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.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Journeying God

Journeying god,
pitch your tent with mine
so that I may not become deterred
by hardship, strangeness, doubt.
Show me the movement I must make
toward a wealth not dependent on possessions,
toward a wisdom not based on books,
toward a strength not bolstered by might,
toward a god not confined to heaven.
Help me to find myself as I walk in other's shoes.

(Prayer song from Ghana, traditional, translator unknown)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hip Monkey

A while back, I wrote a post about the Kyle David Miller Foundation. This is a non-profit organization that promotes the use of 5-point harness car seats rather than booster seats for older children. The 5-point harness seats are available for children up to 80 pounds.

The Foundation was started by 3-year-old Kyle's family after he died in an auto accident. Kyle was sitting in a booster seat, but his seat belt failed, which caused him to be ejected from the vehicle. Kyle's death would have been prevented by a 5-point harness seat. The Foundation offers these seats at no cost to families who are unable to afford them.

Now, a sister non-profit, Hip Monkey, has been started which offers high quality car seats and other items for children, and 100% of the profits go to the Kyle David Miller Foundation. If you are needing a car seat, stroller, diaper bag, etc. . . please consider checking their site first. Their inventory is still fairly small, but you might find just what you are looking for. And you can know that your purchase is helping to support the safety of children.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Inch by Inch

Last weekend, Michael and I spent Sunday gardening, which is something I haven't done since I was a kid and Dad let me help push the seeds into the ground in even intervals.

He paid my brother and sister 5 cents for every cabbage moth they killed, but he taught us to revere earth worms and ladybugs. He told us that "a little dirt never hurt anyone," and so advised that we never actually wash carrots after pulling them, but rather brush them on our pant legs and eat them straight out of the dirt.

Dad grew up around gardening. His family ran Faulkner's Market in Mandan, North Dakota. His sister, Elaine, continues to run the market to this day.

In spite of this heritage, I have always felt a little hesitant about gardening. And I guess until now, I haven't ever lived in a place where gardening would make much sense. But last Sunday was really one of the most enjoyable days I can imagine. I loved picking out the flowers and herbs, choosing which spots to plant them, and putting my hands in the soil like I did as a child.

The last photo is of a plant called a Bleeding Heart. Dad had one in his yard, and I chose it for ours in remembrance of him.

Garden Song
by David Mallett

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
Gonna mulch it deep and low
Gonna make it fertile ground

Inch by inch, row by row
Please bless these seeds I sow
Please keep them safe below
'Till the rain comes tumbling down

Pullin' weeds and pickin' stones
We are made of dreams and bones
Need a place to call my own
'Cause the time is close at hand

Grain for grain, sun and rain
Find my way in nature's chain
Till my body and my brain
Tell the music of the land

Plant your rows straight and long
Season with a prayer and song
Mother Earth will make you strong
If you give her loving care

Old crow watching from a tree
He's got his hungry eye on me
In my garden I'm as free
As that feathered thief up there.

And just for fun: The Anti-Garden Verses

Slug by slug, weed by weed
Boy this garden's got me t'd
All the insects come to feed
On my tomato plants

Sunburt face, skined up knees
The kitchen's chocked with zuchinis
I'm shopping at the A&P's
Next time I get the chance

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What Changes and What Remains

I was thinking today about how my blog will eventually change . . . that at some point what is real for me in the present will be less about my grief process and more about other things. This is inevitable. As long as I am healing and growing, I will be changing, and so will my blog.

Yet tonight, as I browsed through some photos of Sage, trying to pick just one to send to a friend who requested it for a project, I was able to revisit the power of my love and longing for that little boy. And that will never change.

Although the daily focus of my life will shift to other things, I imagine I will need to return periodically to the tender, aching place in my heart that belongs totally to Sage.

And now I am going to post some photos, because tonight I really just want to share my sweet baby with you all.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sisterhood Award

My blog was recently nominated for the "Sisterhood Award" by two of my fellow bloggers, Caitsmom at A Fifth Season and Amy at Surviving the Day, two articulate, creative, supportive women who have also lost children.

The rules of the award ask that I, in turn, choose 10 blogs to nominate. I don't know if you are supposed to nominate people who have already received the award, but Caitsmom and Amy are on my list because their blogs are two of my favorites.

