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this is what it is

Hold onto what is good
even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold onto what you believe,
even if it is a tree which stands by itself.
Hold onto what you must do
even if it is a long way from here
Hold onto life
even when it is easier to let go.
Hold onto my hand
even when I have gone away from you.
~Peublo verse
 

Often it is the wisdom of others, filtered through centuries of tears and hearts, that speaks best for me.

I hold on to what is good, I will never forget my gratefulness of the quiet support I have gotten here.

I hold on to what I believe. One day he will come a-knocking.

I’ve held on to life, and continue my journey inward to find the core of my core.

I hold on to your hand, my sweet child, even though you are away.

I never let go, I never will.

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Happy 5th, Ferdinand

Five years.

I have nothing fresh to say. No new insights. No fresh relevations. No wisdom to share. I have walked but have not veered onto a new path. There are no shortcuts, no new vistas, little consolation.

To be fair, time does slowly exert her effects of a slow numb. Life inevitably piles on distractions so you sometimes forget about the wound a little. At times, the memory will seem so distant you feel you are looking through a frosted glass to a movie on the other side, the story of another, but not of yours. The screams muffled, the contours blurred. Only when the movie on the other side has ended will you realize you have your hand over your heart, throbbing and aching.

I still miss him, terribly much. But I do not always find the time or space on a daily basis to remember. I still experience disbelief. I still sometimes look around and wonder, where is he? Where are you? I still have the illusion that I have somehow absent-mindedly misplaced him, somewhere.

This is the first year we spend his birthday out of the country. Here, everyone wants us to forget and forge on. They want us to be whole again and to stop hurting. I did not make a cake, it is just impossible to swallow. Instead, I made a donation in Ferdinand’s honor to the Tibet Water Project to bring clean water to one of the poorest parts of Tibet. He was born dry. I hope others get to enjoy clean fresh water in his honor.

I am seeing a delayed grief response in S. She was almost four when Ferdinand was born, and did not fully grasp what was going on. I have seen her experience very intense emotions last year and this. She even wrote a story that to me was her effort to make reason of what had happened. Needless to say, it broke my heart. But there is nothing to do but to roll with the punches. I just hope she can find closure faster than I do.

I wish I were a better shiny example of how to walk this path, but here I am, just trudging on.

How we miss and love you, Ferdinand. Happy Birthday, our brave little star voyager! I am sure you are twinkling at us right this very second. We love and miss you, forever.

What I Learned from my Mother

I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewing even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.
~ Julia Kasdorf
:::::::::::::::::::::::::

My head is filling up again.

Last summer the to-do lists took over with tyranny. Every morning I sat up in bed and my brain powered on to reveal a never-ending to-do list or decisions to make or stuff to think about. But finally, we are slowly settling into our new home, finding our feet again, and I am not using the GPS as much anymore, my compass re-set.

I found a page in my journal of topics I would have liked to write about- on three different blogs. The ideas no longer seem fresh, the intense moment gone, but can be re-kindled. I still have things to say. Thank goodness. I guess that means I am still alive. I finally exhaled.

I read Julia Kasdorf’s poem and I wonder what my children learned from me. I know that since the summer of 2007 their biggest lessons could be: bad things happen. It is ok to cry. Mommy can be weak. Mommy can be so in pain she swears and rolls about on the floor. There are kind people always. Friends come and go, at least some of them.

I cannot teach you anything, that’s what I tell them. I can’t teach you, you will learn by yourself, because you want to. So I am not sure what they have picked up, and what they have internalized.

But I sure hope, that there will always be this softness and this grandness in their hearts, to reach out to the grieving with humble open palms, to abide with sorrow, to walk gently along. To live with an alertness and wide-open eyes, because we don’t know when. The moment is now.

But you know what? How I yearn to teach: to hold Ferdinand’s hand as he makes his first squiggly line, to hear his voice repeat my words, to point to a bird, flower, and leaf and say the name.

Ferdinand. I still miss. He fills my entire heart today.

tribute

Over the past months I have essentially disappeared from the cyber world. No time for FB, or any of the blogs. Never mind the streams of thoughts marching through my brain, some hoisting exclamation marks on their shoulders, others dragging a series of periods behind their feet. I do not know how to find the time to maintain my blogs, or follow up on others.

