42 Million Heartbeats

You died on a Saturday. I remember thinking it was too beautiful a day for death; too beautiful for your slip from pink, to gray, to gold. But now I know Death comes, regardless of swaths of stars. Regardless of being held by the sun and kissed open by the wind. Death comes. Plucking each petal from its bloom in a garden I didn’t plant.

Death comes.

I’d talked to you the day before yours came. I’d said hard things, things I’d packed and unpacked in the suitcase of my soul, things that seemed boxy and awkward falling from my lips as my 4-month old screamed, strapped to my chest.

I was angry.

So angry.

In those moments, I was the person I had always been told to be: the one who was firm, who didn’t back down, who stated facts with precision. And I thought it’d feel good. That there’d be a cleansing.

But there wasn’t.

And I didn’t.

I thought of calling back that night. I thought of telling you one more time that I loved you, that I just wanted to keep you longer. But I only thought it. I didn’t do it. And after I woke the next morning, I was told you didn’t do the same.


The moments, hours, and days that followed were a blur. And if I’m being truthful, many still are. Because the hole in my heart is your size and shape, Dad. And while you wouldn’t want that; it’s there. And always will be.


365 days and roughly 42 million heartbeats have passed painfully since your last breaths left me breathless…unmoored…


So today…

I will turn my face toward the sky, where your name is written in puffs of white and sunlight,

where your heart beats Forever,


I will try

to be






After #Orlando: A Letter From Mother to Son

It’s 4 am and a crescent of light falls near your left temple, as a whir of chilled air fills the room. You are snuggled next to me–your slight, warm body curved round my own–and I hear the sweet sounds of your suckling; the rhythm, so delicate, nearly lulls me to sleep.

I know when you’re finished, you’ll sigh, turn your head to the side, and push your lower lip out in tender protest. I will carefully remove the pillows from beneath your head and lift you toward me as our breath becomes one. And then, stepping from bed, I’ll carry you silently to your crib while patting your back in time with the beat of my heart.

In those last moments before sleep, you will hold your arms to your chest and then, like honey from its dipper, peel them away in one languid movement, leaving them prone at your side.

This sweet image, of your wide-open arms, is what stays with me as I hear of our nation’s latest tragedy.

I think of them and imagine a night of dancing and fun cut short by a hailstorm of lead. I think of them and imagine innocents begging for life, folding themselves ever so small, attempting to disappear. I think of them and imagine terrorized souls hiding in bathrooms and a/c vents, cowering beneath tables, chairs, and bodies. I think of them and imagine receiving a text, as Mina Justice received from her son, Eddie:

Mommy I love you

In the club they shooting  

Trapp in the bathroom

Call police

Im gonna die


In these wee hours, I think of your wide-open arms, your innocence, your precious life and feel a familiar warmth on my cheeks–a warmth that solemnly whispers:

You can’t protect him, no matter how hard you try.

I wish I could tell you no harm will come to you, sweet boy. That as long as you choose love and light you will be saved from hatred and darkness. But none of us are afforded such certainty.

Not. One.

There will always be those who choose the strident siren of violence over the softer strum of dialogue. Who find justification for hostility and intolerance in the pages of sacred texts and the name of sacred beings. Who mistake fanaticism for faith and forget the human element of humanity. There will always be those whose very existence is in direct opposition to your own.

And in moments of chaos and grief, when it’s easier to hate, I beg you: please don’t. Choose love. Be stretched by it, dear one, and grow in it.

Every parent’s worst nightmare is losing a child. I know that in a way I didn’t before.

Whether lost through accident or malicious intent, outliving one’s children goes against the laws of nature and much higher laws of heart and soul. It is unnatural, unthinkable…

and simply

Today, 50 sets of parents are living that nightmare.

Today, 50 sets of parents are remembering their child’s sweet slumber.

Today, 50 sets of parents are remembering their child’s wide-open arms.

F. I. F. T. Y.

So, this evening, as I lay you in sleep’s warm embrace, I’ll pray for those affected by such senseless brutality and those with the power and privilege to stop it. And then I will pray for you, my sweet. For your life. For your heart. And your wide-open arms.



