What I love about Nonviolent Communication is that it is incredibly practical while still being profoundly spiritual (in the sense that it asks us to deepen our awareness of ourselves and others and to choose life-enriching ways of interacting). If any of you out there find yourselves interested in this, I would love to hear from you.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fully Alive

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

-Dawna Markova