Thankfully there are some souls who kindly keep them in their orbit. Among them the impossibly beautiful, amazing and graceful Jenni. Today I come back here to write because I am twisted with grief and sadness, my heart breaks for Jenni and her family yet uplifted in a most bizarre way because of the magnitude of grace with which she had faced her journey.

In February 2009 Jenni bid goodbye to beautiful Angel Mae. She had abide with her grief since then, while reaching out to the community in her beautiful gracious ways. Last year after many trials she finally found herself with child again. Except her baby son Owen Christian was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 a month ago. Does heaven not have eyes? Does fate not know when to cease the tribulations? Does mercy not exist?

Yet Jenni and her family decided to continue with their journey, and with love. They vowed to surround baby Owen with as much love as possible. And the community rose to hold them.

Today is the day of hello and goodbye for Jenni, her family and dear Owen Christian. May they be surrounded by impenetrable peace and love. May Jenni and her son travel safe on their journey today. I am sending love and strength, even as I feel what I have is so paltry, wondering what do I have to give to a beautiful woman experiencing a monumental loss.

Welcome, Owen, welcome and be surrounded by so much love. You are sorely missed already.

silent scream

I am fairly sure I have a tumor growing within me. I have four blogs and some days I still feel I do not have a space to say what I wish to say to the world. I read that is how you grow a malignant tumor.

First, you child dies. You learn about it, you scream in disbelief, you beg, you bargain, plead and holler. It did not change the reality. And then you feel there is nothing more to say, you have been silenced.

I remember how I wished to shake every person I met by their shoulders, to tell them about Ferdinand. I needed people to acknowledge his existence, I needed my tragedy seen and nodded at, faces of pity.

And then the well-intentioned but poorly executed remarks came, and then I realize I need to go scream someplace else. Otherwise I am deemed unwise, silly, incapable of moving on and too overly egoistic to think that life ought to go the way I wish it to be.

So I came here and I wrote. Mostly in screams, with clenched teeth and shaking fists.Grabbing dirt by the fistfuls and rubbing them them into my hair. Throwing myself in the dust and refusing to budge.

It helped so much, to be able to expend that pent up energy that is at once love, anger, missing, resignation, devastation, defiance and sorrow. I am forever grateful for the sympathetic listening ears and compassion I have found here.

And then, I moved on, as people said I ought to. Life inched back to some semblance of a norm again and then I embarked upon a journey of being randomly tossed about in the sea of grief. Sometimes it was high waters of bitter grief and isolation, sometimes it felt like floating upon gentle waves that gently lull.

As I inch out, day by day, away from that fateful moment of four years ago, my screams became less frequent, and I became less vocal. I  felt less the urge to inject into my answers that I not only had three living daughters but also one son who is not earth-side. I began to think, What is the point? It is never going to change a thing. I may just hear something stupid again or make people feel awkward. It will not bring him back to life, and it does not ameliorate my hurt and grief. This horrible gap between Sophia and Lyra will never be filled. This ache will never cease. People must get so sick of hearing the same old thing again. This grief and recurring feel of horror is not welcomed like the first hint of green in spring. I do not wish to feel that sense of dread when I talk to people.

And so, I walked on. Quieter and at times not even making the effort to part my lips to speak. It does not reflect the ebb of grief, but rather its internalization. First it was something that happened to me, now it is me. At least, a part of me. When I open my eyes in the morning he is there; when I toss about in my sleep, he is there. He is deep within, never here, never gone.

I still miss him deeply, but now it is a silent scream within.

++

Today four years ago was the day we found out he was dead. This post is inspired by Jess‘s wonderful post over at Glow in the Woods.

My dear friends,

you have always been here but invisible. It was with Ferdinand’s death that you and your worlds became visible to me. I realized that every day, mothers’ hearts are broken, bent over their babies they will not get to see grow up. Though we may never meet, you have made life after so much more bearable, even beautiful. You are not just company, but also comfort and inspiration. Once again, I thank you.

