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

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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
unbearable.

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.

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To Grieving Fathers on Father’s Day

Whether you began here

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or here,

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your goal was this

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and eventually this.

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But something went terribly wrong.

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So you’ve spent more time here

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and here

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than you planned.

When they call to ask about her,

you tell them.

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When they neglect to ask about you,

you think, It’s okay. I’m okay.

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And when they say things like:

“God has a plan”

“Time heals all wounds”

“Everything happens for a reason”

you remember they say it for themselves.

Because…

there. are. no. words.

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You try to give her this

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and this,

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but nothing helps.

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And you find yourself here

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caught between these.

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You remember life before,

when this word was everywhere

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instead of this one.

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And the two of you looked like this

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instead of this.

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Wherever you are on your journey…

whether you’ve chosen this

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or this,

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I hope you’ve found a way to honor your babies

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and each other.

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*All images are public domain images, unless marked with a Blooming Spiders URL stamp*

Dear Uterus: You Are a Murderous Bastard

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In my head, murderous bastard just isn’t right. I mean, certainly there are more eloquent ways to express my hatred of your serial killing, your incompetence when nurturing a fertilized ovum, and your obvious disdain for human life. But nothing comes, so murderous bastard it is.

In days past, I looked down at women who were in the place I now find myself. I thought how very sad it must be to be them. How very unfortunate not to make lemonade out of the lemons so viciously hurled at us in the forms of infertility, miscarriage and neonatal death. But today I think lemonade is overrated. And anger? It’s pretty liberating.

I’ve always been the one who sought out the right thing and hiked the high road. And I’ve prided myself on the fact that even in the most soul searing of circumstances, I haven’t lost my shit. I guess I thought that keeping myself together meant success, but what it really meant was an excuse not to feel as deeply as one needs in order to heal. Because something happens when a thing or person is broken, there are shards that go missing which forever change the shape of the traumatized vessel. And you realize, then and there, that wholeness takes on an entirely different meaning.

You, dear uterus, have one job to do in your miserable, pear-shaped life and that is to oversee the development of an embryo and fetus. Sadly, you have failed three heartbreaking times. In any other circumstance, you would have received a sincere come to Jesus, been put on leave, or been relieved of your duties. Because obviously, if you can’t perform, what are you really worth? But I held on, hoping you’d redeem yourself. Hoping that I wouldn’t have to hate you the way I have and do now.

After baby loss number 3, I sat as judge and jury. It would have been easy for me to give you death. I mean, you meet the basic requirements of a serial killer, don’t you: “someone who murders more than three victims one at a time in a relatively short interval”? I thought of what it’d be like to push the button that sent the needle into your arm. But drifting off to sleep never to wake was too good for you. You needed hard time. You needed to realize what your neglect caused. And who isn’t here because of it.

I was all too happy to lead you to the cell where you’d be left to think on your offenses. And when I locked you inside and swallowed the key I thought everything had been made right: you were where you should be and I had a second chance. What I didn’t realize was that since that day, I’ve been locked inside that cell with you. I’ve been my own prisoner. And I’ve been yours, as well.

Life gets in the way of life sometimes. It certainly has in my case. I did what I was supposed to: I fell in love, got married and tried to start a family. I played by the rules, but I didn’t win any jackpot in the form of sweet-smelling lumps of flesh whose giggles are like jumper cables to the heart. I didn’t win anything short of loss and heartache. And I’ve felt angry about that. I have.

I feel the anger rise when I read another story of an unwanted child who was beaten, neglected or murdered. I feel it when I meet women who don’t question that their pregnancies will be successful, who don’t know what I know. I feel it when I’m accused of being selfish when refusing to watch a video of a friend’s newborn or when I can’t drag myself to another baby shower. I feel it when I’m the only non-mother in a circle of women complaining about what a bitch motherhood is. I feel it nearly every day.

Today is laced with thoughts of Jasmine French and the film Blue Jasmine. In it she declares, “…there’s only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming.” This is me taking to the streets. This is me screaming. This is me:

Broken. Barren. Beyond.

I don’t know what the future holds, dear uterus, but if you ever find yourself in a position to hold life again, would you please hold it?

Because it’d be nice not to hate you anymore.

It really would.

An Open Letter About Time

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Dearest Reader,

I received a call four days ago. It was one of those calls; the kind that even the phone knows is bad. I was told my father couldn’t speak or move. He had been found that way. “The ambulance is on its way,” she said. “We’ll call once we have more information.”

