Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Who You Are Is Enough

I am about to take another step out into this big world, and out of my comfort zone. Tomorrow I will return to work. I will be in the classroom from 9:30 -12:30. I will not be taking on any of my other responsibilities yet. My supervisor has been very supportive, and she assures me that I can transition back at my own pace. For now, I will only work 3 hours a day, 2 days a week (Mondays and Wednesdays).

Although I feel a little nervous, I also feel hopeful. I am sure that being with the babies in my class will feel good. Being around children is still one of the most joyful things I can imagine doing. My grief counselor has told me that many parents who have lost a child find it very painful to be around other children. I can definitely understand that. There was a point, when I was still in the hospital and I saw my friend, Sara's baby, that I realized I could go that route. I could have so easily shut down to the children in my life and given into the pain of my loss. But if I had, I would have lost so much more - my ability to do this work that I am passionate about, my bond with my nieces and nephew, my friendships with other mothers. And losing all of that would be devastating in itself. So, I allow myself to give into the delight of being around kids, knowing that to honor Sage means to honor all children. And in that light, my work feels even more meaningful to me.

As I think about returning to work, I imagine the conflicting feelings my coworkers might have about seeing me. There is obviously a strong desire to support me, to nurture me. There might also be some anxiety about how to do that, and concerns about what to say or how to respond to me. I am writing now because I want to offer reassurance and guidance to my dear friends at the Relief Nursery.

First, let me say that I, too, have been in the position of wanting to support someone and not knowing how. In fact, this experience has reminded me of times when people I knew were suffering and I said nothing, did nothing, not because I didn't care, but because I felt so unsure of how to offer my care. The kindness that all of you have offered us has been a deep learning experience for me. I realize now that it is not so much about doing or saying the "right" thing, but rather it is about being sincere and available. Even if sincerity means saying, "I feel so nervous talking to you because I don't know what to say," that in itself is a beautiful offering of honesty.

The fact is, it is not possible to say something that would make this more painful for me. And, similarly, it is not possible to say something that takes away my pain. The pain is there. Last Thanksgiving, my dad gave me some advice that I find helpful in many situations: "You are not God. You can't fix everything." Once we realize that it isn't our job to fix everything, it is easier to relax.

Some people have asked me if there is anything I need in order to feel more comfortable going back to work. What would feel best to me is to be able to engage my coworkers one at a time or in small groups. A large group of people tends to feel overwhelming to me. I enjoy receiving hugs. I really appreciate it when people are able to share thoughts or memories of Sage. It feels good to me to say his name, to hear his name. I do not mind questions about how I am healing. Sharing my experience is something I find helpful and meaningful.

I guess what I am trying to say is this: Please trust yourselves. Who you are is enough. You do not need to figure out what to say or do because that wisdom is already inside of you. And, for what it is worth, you have my compassion, because I know it is not easy to face another person's grief. I am filled daily with gratitude for my life, and for you - the people who touch my life with friendship and generosity.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fiesta with Friends

Three of my coworkers, Jessie, Loraine, and Katie, spent all day yesterday preparing a Mexican feast of tamales, beans, cactus salad, and hibiscus juice. They brought this wonderful meal to us last night, and then turned our dining room into a Mexican restaurant. They brought all the dishes, candles, flowers, tablecloth, even a CD of Mexican music. They served our food and then spent the evening talking and laughing with us.

This incredibly thoughtful effort was made even more special by the presence of Jessie's daughter, Kayla. She knew and adored Sage. When she arrived at our house, she gave us a hand-drawn card and a little angel figurine, and then she looked at Sage's photos and toys. She talked about him without any hesitation. That is the beauty of children. She didn't agonize over whether she would make us feel sad or uncomfortable. She simply expressed herself honestly, and by doing so, she gave us all permission to do the same.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

All Our Life is Dew

One of my co-workers, Blair, brought us a delicious dinner a few nights ago, and she gave me this beautiful figurine. It is a visual representation of how I always felt with Sage, that he was so close he was almost a part of me. And now there is a gaping emptiness where his little body used to fit against mine. My hands don't know what to do. I feel like an amputee. There is the ghost sensation of holding him.

