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Archive for March, 2009

As days go by, I start to see that Lyra sometimes look like her older sisters when they were babies. We have said to each other—That’s exactly like Val when she was a baby! The girls are thrilled when they hear things like that; they adore their baby sister so much they feel flattered that she bears resemblance to them as a baby.
How about you, Ferdinand, how about you??

Yet, despite her looking like her siblings, Lyra is very much who she is- Lyra. She has her little temperament and she has her big personality. And she has her unique destiny that she shall envision and fulfill.

::

One day while at Trader Joe’s, an old lady hobbled up to me as I watched the two girls run off to grab loaves of sourdough to put in our shopping cart. She nodded her chin at the baby wrapped snugly to my chest and asked, “Boy or girl?” I replied, “She’s a baby girl.” And she looked over to the other two girls and said, “You have three girls!” I nodded, and she looked at me and muttered, “You are very lucky.”

I replied, “Yes, I am.” (while saying in my head, “But you don’t know the whole story.”)

And then she walked away.

I was not sure what to do. I wanted to run after her and asked, “Why did you say that?” Did she experience babyloss? Did she want to have a girl but only had boys? Did she just want to tell me I am lucky because I have three healthy children?

I don’t know, but I was not ready for a conversation then. But trust me, I have thought a lot about what it means to be lucky.

::

When people realize that “the baby” is a girl, the reaction is almost always, “Wow, three girls!” or – “Three girls, huh?!”

I am not sure what to make of those either. Are they impressed? Or are they thinking- sheese, she must really be trying to have a boy!

Very often, when they say “Three girls!” I mentally add to that in my head- “AND a boy.” But I no longer say it out loud. No longer. No more to strangers. In the early days of Ferdinand’s death, the urge was to take everyone by their shoulders and shake them violently and telling them, “My son died! My son died! I have a baby son, and he died. And his name is Ferdinand. Do you understand? Can you understand?!”

But, no more. No longer is that urge there.

Because I do not want to limit his existence to a mention of his name, followed by “But he died.” I do not want to bring him up and let people feel shock, pity and that inevitable awkwardness where they just do not know what to say, or where they put their foot into their mouths saying something that supposedly is to comfort, but end up making me feel worse. These days I prefer to cradle him in my heart, where I know him most intimately. There, where my tears run; where the edges of my smile curl up, sometimes.

::

Not a good analogy, but:

Of late I think grief is kind of like the sediment of life. At times it gets all stirred up in the cross-currents and it seems to be all over the place and all-consuming.

And then it settles down. Being heavy it sinks to the bottom and if the body of water above manages to remain calm, it is not stirred up. I have had some moments when I almost have amnesia of what happened, when I am not crippled by my grief.

But of course, life is not a vacuum, and it is never still.

The sediment gets aroused ever so often.

I suppose it is just like this. It just has to be like this.

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Funsize asked if I would mind if she asked if Lyra bears any resemblance to Ferdinand. I do not mind.

Lyra resembles Ferdinand. So much. Especially in the first moments after she was born. When she was lifted onto my chest, she looked exactly like Ferdinand. For a few seconds I felt I was living in two different time and space at the same time. It was as if I had given birth to Ferdinand again, except this time he was a live, screaming baby. But deep in my heart, I knew it was not him again. Quickly, that time and space was shifted and I was plunged into the very present, and immediately I was absorbed into the freshness of Lyra.

When we brought her home in the car-seat, her sleeping face looked exactly like Ferdinand’s. The second Ralf brought the car-seat into the house and set it down, and I looked at her face, so sleepy and peaceful, and the tears finally came. We finally brought her home. I thought I would be a mess of tears and grief in the birthing room. That’s why I asked my friends Mani and Leigh to be at my birth. They are phenomenal doulas on top of being wonderful friends. I needed them to hold my birth space. I needed Mani to be there. She was there when Ferdinand was born, and I needed her calm and strength when I birth this new little one into this world. I am so so so blessed that they agreed to be there. But I did not cry after the birth; I did not cry the two days while at the hospital. I was on an adrenaline high; I was exhausted from the birth and lack of sleep. But, there was no doubt that the tears were there, just waiting for an unleashing.