In the car, I looked through my phone and changed my background to one of him and me. Then I went and listened to my voicemails. The most recent was him saying “You’re never available.” then a click. I couldn’t move–couldn’t breathe really–and began thinking: What was it he said again?  I take what money and put it where? And where are those documents? And then I call whom?

I thought of the little black dress I had bought months ago. The one I was supposed to return, but didn’t. I thought about how scared he might be. I thought about why I was in Indianapolis instead of with him. Why I hadn’t called once we’d reached the hotel. By my calculations, if I would have, it would have been minutes after the stroke hit, buying him and his brain precious time.

I thought of many things.

I thought of how my father was a snipe hunter. How he befriended them and lured them into his confidence. For those of you that know snipes are birds, good for you. At four years of age, however, I was told they were monsters (think of Stripe from the Gremlins, but more vicious, flanked by 20 of his closest friends) that hunted naughty children.

The snipes appeared whenever I was bad, which was pretty often. They laid in wait in the refrigerator the morning after I failed to eat my broccoli. They were concealed beneath my bed after I’d told yet another lie and nipped at my nightgown until I made it safely to the bathroom. Dad said they wouldn’t follow me there (a No Snipe Zone, I was told); nonetheless, knowing they were out there waiting was simply too much. I had a snipe-induced accident right there on the bathroom floor.

They were also known to vacation in the shrubbery framing our suburban home. I never saw them, but I smelled them and Dad confirmed their presence daily. My five-year-old best friend was so terrified of them and, yes, of the peeing incident, that he tiptoed home when they were around, preferring to carry his Big Wheel instead of riding it.

I thought about how Dad was well known, but not well liked in our neighborhood. Most people feared him and for good reason, including freckled Johnny. He was the bus stop bully who tormented my sister to tears. I’ll never forget the day Johnny went too far. Dad took off in his car, Johnny on his bike (not good odds for Johnny). Suffice it to say, Johnny never bothered her again.

And then there was Christmas 1984. Dad warned that Santa didn’t bring presents to little girls who bit their nails, that his trusty elves, employed year round, would out me to Santa and ruin my chances of a big haul. But nothing fazed me: not the threats, the Stop-zit regularly applied to my nails, or the sparkly Michael Jackson gloves I’d been made to wear to school.

When the day of reckoning arrived, my sister and I, clad in matching rainbow-cuffed Maui outfits, made the swift descent to the living room (okay, so her descent was swift. I hobbled down the stairs, through a minefield of Idaho potatoes.). I neglected to see the tear-streaked faces of my family then, at least one horrified, the others merely entertained, as my Dad placed an emergency phone call to the big man himself. He got Mrs. Claus instead who told him there just might be an elf in the area who’d take pity on my poor nail-biting soul if I promised never, ever to chew them again. Of course, I agreed (at four, you don’t quite grasp the finality of never, ever), after which I was sent upstairs to wait on Santa and a random elf’s good graces.

My presents finally arrived and, no, I never bit my nails again. But I never looked at potatoes in quite the same way either. I’ve made my peace with them now, but there was a time when just the sight of one made me cry. In fact, for about three years, I wouldn’t touch them, not even French fried type, which I loved nearly as much a chocolate ice cream without the chocolate syrup (the syrup puts it in a whole other category).

You can imagine my surprise then–after the snipes, the elves and the payback to neighborhood bullies–at seeing my father lying in a hospital room, stripped of any of his usual antics: no scheming twinkle in his eye, no pots of interest to stir. I watched his chest slowly rise and fall. Machines crowded the room. Tubes ran up and down his body—life giving tributaries feeding his heart—as he lay there, completely prone and tumescent. All I could do was stand and stare, praying for him to finally speak and say something funny and yet disconcerting, which only he can do so masterfully.

His hair, recently cut and still parted in that way that neither confirms nor denies boyish charm, was a soft place for my hand to fall. Nostrils, normally flared in defiance, did so involuntarily as his face turned toward the sound of someone or something familiar. The lights, turned down low, cast a sullen glow over him and I felt fear. Stabbing. Hand-wringing. Fear.

As I stood over him, noticing the deep crease in his left earlobe and the shallow pulse in his neck, I thought nothing of the man he hadn’t been. Nothing. Every harsh word exchanged, every disappointment, every hurt, vanished. All I could see was my father. And what surged my heart in those moments was simply this: Who will he become if he survives? And who will I become if he doesn’t?

Standing there, I thought about him teaching me to fish, to dance and to play dashboard drums. I thought about him lying next to me and holding my hand as I suffered our second miscarriage. I thought about the bills that arrived afterward and him handing me an envelope with an invoice slip inside; only one word was handwritten there: paid. I thought about listening to the Oldies and him quizzing me as to who was crooning.