Yesterday I was completely lost in the pain of this. Michael and I walked at Hendrick's park, and I kept thinking of how Sage would have been fascinated by the rhododendrons, the fountain, the humming bird, and everything around him. I heard a child call out, "Daddy!" and I mourned that we will never hear Sage say a word. I was so looking forward to that because I imagined he would have a lot to tell us.

And I guess he did tell us a lot, even without words. I know he felt loved and safe. I know he was excited about learning and exploring the world. I know he liked to visit other people, but that when he needed comfort or reassurance he wanted me to hold him. I know that he was happy most of the time. His papa could make him belly laugh. His Grammy played with him like it was the only important thing in the world to do. He had a multitude of devoted admirers to flirt with at my work. There is some comfort in knowing his short life was joyful.

The poet, Issa, wrote a beautiful haiku after the death of his infant daughter:

dew evaporates --
and all our life is dew:
so dear, so fresh, so fleeting

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Some Bonds Can Never Be Broken

Me and Dad carrying my brother's twin girls, Indigo and Jaden.

All of my Dad's letters to me are written on yellow notebook paper. When I was in college, we wrote to each other often, sometimes once a week. I have all of those letters with their familiar handwriting, a smattering of poems and quotes, descriptions of the many things Dad found intriguing or comical or poignant. I kept every letter, knowing there would come a day when I would want Dad's voice, his wisdom and love and teasing affection, and it would no longer be available to me.

I was in third grade when I first realized that my Dad would die someday. Dad had gone into the hospital for a hernia operation. I sat in class with a knot in my stomach, begging for my dad to be okay. That afternoon, a teacher called me into the hallway. The minute I stepped out of the classroom, I burst into tears, certain the teacher was about to tell me Dad had died. She actually wanted to let me know he had gotten through his surgery and was just fine. From that day on, though, the awareness of Dad's vulnerability and mortality hovered always on the edge of my consciousness, often manifesting in dreams. Although I wasn't raised with a practice of prayer, I prayed as much as any church-going child for the safety of my family. That seemed like the only important thing to pray for.

So, here I am, with yellow papers spread before me, hearing and feeling Dad's love, and I am so grateful that I was his daughter. Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote after I had spent a couple weeks doing carpentry work with him. I was 24 years old.
Know that you leave here with all the love and hope that is in my heart. I know that you will leave with everything you touched being better for your having been here. Sometimes I think that could be why we are here. Never stop believing in yourself, your beautiful ethereal spirit that glows from you, and in unconditional love. I know it exists because I found it in my own heart and it found me. I feel it every time our eyes meet. I know it is real because if it weren't, tears wouldn't be falling on this page as I write. Everything is connected. Some bonds can never be broken.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Other Voices

This is a photo of my dad and his six sisters.

The following is one of Dad's poems that I have always liked, but which now has even more meaning for me. When we join together at the Celebration of Life, we who have been nurtured by Dad and Sage will have an opportunity to tell their stories.

Other Voices

All day I listened to the mountains
wishing they would speak to me
but they answered only with silence
until I walked out among them,
great council of chiefs,
and they spoke to me with many voices.
Chatter of squirrel, whisper of wind,
scream of hawk, leap of trout,
a startled deer's shrill whistle,
and the river's constant laughter.
At last I understood that our story,
like the mountains',
is told best by other voices;
the voices of those we nurture.

--Dennis Faulkner

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A New Beginning

Tonight, my teaching partner from the Relief Nursery, Lane, brought us a wonderful home-made dinner of chicken, asparagus enchiladas, a delicious spinach salad, and a fruit tart. She also brought flowers from her garden. What an amazing gift it is to eat food cooked with love.

When we were still in Boise, long-time friends of my family, Carol and Jerry, cooked us a vegetable quiche and offered us hand-picked baby greens from their garden. After weeks of hospital and restaurant food, our bodies are in desperate need of nourishing meals. I know others from my work have signed up to bring us meals as well. Thank you to all those who are offering us this gift. We hope that when the time comes, we will be able to pass this kindness on to others in need.