:::

I have been thinking about my life the past almost-two years. I have been thinking about how they say a loss makes you appreciate the present better; how you become a better person and all that similar shit.

You know, you cannot tell a bereaved mother- look, now you appreciate your living children better. Or- you will appreciate so much more the next living child you have. I mean, isn’t having a child die such an awful way to learn the lesson of appreciation? I honestly do not think I was a bad, or awful, or unappreciative mom before Ferdinand died. And in fact, I think I became worse after he died. For the long months after he died I needed so much quiet and solitude, I felt impatient when they played too loud, or laughed too loud. For a long time I could not attend to their learning needs. Maybe some other bereaved moms will get up and get on and immediately plunge into spending every single living second with their living children, suffocating and smothering them with love, but I just could not. I love my children very, very much, but now I am also much more burdened. I am not as light-hearted or silly as before. I no longer play ridiculous games and just guffaw or babboon around, like I used to. Well, maybe from time to time I do. But, I am just not the same. I love them deeply, but, I don’t think my son’s death made me a better mom.

And forget about being a better person, because there is no help or hope for the devil and evil.

But honestly, although I cannot slap an altruistic label upon myself, I have not been the world’s most selfish person. I have organized and participated in helping those who need help. Before Ferdinand died. After? I need to stand up on my shaky legs first. Again, I know some bereaved are out in soup kitchens and saving the world, but I only staggered inward further. I have done little the past months to help others. Grief made me a worse person, I think.

Look, I have stuff around the house that badly needs attention, because, after Ferdinand died, we really did not care about freakin’ curb appeal or having a beautiful yard or whatevers. We just remember to brush our teeth and eat when it’s time to eat and we push on.

And, the thing is, I like doing things. I enjoy doing projects, for personal enjoyment, and for making other people’s lives better. But a lot of the times, I simply do not have the energy. Because, sheesh, grieving takes a lot of energy.

So, sometimes, I wish there is a God I can make an appointment with and go ask him- why do it like this?! If my son have not died, I could have given so much more of myself, really! Not just to my children, but to people around me, to strangers. But right now, I feel I’ve only become more selfish. I guard my space fiercely and I only do what I can. I wish I had become a better person, but I have not. I guess I sound like I am trying to put the blame on someone else, something else. I am. I just had not been strong enough to stand up, grind my teeth, push through it all, and put myself aside and just start doing things for others. I hope that can change. I truly do.

:::

I never cease to be amazed how much the girls remember Ferdinand. Like I said, we do not display any pictures. Truth is, we can’t bring ourselves to do so. Too painful. And also, he did not look good. He was so ravaged. To think of how he looked, and felt, just tears my heart to pieces, I cannot have his picture standing around in the house. I do not bring him up on purpose. I do not want to keep thrusting him into the girls’ faces. But when they bring him up, I never avoid  the topic.

Val was looking at the Griffin & Sabine notecards she got and she said, “I think I would like to burn one. Can I burn one?” Knowing why, I still asked her, “Why?” and she said, “For Ferdinand. I miss him.”

And one evening, out of the blue when we were all crowding around Lyra cooing at her, she said, “She reminds me of Ferdinand. You know, how he looked when we saw him at the hospital.” I told her Lyra reminds me of him too. A lot of the times when she is sleeping, she looks so much like him. It is heart-shattering.

:::

It seems the air of grief got heavier of late. I don’t know why. And I don’t even know how to start describing that to you.

:::

Sometimes I look at Lyra and wonder how I am going to tell her about Ferdinand.

And I wonder how she will react.

For some reason, I feel she will tell me, “But I already know him.”

:::

Lots more floating in my mind but I did not grab a pen to jot them down, thinking I would remember. Ha! Now a lot of it has escaped out into the ozone layer. There’s always the next round of babbling.