And then I thought about time. How, depending on our stage in life, we either have too much or too little. How it is one resource that once spent, we never get back.

The truth is we each could be one car ride, one phone call, one smile, one I love you away from crossing the starry veil of this life into the next.

One.

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So today, I ask you to do something:

Forgive. Ask to be forgiven.

Speak. Be silent.

Make that visit.

Make that call.

Have that conversation (the one that could change everything).

Stop waiting.

And make time.

Me and Dad_pic monkey

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The curse of looking happy

Only if it's the "fruit" of contentment

Only if it’s the “fruit” of contentment.

You’ve heard it before, “Well, [insert appropriate subject pronoun here] look(s) happy”. And so they are pronounced as such.  We go about our way.  They often go home and cry.  We too easily forget that smiles are often a coaxed response of self, not Soul.  In that way, they don’t equate to happiness that exists; oftentimes, they equate to happiness one hopes we believe exists.

I write this because I have a contagious smile.  It has opened doors and closed them gracefully behind me and it has also led others to believe that I am boundlessly happy at all times.  I was recently told this: “You’re always happy, Dani.  That’s a wonderful thing!” As I sat there perplexed by her comment, I asked myself, what is wonderful about that?

If I have learned anything, it’s that we were gifted a spectrum of emotion for a reason.  Every emotion is valid and deserves to be felt deeply, even sadness.  But many are uncomfortable with that.  We’re fed images and stories of others who “laugh through pain” and “smile through tears” and somehow that abnormality becomes what’s expected.

A dear friend told me in conversations past that, “an apple tree can no more grunt out an orange than an orange tree can grunt out an apple.”  That’s not what’s inside them.  So that’s not what will be manifest outside them.  As humans, we are a bit more complex than fruit trees, which complicates the matter a bit, because we can be wading waist deep in despair and still grunt out the” fruit” of happiness:  a smile.

Honestly, I think this goes deeper, much deeper, than we realize.  And since I’m a heart and soul excavator, I’m unafraid to search those depths.  I believe there is a certain discomfort for others when our feelings are not in line with theirs, like we might upset the balance of their happiness if we anchor into our sadness.  Or, a greater discomfort, that our anchoring into that sadness, makes them more aware of their own.

Take this example: last week we hosted a visitor from Brazil.  During a long car ride, R had an emotionally-charged phone conversation with a manager of ours.  My chest began to tighten and I seriously thought of making a run for it when he came to a rolling stop.  You see, I don’t deal well with words spoken loudly or harshly (actually, let’s be honest, I don’t deal with conflict well. Period.), so my immediate reaction was to shut down and find the nearest exit.  L, our visitor, was distressed, as I turned inward and became notably quiet, to which she asked, “Dani, can we just make the time nice?  I’m only going to be here a few days…can you just be happy and normal again?”  I thought about that and about the self-sacrificing person I have been for most of my life and responded:

No, I can’t.  I’m upset right now and it’s okay to be upset.  I’m not going to pretend that I’m feeling something I’m not to make everyone else feel okay.  I need to feel what I’m feeling in this moment so I can move past it.

And that was that: feelings were felt, subsequently moved through, and richer days followed.  My world didn’t end because I was sad, but in that moment, perhaps she felt hers might.

A few days ago I had another conversation.  It went like this:

P: “So, how are you?  I thought I was going to have to gather a search party!”

Me: “Well…I’ve been pretty sad lately.  You know this time of year is hard for me.”

P: “It is?  Why?  I thought you loved Christmas!?!”

Me: “I do, but this time of year everyone is out with their children making memories and creating traditions and I miss mine.  I miss the ‘would be’ of them and it makes me sad.”

P: “Well, I think you just need to work yourself past that.”

Me: “I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with being sad.  I want to feel it and feel it deeply.  If I do that, I’ll be able to get past it.  For now.”

And the conversation continued.  You see, she didn’t want me to feel sad.  My sadness made her uncomfortable because there was nothing she could do about it.  But if I moved past it, often by walking around it rather than through it, she would have nothing to feel uncomfortable about.

A few months ago, a beautiful friend wrote me this:

Dani, it is curious that when I read your replies on my iPad, a red heart appears at the end. On my computer, I see a heart with the less than symbol and a 3. I believe your heart is greater than 3, through the heartache you have suffered and your choice not to allow pain to define you.