Although our first days home were very difficult, Michael and I are beginning to settle in here. The lush, green landscape cradles us in a promise of renewal. We have left Sage's things out, visible. We will know when it is time to put things away. When I catch sight of one of his photographs or toys, sometimes I cry, but it feels healthy and right to do this.

A New Beginning

fingering the loose
threads of despair
I became unraveled

and spilled out onto the
solid, unshakeable floor

there, on this
unyielding foundation

I formed an
unlikely alliance

from which I drew
the strength

to pour myself
into the promise

of a new beginning.

~Elizabeth Adams

Donations for Sage

This is a photo of the beautiful altar my coworkers created for Sage at the Relief Nursery. Because I took Sage to work with me everyday, they all knew him well and provided him with a loving extended family.

Since the accident, some of you have asked about the possibility of donating money in Sage's name. We have set up a donation account at Selco Credit Union. To donate, you can go into a branch, or mail your donation to:

Selco Community Credit Union
PO Box 7487
Eugene, OR 97401-9708

Please reference the following account name and number:

Sage Carpenter Donation Account #449955

If you have any questions, you can contact Selco representative, Stephanie Smith, at 541-686-5377.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


This morning I left my hotel in Boise at about 8:00, and about 7 hours later I arrived in Eugene. The trip was tiring and stressful. I was so thankful to be back with Michael and done traveling. Being home is both a relief and painful beyond words. I am quite tired, so I will try to rest now and hopefully post more tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Returning Home

Thank you to those who read and responded to my last blog entry. I was in a very difficult space. Michael left this morning to drive the car back to Eugene, and I'm sure that was part of why I felt fragile this morning. It is hard to be away from him right now.

Tomorrow I will fly back to Eugene, and Michael will be at the airport to meet me when my flight arrives. Some of my friends from Eugene have offered to meet me at the airport as well, but I think it would be best for me and Michael to be alone when I first get back. It is a big step toward acclimating to our new lives, and I'm not really sure what it will feel like to be home. I am so grateful, though, that we have a loving community to return to.

After I am back in Eugene, one thing I want to work on is helping organize a Celebration of Life gathering to honor both Sage and Dad. I have never attended anything like that, and I want it to feel meaningful to all who attend. So, if any of you have ideas or suggestions, I am very interested in hearing them. I envision people getting up to share thoughts, poems, memories, etc. I am thinking we can rent a space and perhaps have it catered. A few people have expressed preferences for dates, and I would like any feedback about that as well. I look forward to hearing your ideas!

I will leave you this evening with a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. Michael introduced me to his writing six years ago. When I read his work now, I hear something different than I did when I was 25. I think he is one of the poets I will always return to.

In This Uncontainable Light

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.

Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?

If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.
In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.


I feel at a loss for words. I think something is shifting in me. Whatever I WAS feeling (strength, courage, hope, or perhaps denial), has transformed into . . . something I don't have words for. There is a sensation of energy in my body that does not allow me to relax. At the same time, I feel tired beyond measure. Nothing seems to bring me comfort or relief.

I know this is "normal." One of my ways of dealing with this is to read about grief, as though learning about it will prepare me for living with it.
I have found several models.
Here is a common one:

Denial /Shock (this isn't happening to me!)
Anger (why is this happening to me?)
Bargaining (I promise I'll be a better person if...)
Depression (I don't care anymore)
Acceptance (I'm ready for whatever comes)

And another:

Numbness (mechanical functioning and social insulation)
Disorganization (intensely painful feelings of loss)
Reorganization (re-entry into a more 'normal' social life.)

So, it seems to me that the initial stage, the shock, numbness, denial stage, is where I have been most days since the accident. Now I am beginning to feel disorganized. I can't say that I'm feeling anger, really. More like panic. The awareness that intense pain is on the horizon, and some fear about facing that.