Here are my nominations:
Amy at Surviving the Day - Amy writes about the loss of her son, Liam, and about the slow process of healing.

Caitsmom at A Fifth Season - This babyloss Mama has posted many beautiful poetry and songs inspired by her daughter, Caitlin.

Janis at Ferdinand's Gifts - A kindred spirit writing about life after the loss of her son, Ferdinand.

Beth at Amberlee's Story - Writing after the loss of her daughter Amberlee, Beth and her famlily are truly an inspiration in their commitment to each other and to healing.

Alyssa at Three Quarter Mom - Alyssa writes about her journey following the recent loss of her daughter Samantha.

Joanne at Becoming - Founder of the MISS Foundation for bereaved parents, and a beacon of light to the babyloss community.

Non-Babyloss Nominations:
Kristin at Kristin Collier - This is not a babyloss blog. Kristin is an incredible person, a mother, doula, non-violent communication teacher, and a blogger. I look forward to each post.

Victoria at Rumi's Secret - a great source of Rumi poetry and inspiring thoughts.

Bethie at Simply Blessed - Another poetry lover (especially Rumi, Mary Oliver, Hafiz, etc - a lot of my favorites).

Sara at SerineKat's Daily Drama - Mama to a 1-year-old, knitter, and animal-lover, straight-talker, one of my best friends since college.

Thanks to all of you for being who you are and for blogging.

For those nominated:
Put the logo on your blog or post.
Nominate at least 10 blogs with great attitude and/or gratitude.
Be sure to link to your nominees in your post.
Let your nominees know they have received the award by leaving them a comment on their blog.
Be sure to link this post to the person who nominated you for the award.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Baby!

I want to wish Happy Birthday to three special babies who are turning 1-year-old this month. Blake, Isaak and Dylan sometimes accompany their parents to work at the Relief Nursery. They bring a lot of joy to all the employees.

I am so glad that the founder of the Relief Nursery recognized that allowing parents to bring their babies to work creates a culture of support and cooperation.




Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Son . . . And Another Son

On Wednesday, Michael and I went in for another ultrasound. We were given all good news. The hematoma on the placenta is shrinking. The placenta previa that was detected at our last ultrasound (and would have made a C-section necessary) seems to be resolving. The baby is growing at a perfect rate.

And . . . they were able to determine the gender. We are going to have a little boy!

I had pretty much convinced myself that we were having a girl, to the point that I actually bought a little pink baby kimono, and I had only looked at the girl section in the baby name book. Nearly everyone around me was guessing it was a girl too.

I wonder if maybe people thought it would be easier on me and Michael if we were to have a girl this time . . . if maybe the echoes of Sage would not be so powerful and painful. Maybe I thought that, too.

The 7-year-old daughter of one of my coworkers had the same thought when she found out I was pregnant. She said, "I hope it's a girl. Because . . . you know, there was Sage." I was so touched that a young child could have that kind of insight.

And yet, when I found out this little one was a boy, I felt overjoyed. I want a son. And I guess the truth is, boy or girl, it is going to be wonderful and heart-wrenching at the same time.

When I told Oceana (my 4-year-old niece) that the baby was a boy, she said with big, innocent eyes and a reverent voice, "We can call him Sage!" She has said this several times since I first told her I was pregnant. Even when we thought it was a girl, she insisted, "Sage can be a girl's name." I told her we will think of just the right name for this baby.

By the next day, Michael and I had, indeed, thought of just the right name. We aren't going to tell anyone what it is until he is born, but in quiet moments, we talk to him and whisper his name and savor the blessing of his existence.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

One Year Later

On March 27th, 2008, the truck I was riding in slid across the center line on an icy highway in Idaho, and was hit by a semi. My dad and my 9-month old son were killed. In the days following the accident, while I was in the hospital healing from my injuries, I began the journey of writing this blog.

The one-year anniversary of that day just passed.

Because this was also spring break week, I was able to spend the days leading up to the anniversary at a bed and breakfast, giving myself the gift of solitude and reflection. On the second day of my little retreat, March 25th, I took a long walk, thinking a lot about Dad and how he would have enjoyed this kind of walk. I remembered one of his favorite quotes, "All who wander are not lost" (J.R.R. Tolkien, I think).