I need your help here. I have been contacted by a mother whose daughter will only get to keep one of her twins. I know some of you know this story well, and I understand how going back to the beginning of the story once again must hurt. So I appreciate any way you can help. M will have two grand-children, both names starting with L. One is a boy and one will be a girl. Baby girl L may not get to breathe life outside her mother’s womb, while baby boy L is looking healthy. M is wondering about the announcements and how to go about it. I am also wondering about any support sites or groups out there for their circumstances.

Your ideas, suggestions and experiences are going to be most useful and deeply appreciated.

 

Much love and gratitude,

Janis

 

encounters

So my family made it over to New York. It is all big changes, it feels very different. The light, the abundance of trees, the rain we have been getting, the roads, the building, the people. Not exactly strange and foreign, but very different.

It had been most insane and and we are not arriving at sane any time soon.

Often, of course, we troop out and people look us over, size us up, and help us count our children and ascertain their gender, and then inform us, “You have three girls!” Every morning I look and I count, and yes, I have three girls. And a boy, Ferdinand.

We just nod and smile and say nothing. They like to tell us they have three too, but all boys, or that they have one more- four girls! We nod and smile some more.

Last Saturday we have a very nice, retired couple come into our temporary apartment. They had been sent on an assignment to put together the girls’ bunk bed. Somehow our movers did not pack the hardware, they were nowhere to be found, so the company sent out this couple, who specialize in things like that (and also repairing anything that movers had damaged, and they showed us their photo album– they truly can repair anything. However, I was less impressed with what they could do, than with what could happen. For me, that album was a book of miracles and horrors). They looked over the parts, went out and found some hardware, and made some parts themselves, and put the girls’ bed together. They also asked if we would like to try for a boy, “Wouldn’t you want to have a boy?”

R and I looked at each other, and then he smiled weakly and said, “Oh, we are all done.”  There was awkwardness in that room. Maybe they wished they had not asked, and we wished hey hadn’t asked, and I was on the verge of telling them that we do have a son, but he is not alive. I did not because hey were stacking the beds then and I was afraid everything will topple and fall.

::

We have been looking for a house that we can call home. It had not been easy finding something we like. Either too old requiring too much work, too small, too compartmentalized, or the kitchen was a joke. But in any case, we will need our house in AZ to sell first, so we are keeping fingers very crossed that it goes fast.

Still we are looking, to get an idea of the market, and it had been helpful understanding the houses here. So many different issues we have to consider, and we realize there will also be more work maintaining a house here than back in Phoenix, due to climate differences.

Yesterday we went to an open house. The neighborhood was great and beautiful. The house was old, but we liked the good-sized rooms and the screened porch and the yard was decent and green. R had some concerns with regard the heating/cooling elements and while the realtor answered our questions she told us the seller was “very motivated” (meaning, she had lowered the price by 40 thousand, and will even do so further, as she wanted the house off her hands). But I think she also did not want us to think it was because the house had major problems so she offered, “Her husband passed away, and this is a lot of house for her. She is anxious to sell it.”

The house has been on the market for four months.

I have no idea how long they lived in the house, but from the looks of it, it was a long time. I don’t know how he died, but I could viscerally feel how the past months had been for her. I still freshly remember packing up the cabin, putting away Ferdinand’s things and my heart is still broken. As we walked back out to our car, I felt tears rising, and as I stood and waited for R to scoop out the front and back yard, I looked up at the sky and see the green tree tops and I wondered if I was wanting to cry for myself or for the female owner of the house.

It was a lovely, old house. Walking through and seeing everything you can sense a lot of happy memories in there and all the work that had been done there. There was a library lined with books. And a lot of baby/toddler stuff, which must have been the grandchildren, and I imagine the male owner being missed by so many people. I selfishly thought of myself too, what if one day I am on my own, it will totally break me to have to deal with everything and then have the house cleaned and beautifully decorated, so strangers can come walk through and peek into bits of our private lives, and maybe, buy it from me. What will I be selling then? Memories, or parts of a heart?

Life is so crazy in that way. How happy memories can turn bittersweet with a change of events. We have, in order to lose. The very same thing that brought you joy can and will bring you sorrow too.