I feel some hesitation in sharing this. Will it make people feel more uncomfortable talking to me? It is so much easier to write heroic, life-affirming blog entries, to know that I lift people up. I ask myself, now, what I am doing, writing all of this pain. I can only hope that someone else out there who might be experiencing grief can read my words and feel, if nothing else, a little less alone. And I hope that my friends and family can offer me patience while I explore my experience. I know this stage of grief is very important, and it can't be side-stepped. If I let myself go deep into this pain, it will "clear me out for some new delight," as Rumi says.

Ok. I think that is the answer, the little piece of wisdom I have been needing to contact:
I have to TRUST that where I am is where I need to be.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of it's furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Leaf Dancing Joyfully

One of my favorite authors, Thich Naht Hanh, wrote this little piece. It makes me think of Dad, who worked hard to nourish the trees that are his children and grandchildren. And he nourished many others as well. I think he had no idea how much he gave to people. He felt like a loner, and he saw himself as an outsider, but in some ways he was at the very center of a large, branching community.

I asked the leaf whether it was frightened because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling. The leaf told me,“No. During the whole spring and summer I was completely alive. I worked hard to help nourish the tree, and now much of me is in the tree. I am not limited by this form. I am also the whole tree, and when I go back to the soil, I will continue to nourish the tree. So I don’t worry at all. As I leave this branch and float to the ground, I will wave to the tree and tell her, ‘I will see you again very soon.’”

That day there was a wind blowing and, after a while, I saw the leaf leave the branch and float down to the soil, dancing joyfully, because as it floated it saw itself already there in the tree. It was so happy. I bowed my head, knowing that I have a lot to learn from the leaf.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Falling Down

This morning I woke up hurting, having foolishly taken only a half dose of my pain medication last night. Also, this morning, I find that some internal source of energy and strength that has been sustaining me these days seems to have flickered out. I am left with little will to do anything other than meet my basic needs. It appears that writing on this blog has become one of my basic needs, and even in this weakened state, I know that I need to do it. I know it helps fuel that spark of life in me, which isn't really gone right now, but just in hiding. I can feel, already, that it will return.

A circular series of thoughts often comes into my mind. There are four statements, beginning with: "I want him back. I want my baby." Then there is the realization, over and over, that "Nothing I do or say can make that happen." Then I reach a moment of despair, "I can't go on like this, without him." And then, always, I reach the thought, "I have no choice." The last statement sounds like resignation, and it begins that way, but as I turn it over in my mind, it changes. Rather than "I have no choice but to go on without him," it becomes, "I have no choice but to embrace life the best I can, to keep myself open and loving and strong." Any other choice would be an emotional death for me, and I won't do that to myself or to the people I love. And I won't give up on the hope that someday I will hold and nurse and love and marvel at the beauty of another son or daughter.

Here is part of a lovely Mary Oliver poem called
The Summer Day.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Reading those words, typing them in with the thought of all of you reading them, rejuvenates me. Even today, with my pain and my sadness, this wild and precious life is available to me. Maybe it is time for me to fall down in the grass and be idle and blessed, to uncover my own understanding of prayer.

Jess and Sage with friends from Prescott, Shellece and Rio

Friday, April 18, 2008

Turning Over the Tea Cup

It looks like we will be staying in Boise a bit longer than planned. We met with a lawyer yesterday, and we were very happy with him, but it turns out he works for a firm that represents the hospital my dad owed money to, so he didn't feel he could represent us. We have another appointment with a different lawyer on Monday morning.

We did accomplish a lot yesterday, though. My dad had a system of piling, not filing, so we were working with a large stack of random papers. Michael took this mess and organized it into a file folder. Then he and I and my sister-in-law condensed all of the information onto a 3 page spreadsheet. Now things are beginning to look more manageable. Whew! There is something very reassuring about creating order from chaos. Dad might not have agreed; he though chaos was far more interesting. :-)

I've been thinking about Dad this morning, feeling his presense inside my heart. He is so much a part of me. He and I used to talk about how our souls were surely linked in another life, that maybe we were siblings or best friends. We could often understand each other without having to explain much. I don't know how, but I still feel connected to him. His voice in my head is comforting and loving, but also challenging and teasing. He never let me get away with feeling sorry for myself. And he always believed in my ability to move through life with grace and strength.