Spring’s Sweet Arrival

A gaggle of geese return to our street each winter
while migrating from one place to another.
They arrive in January, around my husband’s birthday,

and I am surprised to find them behind our house,
honking like cab drivers in traffic. Most leave with
babies but one pair can’t manage to have any;

I’ve watched them sit for years on a wet nest of death,
warming unhappiness. It is only when the other
geese swim past them, proudly displaying

a line of live chicks, that they realize they have
failed again, their eggs silent beneath the love
of their feathers. My neighbors and I don’t agree

on much but we all watch these geese from our
windows, with binoculars sometimes, our breakfast
growing cold on the table. We wish the unsuccessful

ones would have a season of luck, their eggs healthy
and well placed, for each of us has known the pleasure
of spring, the way it feels for something closed

to open: the soft, heavenly weather of arrival.

“Geese” by Faith Shearin from Moving the Piano.


For nearly eight years, my husband and I have been the “unsuccessful ones”, our “silent eggs” s.t.i.l.l. beneath the weighty love of expectant feathers. We have looked upon the happiness of countless friends and loved ones. We have cried tears of joy with them. And have tried to see ourselves not as passed over or less fortunate, but as richly blessed…in ways meant only for us. Parts of our journey were heartrending, others life giving, but all have contributed to our present moment: five weeks away from parenthood and a complete and utter shift in life as we know it.


During this sacred time, an inward turn was necessary. Instead of sharing the threads of my heart in this space, I’ve shared them, both written and spoken, with my child. I have pondered who I am becoming and how that person seems both foreign and familiar. I have imagined our new normal. I have hoped. Prayed. And I have embraced a running current of gratitude for that which we don’t yet have.


As part of the loss community, the elusive happy ending is never far from one’s thoughts, but my mantra over these past eight months has been:

Be. Present.

I haven’t wanted to get ahead of myself.

I couldn’t.

I didn’t.

So I’ve stayed.




In my absence, many of you have reached out in love, concern, and friendship. Please know how deeply your sentiments are felt and how grateful I am for your affection and connection.

As any new parent, I’m unsure what the coming weeks and months will bring (and equally unsure what this space will become–bear with me on that, please). I simply (or not so simply) hope to be both the mother I’ve envisioned and the mother baby M so richly deserves.




There are moments when we choose to look into someone or look away. This is one of them. If you have it to give, please consider donating. If you don’t, please consider keeping these sweet people in heart as they move forward and rebuild what was razed to the ground. Be the Village. If not in pocketbook, then in heart and soul. #1000Speak

Emerging to Own Myself Again


Some time ago, fellow blogger and sister-in-loss, Justine Froelker, reached out and asked me to review a chapter of her upcoming book, Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life. I’ll admit I was hesitant, since reading and somehow “grading” a person’s heart notes can be scary, especially if the relationship isn’t the stuff of marrow and soul. But I wanted to do it for her, in honor of the heart shards we share.

The chapter title which spoke to me most was Chapter 8: Emerging to Own Myself Again. The visual representation I had was of a wounded butterfly recocooning itself to heal, yet reemerging, after a Season of grief and recovery, better and stronger because of its traumas or, as Justine calls them, “soul scars”. It is precisely that image that Justine puts into words:

It was with these words, “own and not just prove”, that I felt my calling, my purpose. I needed to own every single part of my story and not just prove it. I needed to stop trying to prove that my path is okay. That not doing another round of IVF is okay. That not being a mother is okay. That not adopting is okay. Stop trying to prove it and just own it. Own my struggles in the IVF world. Own that I stopped treatments. Own that I don’t want to adopt. Own that I am more than childless. Own that I will practice and fight for my recovery and my own childfree life.

Despite the fact that our stories are similar, I don’t pretend to understand all that Justine has suffered. I am, now more than ever, keenly aware of the breadth and depth of the loss spectrum. And surely, if I have learned anything about grief and recovery, it is that each is uniquely personal. Truly, a pebble thrown in the well of the heart will never make exactly the same ripple twice. And I believe it is designed that way. As my husband says, “God is not a god of repetition”: no two trees are alike, no two flowers and yes, no two traumas are either.

Justine’s chapter reminds me of this and what waits for us on the other side:

We are only capable of understanding so much in this life, and maybe we’re only allowed to understand so much. Maybe I will always have to create this constant balance between finding my purpose through the story of my struggle, making sure it means more, at least to me, and trusting that it will still mean just as much without the soul-completing clarity I so desire.

