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


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:

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

Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday
to our nephew,
River Takota,
who is

1 year old!

Dancing In The Wind

To A Child Dancing In The Wind

Dance there upon the shore;
What need have you to care
For wind or water's roar?
And tumble out your hair
That the salt drops have wet;
Being young you have not known
The fool's triumph, nor yet
Love lost as soon as won,
Nor the best labourer dead
And all the sheaves to bind.
What need have you to dread
The monstrous crying of wind?

William Butler Yeats, 1916.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Happiness Runs in a Circular Motion

When Michael and I were boarding our return flight from Maui, we talked about what we thought was the best part of our trip. Without hesitation, we both said it was meeting Liz and Sage (who own Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Adventures), and their son, Cru (5 months) and daughter, Kira (3 1/2 years). It was their aloha spirit, more than anything else, that made our trip magical. I hope we can circle back to see them soon!

Our new Hawaiian friend, Cru and his Mama, Liz.

Michael with his little buddy.

Liz, Kira and Sage swimming in the sea.

Our last day in Maui. Enjoying Cru as long as we can.

Happiness . . .

Little pebble upon the sand
Now you're lying here in my hand,
How many years have you been here?

Little human upon the sand
From where I'm lying here in your hand,
You to me are but a passing breeze.

The sun will always shine where you stand
Depending in which land
You may find yourself.
Now you have my blessing, go your way.

Happiness runs in a circular motion
Thought is like a little boat upon the sea.
Everybody is a part of everything anyway,
You can have everything if you let yourself be.

-Donovan Leitch