The day before Dad died, he and I talked about death. This might sound impossibly coincidental, but Dad and I rarely had conversations that didn't touch on the things of deepest meaning to each of us - love, death, parenting, etc. Dad told me he was not afraid of dying. He said, in fact, that if he were at the gate of death, it would not be a clear choice of whether to stay here or cross over because he saw death as the next great adventure. He told me that he has no doubt that we somehow continue after death. Dad was not a religious person. He could not take comfort in an idea of heaven or even, really, reincarnation. He always admitted that he did not know what happens when we die. Yet, he found an answer in physics, which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. He reasoned that even if his life energy changes forms after death, it will continue to exist. It seems such a beautiful thing to me that Dad was not afraid of death, that he was able to view it with curiosity and courage.

There is a Buddhist practice of setting a tea cup next to your bed. Each night you turn the cup over, as though it may be the last time you use it. In the morning, if you wake, you turn the cup upright again, ready to be filled with the life offered to you that day. In that way, you never take for granted a single day of life. If we stay in touch with impermanence, how can we be filled with anything but deep gratitude for life.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What is Happiness?

As I reread my last entry, I ask myself, how could I be happy under these circumstances? What do I even mean by the word "happy"? I realize I mean something different by it than I might have in the past. Happy right now means: my body is relaxed, my mind is quiet, my heart and stomach are not in pain. I am momentarily at peace. I think this is my mind's way of giving me a reprieve from the intense work of grief. It is a survival mechanism. It is also a glimpse of what it means to heal. I need these experiences. Otherwise I question whether I will ever feel truly joyful again. But a day like today lets me know that it is possible, and it gives me the hope necessary to continue facing life as it comes. I will have moments of sadness, anger, fear. It is a surprise to me that I will also have moments of happiness. I accept this as a gift.

The Encouragement of Light

This morning I woke up happy. Really happy. I can't say why. It is a gentle happiness, like a butterfly landing on my finger, poised to flit away at any sudden move, but available to me at the moment.

This morning, Michael and I had breakfast with my brother, Levi, his wife, Adrienne, and their three children. They have twin 3-year-old girls, Indigo and Jaden, and a 6-month-old boy, River. River is a beautiful baby with a wide, easy smile that reminds me of Levi when he was little. He is intrigued by Michael, always staring at him and grinning. Indigo and Jaden are truly gorgeous blonde imps, bright and sweet. I feel glad to be around children, and I look forward to being back at work at the Relief Nursery.

To brighten your day, here is one of my very favorite poems by the Sufi poet Hafiz.

It Felt Love

Did the rose
Ever open its heart
And give to this world
All its

It felt the encouragement of light
Against its

We all remain

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wild Geese

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk
on your knees
for a hundred miles
through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the
soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours,
and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the
clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and
the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese,
high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are,
no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese,
harsh and exciting -
over and over
announcing your place
in the family of things.

That line, "Meanwhile the world goes on." That is hard to grasp. I wonder, what is my place in the family of things, now? Yet, with each response to the blog, with each email and phone call and card, I find myself closer to understanding my place, my new place.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Hello friends. I have shared a lot of my inner experience on this blog, but I have not kept you updated on the day-to-day happenings of my life. So here is what has been going on:

Michael and I are still in Boise. We are staying in a hotel. My brother and his family are in the same hotel. Mom and Sarah have returned to Eugene.

Our main objective at this point is taking care of legal matters related to my dad's estate, which is complicated because he owed money to a hospital for his chemotherapy, and so we have to get his rental houses ready to sell in order to satisfy those debts. We are working on getting lawyers who can help us sort that all out.