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shredded

Lately I’ve been feeling really shredded. I’ve been keeping very late nights, trying to finish up a translation assignment. I will spend about an hour nursing Lyra down to sleep, then I shower and creep downstairs and turn on the computer, staring at the screen and flipping through references till the very wee hours, like 3am or so. After about two weeks of this, I felt on the brink of collapse. When you are say, sixteen, or twenty-one, you can afford to do things like this. Late nights and little sleep are privileges of youth, they can do it and still be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed the next day. But when you have past the big three-zero, well, be in bed by ten or you would look like you have aged 10 years the next morning.

But it’s not just the late hours and little sleep.

It’s the grief. This thing that is a blunt knife in your heart, turning ever so slowly. Did you know? A blunt knife is even more dangerous than a razor-sharp one. The sharper it is, the faster, cleaner and easier it is. The more blunt it is, the slower, clumsier and more painful.

Do not get me wrong, my joy with Lyra is not tainted. When I look upon her face, and into her eyes, my heart bursts with joy. She is just adorable, and I love her to bits. I could just swallow her whole, she is so delicious. But grief stands firmly next to joy. It does not hinder, it does not taint, it just stands in the corner where it is, and turn the blade of grief ever so slowly.

Cooing back and forth with Lyra, observing how her sweet little lips part and make shapes while uttering the cutest sounds in the Universe, I will feel a choke rise in me, catching at my throat, and tears will surge.

Holding her in my arms, feeling her warm weight, touching her soft skin, breathing her in, my arms will ache with heavy emptiness, even with this little bundle of joy right before my eyes, and so tangible.

So many times these past weeks I have re-visited the three most awful days in my life- the day we found out he has died, the day he was born and the day of his cremation- so often I don’t know how I have managed not to completely fall apart and go crazy. Why the re-visiting, I do not know, nor understand. The brain just takes off with a mind of its own and I am pulled back into that room, those three rooms, and the blade turns, bluntly, slowly.

I do accept that this may be the way for the rest of my life. I think I made peace with the fact that there will be that eternal missing, that perpetual ache. Sometimes I have looked at other people, more carefree, and living their lives, or planning and living out their plans, and felt I have drawn the short straw; I have felt as if the past two years I have not lived, but simply hanging in there, trying not to fall off the cliff. But I have made peace and accepted that much as I wish it ain’t so, this is my life. This is me, a bereaved mother. I will love all my children, living and dead, and I will always be missing one.

This past weekend we went on a hike while staying at our cabin and while standing by the river on my own, Lyra wrapped snugly in the baby wrap, her head against my chest, my back towards R, some distance away trying to spot some fish in the river, and the girls trying to find treasures on the ground, I cried. I had a good cry. Short, but good. I stood by the river and recalled the many hikes we went on that autumn after Ferdinand died. We threw ourselves into Nature’s arms, hoping to find solace, trying to numb out that throbbing pain. I recall the many times I had stood at the edge of a cliff, looking at the ground far, far off, or the swirling water beneath, and felt that urge to jump off and end it all. I could almost stroke that urge, like a comfortable patch of blanket that I can hold in my palm. That urge came so often, and became like an old friend, and every time I had stepped back and declined. I still have my two living children. Moreover, I reminded myself Ferdinand is always with me, I need not jump to meet him. I had a good cry that afternoon while gazing at the river, thinking of that urge, thinking of my son.

I suspect there will be many more times like this, until perhaps one day when I no longer remember a thing, or perhaps when I finally be so wise and let go and let be. The thing is, I feel I let go and let be, at least I endeavor, but how can a worldly mother ever forget her sweet beloved little one?

It makes me stagger, this realization of a dagger forever turning slowly in my heart. And not trying to fight it, knowing that there is no turning back, and no other way. It just means I am living my life out on this earth, loving, having, losing, and grieving. Cherishing, marveling, and missing. It still makes me feel shredded though.

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got it!!

The Griffin & Sabine postcards. Complete. With some notecards thrown in even.

Thus is the power e.Bay.