Later, I went jogging and then stopped by a restaurant for lunch. While I was there, I realized in a rush of panic, that I was bleeding. I am three months pregnant, and I know so many people who have lost pregnancies . . . I can't begin to express the horror that washed over me.
I called Michael, and he rushed over to take me to the hospital.

While I waited for him, I kept thinking, how can this be happening? Why is it happening now, two days before the anniversary of losing Sage? How can Michael and I possible withstand the loss of another child?

When we got to the hospital, I was terrified to see the ultrasound screen, not knowing whether the baby would be alive. Michael and I held hands, trembling. The tech didn't turn the screen toward us until she'd had a glimpse. She pointed out the baby's strong heartbeat, and we saw the baby moving.

A doctor explained that I have a hematoma, a blood clot. It was probably jarred by my jogging, which may be why it started bleeding. We were told that while there is some increased risk for miscarriage, most likely it will not affect our growing baby. I was told to "be a couch potato" and to see the doctor or the midwife weekly for the next few weeks.

After we left the hospital, as the reality that our baby is alive and healthy sunk in, I felt so full of gratitude that even the lingering fears had little sway over me. Since finding out that I was pregnant, I have been awash in such a tangle of emotions, that I was unable to settle into the expectant joy of pregnancy. Now, finally, in this week of remembrance, I find myself really able to embrace the gift of this new child.

On the morning of the anniversary, I awoke from a dream with the words, "The baby is dead," in my mind. I told myself, "No! Don't even think that. The baby is just fine." And then I realized the baby referred to was Sage. And in that moment I began to grasp the reality of two separate babies, one dead and one alive, both loved.

So, there is the horror of "The baby is dead," and the overwhelming gratitude of "The baby is alive." There is the longing to be able to walk with and talk to my dad, and then there is the gift of the other people who make my life full and rich.

Someone is writing something new in the ashes of my life. This is where I find myself one year later.

The Journey

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

Painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
inscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

small, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving
you are arriving.

~ David Whyte ~

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Special Gift

After my last post, a dear friend of mine left the following comment. I wanted to share it, because I know several bereaved parents who struggle with fears about how they will parent subsequent children, or their other living children. Thank you, George, for reminding me that while grief changes who I will be as a parent, it does not diminish me . . .

You are the exact perfect woman
that this baby needs to mother it.
Your loss will be this child's gain
even though it doesn't feel like it right now.
You are its "perfect mother."
With all of your woundedness and pain,
you will bring a special gift to this special child.

Saturday, March 14, 2009



The time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer
and I did not die.
Surely God had His hand in this.

As well as friends,
still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it-
books, bricks, grief,-
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled-
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep wave,
a love
to which there is no reply?

-Mary Oliver

I have hesitated to post this extraordinary poem. I have been waiting until it felt real to me, until I found myself once again lingering to admire the things of this world. After the accident, it seemed like beauty and sacredness were all around me, and as immense as my grief was, it was made more bearable by gratitude and awe.

Lately, I have felt mostly just the heaviness.

And maybe it is the same heaviness that I have carried all along, but now more than ever, I want to throw it off and just be happy. I want to celebrate my pregnancy and the existence of our precious second child. But when I go to my appointments at the Birth Center, I cry and cry.

This baby doesn't seem real to me yet. Or . . . the baby feels real, but my heart has not yet grasped the fact that I am really a mother again. Unlike all the babies that I hold each week at work, this one will stay with me . . . hopefully for 18 years or so.

Over the last year I have found great joy in holding other people's babies, and I have practiced releasing them, as I must, back to their parents. In some small way, each time I do this, I am recreating the experience of losing Sage - loving and letting go. And I guess I have done this instinctively, to heal myself.

How can I begin to trust that I won't have to let go again? And I don't mean all the small ways we as parents have to let go, but . . . let go of ever seeing my child again, of watching him grow up, of ever, ever hearing him say a word.

This is where I am. I am pregnant. The year anniversary of Sage's death is two weeks away. I think it was one of my BabyLoss friends who commented that her pregnancy after her loss involved not only bringing forth that baby, but also bringing forth herself as a mother - a new, different mother than she had been before.

So, I will practice carrying the weight, and one of these days, maybe sooner than I think, I will startle myself with laughter again.