I had a visit this morning with the surgeon who operated on me. She took some x-rays, which showed good healing in both my pelvis and my arm. I am mostly using my crutches now, though for a longer distance I still need the wheelchair. I am proud to say I have weaned myself off the narcotics they sent me home with, though I still take a milder pain pill 4 times a day. I decided that while I am in Boise I will not see a physical therapist, since I will be here for such a short time. I have been given a home exercise routine to do this week, and when I get back to Eugene I will find a physical therapist to work with long term. I am also hoping to do some aqua-therapy at Tamarak and maybe some Tai Chi or Pilates when I am up to it (and definitely some bellydance!).

Michael and I are hoping to return to Eugene this weekend or early next week. He will be driving our car back, and I will be flying. The thought of travelling at all is abhorent to me right now. Even a car ride across town sometimes sets me to crying. I have to be very vigilent not to let my fear take over. I am looking forward to being home and not travelling again for a long time.

Some people have asked for our address here. It is:
SpringHill Suites by Marriott
Boise ParkCenter
c/o Jessie Carpenter, Room 137
424 E. ParkCenter Blvd.
Boise, ID 83706

Just do remember that we may not be here after Friday.

I want to share a quote that my cousin Anna sent to me:
"A broken heart is an open heart."

I'm not sure it is possible to be human and not have your heart broken in varying degrees. It is part of what unites us. I once heard some wise person advise that we remember that every person we meet has some hidden love, some hidden tragedy, and some hidden dream. This is so beautiful - to look at everyone with the eyes of compassion, because, deep down, we are the same in all the important ways.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Your One Smile

This world is no match for your Love.
Being away from you
is death aiming to take my soul away.
My heart, so precious,
I won't trade for a hundred thousand souls.
Your one smile takes it for free.

So often when I write on this blog, I express my courage and strength because writing it helps convince me that it is real, helps give it power over the despair. Yet, it doesn't paint a complete picture. I am not always brave or strong. Often I feel I am wandering, lost, empty. For nine months, Sage was the beason that guided my life. I woke to meet his needs, to fill him with my love. Even in sleep, I never lost awareness of his warm body next to me. Thank God we co-slept . . . those irreplaceable moments of snuggling and breathing together. And what now? I send out my radar and it just keeps going, nothing to bounce it back to me.

Forgive me, friends. I know the strength will return in time. I don't have the energy to share anything other than my genuine experience, which at this moment is filled with the pain of loss. I think of his little pea pod ear lobes, his expressive eyebrows, his quick smile. I think of the morning after we brought him home - he had goop in his eyes and Michael had to clean them with a cotton ball - and I cried because I couldn't bear the thought that he might be in pain. I think of the way I learned to do everything WITH him, and I dread having to learn to do everything WITHOUT him.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Familiar Voice Offers Wisdom

Today I got an email from my dear Aunt Margie, one of my dad's sisters. She attached excerpts from the letters my dad had written to her over the years. I felt so touched to read my dad's words, some from when I was only 1 year old, some from this year. I would like to share some of his most recent thoughts with you all. Two years ago, my dad was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. At the time he was hospitalized, the tumor had taken his ability to walk, speak clearly, read, and write. Seeing him like that was a profound experience for me, as was watching him heal, physically and emotionally over the last two years. A few weeks before he died, he had finished his last chemotherapy treatment, and was, for the time being, tumor-free. The experience that the tumor brought him offered him deep wisdom and much joy. Here are a few of his thoughts:

"Jessie told me that when she got the call that I was in the hospital with a brain tumor she didn’t cry, she didn’t break down, she said she felt a calmness overtake her and she felt a strength rising inside her that she never knew existed and she knew that whatever she found when she walked into my hospital room for the first time, she would be prepared and know how to deal with it. That was my exact experience when I heard Dr. Stenet’s diagnosis. Now I am calm all the time and I swear to you all that whether I have two years or twenty left I will live every last moment to its fullest."

The butterfly counts
Not months but moments
And has time enough.

"I don’t know how many moments I have left, but I know it will be time enough."