Perhaps the anger will hang on; perhaps the question of whether or not to try again will be a daily, if not an hourly, one; perhaps our sacred light will be snuffed out, at least for awhile; but Justine reminds us that there is more after loss. There is joy, and purpose, and yes…

There. Is. Life.

If you need that reminder, or if you’d like to share that reminder with someone else, you can pre-order now or purchase the book on October 1, 2014 here .

Until I spin my next web,

What forgiveness is

“No one’s need to be heard is so great that they should kill.”

– Jo Berry, Beyond Right & Wrong:  Stories of Justice and Forgiveness

But we were all too scared

I. Forgive. You.

Three little words.

One immense impact.

We have all been forgiven and been asked to forgive.  It is as vital to life as the beats of our hearts.  But I wonder: how far is its reach?  Does it slip into the back pews of churches?  Does it sleep in the annals of international cities? Does it accompany a murderer as he walks toward his death?  Does it take refuge in places we dare never go?

I have forgiven many things: the heartrending and the petty, the soul-stealing and the trivial.  But I have never forgiven another human being for killing someone I love.  I have never seen scarlet ribbons descend from their bodies or heard their terror-filled screams. I have never been put in that place and pray I never will.  But the people in the documentary Beyond Right & Wrong:  Stories of Justice and Forgiveness have.  They exhale the loss and pain of those whose loved ones were taken, and inhale the redemptive power of forgiveness.

Watch Beyond Right & Wrong for free

Jo and Pat

From left to right:  Jo Berry, Robi Damelin and Patrick Magee

From left to right: Jo Berry; Robi Damelin, spokesperson for The Parents Circle Tel Aviv; and Patrick Magee.  Image via http://www.buildingbridgesforpeace.org

Jo Berry, founder of Building Bridges for Peace, is one such person.  Her father, Sir Anthony Berry, was one of five killed in the October 12, 1984 bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England.  Patrick Magee, the IRA soldier who planted the bomb, served 14 years in prison and was released in 1999 as part of the Good Friday Peace Agreement.  The two met for the first time in November 2000.

Pat has said this about Jo:

Well, one thing that, um, hit me, uh, after…I couldn’t tell you when exactly this happened.  You talked about your father and I got more a picture.  He was a human being, who had shaped you.  In other words, um, all the things that I admire in you came, in some measure, from your father <sil>. That means this was a fine human being <sil>.  And I killed him.

Berry and Magee have since shared a platform upwards of 100 times.  They work together to encourage non-violence and to opt for dialog and reconciliation versus revenge and retaliation.  While their interactions are not easy, Berry is learning “to give up blame and choose empathy.”

Bassam and Rami

Bassam on the left.  Rami on the right.  Image via www.the guardian.com

Bassam on the left. Rami on the right. Image via http://www.theguardian.com

Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian Muslim, and Rami Elhanan, an Israeli Jew and son of a Holocaust survivor, both lost their daughters.  Abir Aramin was standing outside her school when she was shot by an Israeli soldier.  She was 10.  Smadar Elhanan was walking to get books with two friends in Jerusalem when she crossed paths with two suicide bombers.  She was 14.

Image courtesy of Rami Elhanan via www.972mag.com

Image courtesy of Rami Elhanan via http://www.972mag.com

Their fathers are now members of Combatants for Peace, a movement of Palestinians and Israelis who were once dedicated fighters and now seek to end the conflict through dialogue and non-violence.

“We have both lost our daughters,” Rami says.  “We both paid the highest price possible.  Our blood is the same color.  Our pain in exactly the same pain and our tears are just as bitter.”

Bassam adds:

Abir’s murder could have led me down the easy path of hatred and vengeance, but for me there was no return from dialogue and non-violence. After all, it was one Israeli soldier who shot my daughter, but one hundred former Israeli soldiers who built a garden in her name at the school where she was murdered.

Bassam and Rami remain friends and have worked on a project documenting their lives, losses and steps toward peace.  It is called Within the Eye of the Storm: When Enemies Turn to Brothers.

Beata and Emmanuel

Beata Mukangarambe is a Rwandan genocide survivor; her five children are not.

Beata Mukangarambe_five children killed in genocide

“One day, a man came to see me…. He said, ‘Let me tell you something that makes me sad. I am the man who killed your children. Can you forgive me?’”