I said I checked and they had nothing, but the key to this is persistence. (Not on my part, but my daughter’s) Well, actually, R found it on e.bay for her just two days ago, because she would not stop chewing on our ears. Somebody listed the entire set of postcards, still in box, together with a collection of notecards, she found at an estate sale.

We have been sitting on our fingers waiting for the auction to end, hoping that no other nut was out there looking for those postcards. I wanted to post here for good vibes but decided this is getting too nuts so I kept quiet.

The auction just ended four minutes ago and we sniped it.

And Val is over the hill crazy happy.

Thank you for your suggestions, and Erica for putting in the legwork.

Now life goes back to normal. As normal as normal can be.

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back

After taking a two-month break from Glow in the Woods (thanks to lovely Loribeth who contributed a most moving and beautiful guest post, and my friend Mani who offered up the first lesson, giving us a perspective from the point of a midwife), I am back with a new post today. Do visit if you have time.

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Blogroll stuff

I just want to let you all know that I have noticed the new names popping up in the comments. I know you are here. I wish you are not here, but still, thank you, and welcome, know that your presence means a ton to me. I have clicked on your blog and visited but have not had time to post meaningful comments in a long time, so please, your forgiveness.

I know my blogroll needs updating, if yours is not on the current list, please pretty please drop me an email via the contact form, or post a comment here so when I steal some moments I can slowly update the blogroll.

If I have been silent on your blog comments it just means my brains is still mush, but it does not mean my heart is not with you.

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casting net

So I am shamelessly exploiting the convenience, and power, of the internet. I need help. I’ve tried everything my peasy brain can think of and this is my last resort. If I pull this off, I get to be cool mom. If not, I guess all is then not lost, but still…

So, to begin from the very beginning… … years ago I bought the  Griffin & Sabine Triology. It is still one of my favorite books and sits on the bookshelf next to The Little Prince. I also at some point at that time of my life bought the complete postcards, but I’ve merely kept them, never used any of them. Then, last year while de-cluttering, I dusted the dust off the box of the postcards and decided to show them to the girls– and that is where the trouble starts.

They were fascinated. That is a good thing. I told them about the triology. They wanted to read them. Fine, so we read them, with some censorship on my part. (I assure you, very little censorship, I try to be open and honest but the sexual aspects I was not ready to deal with there and then, yet.) So the story had them hanging by their nails and finally, a couple of weeks ago, we finished reading the triology. And they were looking through the postcards again. By then, I had decided that I had no use for the postcards and gave those to them and they divided the cards equally, but then they got into a fight and the younger took one of the postcards and bent it and the older was heartbroken, for that was her favorite postcard of all.

So, for two weeks now she has been on the quest to buy an entire set of those postcards, because the thought of that one damaged card clawed at her being. She said she will replace the damaged card and then complete the collections for both she and her sister, since now they are each only having half of the collection. She counted her money over and over again, asking me to recall how much I paid for those, and wondering if 32 dollars and some cents will pay for a new set of those fascinating postcards?

Well, the thing is, those postcards are out-of-print. I’ve conducted an extensive online search,and of course I looked on the omnipotent e.bay but nothing came up. We went to Nick Bantock’s website but he will sell you some very expensive original artwork but not an old set of postcards. Indeed his website just looped us back to A.mazon. Sigh*

I have not been granted much peace over this, being alleged of not exerting complete use of my brains and failing to summon every ounce of my strength and energy to look into this very urgent and important life-or-death matter.

Believe me, I tried.

I also called the second-hand bookstores but they had nothing for me. One of them even had the cheek to tell me “Griffin and Sabine does not even ring a bell.” (What?!)

So, with deep breaths and much begging, I cast this net here. Do you happen to have a box of Griffin & Sabine postcards gathering dust under your bed? Do you know someone who may own such a set and would part with them for 32 dollars and some cents? If you pass by your local second-hand bookstore, will you remember my distraught daughter (and her even more distraught mother) and ask after Griffin & Sabine, the postcards? Will you spread the word that this search is on?

I thank you. Many times over. At least now I can say I tried everything and can die with a small measure of honor to my name, I think. Sigh*

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