"More and more, when I do something, I have to face the possibility that I am doing it for the last time. (And the damn doctors think I don’t take it seriously enough.) That thought doesn’t frighten me or make me sad, it just makes everything more significant. For me there are no longer any ordinary moments and one of the things that makes those moments extraordinary is when I connect meaningfully with another human being. So I just want to say that I am so deeply grateful to all of you who came to see me and kept in touch by phone. Maya Angelou says, “Nobody, but nobody can make it here alone.” I think that was one of the lessons I was meant to learn from this experience. I don’t know why, but all my life I thought I could make it alone, but now I know better, and I thank you all for helping me learn that."

I hope my dad's words inspire you as they have me. He is the one who taught me to look at challenges as opportunities for growth. He also taught me to never take for granted the amount of time that we have to live. Joy comes from staying in touch with gratitude for each day.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I am still alive.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Nobody can make it out here alone

Dear ones, do you know how much we have relied on you? Your emails, cards, phone calls, flowers, prayers, love. Your willingness to travel this road with us, to be our companions, our community. It is not easy to sit with another person's pain and grief. And yet, here you are, holding us in your kindness.

In about half an hour, I will be leaving the hospital. I am feeling confident, even excited about this change. Yesterday my Occupational Therapist took me for a ride in a car for the first time since the accident to see how I would cope with that experience, and I found that I was not particularly afraid. As comforting as the hospital setting is, leaving here will allow me and Michael more freedom - to sleep in if we want, to walk outside without needing to get permission, to have more time alone together.

Today is sunny and beautiful, and I am looking forward to feeling the warm, fresh air on my skin. Almost every day since Sage was born, when he woke up, I said to him, "Good morning, Sunshine. It's a beautiful day." I said this even when it was gray and rainy, because I wanted to teach him to see beauty in its many forms, not just the obvious ones. I will try to continue that practice, seeing the beauty in each day.

The following poem, I dedicate to our community of friends and family, the hospital staff, and all those who offer us the gift of connection and care.

by Maya Angelou

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don't believe I'm wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can't use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They've got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I'll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
'Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

i carry your heart with me

by e.e. cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Moving Forward

On Friday I wll be released from the hospital. When I learned of this development, yesterday, I cried. In fact I cried many times yesterday as I thought of leaving this place which has become a safe haven for me. It is as though I am surrounded by circles of protection - Michael is one, my family is one, being in the hospital is one, and strangely, being in this wheelchair is one. The routine of physical and occupational therapy, and the nurses taking my vital signs and giving me meds . . . these are the perameters of my new life, and they are manageable. Like a child who can only explore when he has a secure base to return to, I find myself making small ventures outward. A walk aruond the hospital grounds with Michael seems to satisfy my need for exploration. So, to step out into the world again feels like more than I want. Yet, I am aware that waiting longer won't make this transition any easier. It has to be done. And I trust that I will adapt, with the loving help of Michael and my family. Michael and I have decided to stay in Boise for another week or so. I will be doing out-patient physical therapy, and we will attempt to resolve certain issues pertaining to my dad's estate. Returning to Eugene will be another transition. And returning to work. Driving a car. Moving forward. Facing life.

Please Call Me by My True Names

by Thich Nhat Hanh

Don't say that I will depart tomorrow --
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What is Within

If you bring forth what is within you,
what is within you will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you,
what is within you will destroy you.

--The Gospel of Thomas 70:1-2

Each day, may I allow the truth of my experiece to guide me.
May I honor all of my emotions, positive and negative.
And may I trust the unfolding process that is my life.
In this way, I might find peace and share that peace with others.

Oceana Smiles

Today is such a joyous day! My sister has returned from Eugene with her daughter (my neice), Oceana. Oce is almost 4 years old. She is a beautiful little sprite with curly blonde hair. I will post a photo once I get a cord to attach my camera to the computer. Oceana sat on my lap and rode around in my wheelchair. She also wanted to push my chair. She is cautiously curious about the hospital, the nurses, etc.