That man was Emmanuel Bamporiki.  He had just been released from prison after serving seven years for crimes committed in the genocide.  He spoke of his own personal pain.  Of being haunted by those he killed.  Of hearing the voices of children screaming for their mothers as they were chased down by men wielding machetes.

Beata collapsed.

Emmanuel went to beg her forgiveness three more times.  When she finally accepted these were her words to him:

“I have forgiven you.  I will never be angered by you again.  If you have a bicycle, do give me a lift.  If I have something that you do not have, I’ll share.  That is all.”

The lesson

Forgiveness does not erase the past.  It does not equal permission and does not mean you agree with the offender or his offense.  It means that you release him from judgment and release yourself from bitterness, hatred, and revenge.  Forgiveness is recognition that among our human complexities is our ability to do both good and evil, house both good and evil.  But that evil does not make us inhuman.  It makes us imperfect.

When I wake in the morning, I remind myself of who I could be:

I could be Israeli with eyes the color of sea glass and waist-length hair.  I could be a skinhead.  I could be a Tutsi child with legs like dandelion stems and a swollen belly.  I could be a terrorist ready to die for my cause.  I could be your sister, your mother, your enemy.  I could be you.  And you?  You could be me.

And if instead of backing away in fear, I walk forward, extend my hand and place it over your heart, its rhythm would feel the same as mine would to you.

Two hearts.  One heart.

One human heart.

With one message: forgive.



Building Bridges for Peace.  WordPress. 2014. Web. 28 July 2014. <http://www.buildingbridgesforpeace.org&gt;

Spottiswoode, R. (Director), & Singh, L. (Producer). (2012). Beyond Right & Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness [Documentary]. United States: Article 19 Films.

Within the Eye of the Storm. n.p. n.d.  Web. 2 August 2014.  <http://www.withineyeofstorm.com&gt;

To the three little souls who would’ve heard my heartbeat from the inside

flowering hearts

I’m sorry I haven’t written.

The holidays are hard.

Hard because you’re not here.

And hard because a part of me isn’t either.

The first notable snowfall came this week and I thought of you.  I imagined playing with you in the sugary mantle, watching your cheeks turn that shade of pink that the winter wind and cold bring.  I imagined your mittened hands reaching for mine, inviting me to make snow angels as the sun warmed our faces and your giggles warmed the places of my heart long cold.

I imagined twinkling lights, a perfect pine and a house that smelled of cinnamon and hot chocolate. I imagined Bing Crosby crooning and sitting together on the floor, your tiny fingers trying to keep the ribbon taut as I tied bow after bow on elegantly wrapped packages.

I imagined teaching you how to make the famous two-tone fudge.  How you would pour the chocolate chips into the big metal bowl.  How I’d mix and mix and mix until my arms hurt.  And how you’d stand on tippy-toe anxiously awaiting your chance to lick the beaters (just as I did with Grandma).

I imagined you had my pretty hair and your Daddy’s pretty heart.

And I imagined you holding my hand to your cheek (as your cousin does) and sighing deeply knowing you were safe.

And loved.

And cherished.

I imagined you knew how much you were wanted.

How much we cried when we found out you were coming.

And how much we cried when we found out you weren’t.

I imagined that you forgave me for anything I might have unknowingly done that made you go away.

And that you forgave me for wanting to go away too.

And I think…

I imagined that I didn’t imagine you.

That you had never gone away.

That I hadn’t needed to be so brave.

That I hadn’t needed to send all my love upward instead of giving it to you. Here.

That I hadn’t needed to hope that Leslie’s mom had walked the halls of Heaven, found you and held you (like she told me she knew she would).  And that you had made friends with Jaclyn, Alan and the twins, who were also taken too soon, and whose parents Mommy knows and loves.

That I hadn’t needed to imagine what you’d smell like and feel like cradled in my arms.

That I hadn’t needed to imagine our home sprinkled with baby dust, peppered with dirty diapers and fussing, and blanketed with the sweetness of exhaustion.

That I hadn’t needed to imagine everything because your departure left me with nothing.

That. I. hadn’t. needed…

to. imagine. at. all.

I’ll write more soon, precious ones.

Until then and with all my heart,


P.S.  Don’t worry…we’ll save the fudge making for Heaven.

three clouds