Sarah tried to explain to Oceana what has happened in terms she can understand. She did not say anything about it being a car wreck because she does not want Oce to be afraid of riding in the car. I have heard that children at her age have difficulty understanding the permanence of death. I am sad that she will not grow up knowing Sage. I always imagined they would be more like siblings than cousins.

Later, Oceana is going to bring over her doctor kit and try to fix me up. I have no doubt she will bring me some good medicine.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Michael's Birthday, Honoring Our Child

Today is my dear Michael's 47th birthday. We have chosen this day for Sage to be cremated. For those who wish to honor him during this time, with a moment of silence, or by lighting a candle or sending a prayer, it will take place at 1:00 p.m. We have discussed having a ceremony or gathering when we return to Oregon, and we will include a remembrance of Sage in the ceremony we have for my dad in Idaho as well. We will keep you all posted as those plans develop.

Holding Hunter

This evening, our friends Sara and Andy brought their 4 week old baby to visit us at the hospital. Although it has been a hard day for me, full of uncertainty and sadness, when I held that little boy (Hunter), a peace settled over me. He slept in my arms, making funny little smirks and grimmaces and occassionally pursing his lips and raising his eyebrows as though surprised by some dream he was having. I am surprised that holding another baby does not cause me terrible sorrow. On the contrary, when he held my index finger in his tiny hand, my heart opened and the tension in my body subisided. Michael also held him, and I could see (again) how natural a baby looks in his arms. He swayed gently and mumbled sweet, soft words to the sleeping child.

Later, after they had gone, Michael shared with me some photos of Sage he had printed today. I put copies of three of them next to my flowers in the window sill. We released oceans of tears as we looked at his beautiful, innocent face and longed for the chance to hold him again. It feels good to display the photos, though each time we see them it reawakens our pain. We need him to be present in our lives still - a reminder of our deep capacity to love.

"Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises
was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being,
the more joy you can contain."

-Kahlil Gibran

Friday, April 4, 2008

Morning Thoughts

Another day to be alive. Another day to be grateful for the abundance of beauty and kindness that surrounds me. The many flowers on my windowsill are such a tangible reminder of this. Last night Michael hung a beautiful piece of stained glass with a purple mandala / flower pattern. It was one that Sage had seen at the Boise Co-op last time we came through Boise. He was fascinated by it . . . by anything to do with light and color, and Michael bought it as a reminder for us to view the world as Sage did - with endless wonder and openness.

It is 8 a.m. The sun creeps leisurely across the roof directly outside my window. Now that we are in my new room on the rehab floor, Michael sleeps in the other patient bed of this 2-bed room. It is not an uplifting place, this room, with its 2 TV's (one for each bed) jutting out of the dull gray wall. Who in the world thinks of painting a "healing environment" gray?!?

The staff here are filled with compassion, humor and optimism. I look forward to the physical and occupational therapy sessions, which occur up to 6 times a day. Each day I am stronger and able to do things I couldn't do the day before. Today I was able to turn my left wrist, and I could lift my right foot a few inches off the floor. My physical therapist jokes that by next week I'll be doing one-handed cart-wheels. :-)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Poem For Sage

For Sage Sebastian Carpenter

A whisper,
the scent of prairie grass,
and under the curve of eyebrows wise brown eyes
filled with wonder at the tasty miracle of life.

Made of the love of Jessie and Michael
the bones and blood of two families
the prairie, the desert, the ocean,
this small carpenter has built a house
of song and rain, laugher and tears,
built it strong and true.

May we live in his house
all the days of our lives.

--Margie Faulkner (Sage's Great Aunt)

Happy Birthday Grandpapa Ben

During this most difficult of times for our family, We would like to ask everyone to join us in wishing Sage's Grand papa Ben (Michael's dad) a Happy 71st Birthday.


To all who's thoughts and prayers we have received during this tragic time of grief and sorrow. We ask for your patience as we use this blog spot as a communication tool to share what is unfolding for us and the amazing progress Jessie is making toward physical recovery. We hope to have another posting later today or tomorrow.