I had noticed the less than symbol and the 3 but I hadn’t made that connection until her words brought me the much needed heart treasures of perspective and Light.  I know my pain doesn’t define me, neither does my sadness, or anger, or frustration or jealousy.  And I would much rather my face be a canvas painted by the raw emotion of Heart, than the domesticated emotion of expectation.

There is purpose in pain and sacredness in sadness.  When we allow ourselves the gifts of emotion, we open ourselves up to a better understanding of Soul.  So, the next time you see a smile, don’t assume it’s the fruit of happiness. And, especially during this Season of outward celebration, remember the inward suffering of those who received that diagnosis, are struggling without that/those loved one(s), or are complexly lost in a found place.  Extend some grace to yourself and those around you.  And remember: the world won’t come to an end if you let yourself feel, but your world might if you don’t.

Unless you extend your heart, do away with expectations, and ask.

Unless you extend your heart, do away with expectations, and ask.

Healing, like grief, comes in waves

I have avoided Orlando for four years. In my most honest places, that is what’s whispered to me as we pull in and see a small figure waiting for us in the doorway: that of my 94-year-old grandmother, Catherine. She is smaller than I remember, frailer too, but she still gives the best hugs: the kind where her hands run up and down your back, making a final squeeze near your shoulder blades. The kind that give you enough time to take in her scent: Swiss lotion mixed with a hint of Neutrogena.

The house remains the same: the kitchen linoleum still feels tacky beneath my bare feet, the pictures lining the shelves and walls are in precisely the same place, the back bathroom still smells of Dove soap.

Four years ago we were here and found out we were expecting for the second time. The first hadn’t ended well, but we were hopeful despite. I remembered the wee hours of that July morning, waiting for EPT to confirm what my heart already had. I remembered our walk afterward, talking about how everything would change. How the blessing of that sacred knowledge would remain Ours until the right time.

How the right time never came.

How it has never come.

I had looked Brazil in the face, thanked her and scorned her for all she gave and took. But I hadn’t done so here. I hadn’t traced the lines of rooms where I’d been so happy before being so sad. I hadn’t wanted to. I wasn’t ready to. Until now.

Maybe Grandma knew. Maybe she knew that grief had pushed me away. But healing had brought me back. And I was reminded then how both come in waves: some that roar and crash into your deepest places, others that touch so softly, you barely realize they’re even there.

On our third day together, Grandma mentioned the two things she’d like to do before she dies: see the ocean and visit the cemetery where my aunt and grandfather are buried. R and I had planned to make the trip to Daytona to do the same, so I told her we’d take her. The next morning she told me she thought she’d stay behind. She gave reasons, reasons similar to the ones I’d told myself during my four years away. And I knew what was happening. The waves were crashing in. She knew it. And so did I.

I told her we’d be there with her, that God had given us a beautiful day, and that we’d understand if she decided to stay. But she didn’t; thirty minutes later we were heading to Ormond Beach with Grandma in tow. I had forgotten the palms on I-4 East, the lush green peppering both sides. I had forgotten Atlantic Avenue’s concrete jungle and the number 1015, where my grandparents’ motel, The Holiday Shores, had stood. And I’d forgotten the exact spot of the graves, but found them after walking a familiar path: two rows in and toward the middle.

R and Grandma at the cemetery.

R and Grandma at the cemetery.

Grandma had chatted the whole way down. She told us how she’d been so mad after hearing the news that Grandpa Paul had bought a yacht, that she’d driven 90 miles an hour all the way home. “The Good Lord got us there safely,” she’d said. And I knew she believed it. When we crossed the Halifax River, she told us that’s where she’d learned to fly a seaplane. She was pregnant at the time, but Grandpa Paul has insisted, growing belly and all. She told us about his sit-down with Norman Brinker and the subsequent opening of their very first Steak and Ale restaurant. And then, in the hush of the cemetery, she told us about my grandfather’s last days. How her last words to him were, “Are you feeling okay, Chuck?” And how he fell over afterward, right there at the breakfast table. “I think he knew it was coming,” she said. “He knew.”

Grandma and I.

Grandma and I.

We were quiet then: R and Grandma in front of Grandpa Paul’s grave, me in front of Aunt Kathy’s. And I felt a surge of emotion so strong, I began to cry: for them (All of them) and for us left behind. I cried for my aunt, who was only 18 when she passed. I cried for her life, short-lived. For those who truly knew her, like Mom. And those who’d longed to, like me. I cried. One hand on my heart, the other on her grave. One hand saying goodbye, the other a heartfelt hello.

On the way back to Orlando, Grandma talked about Aunt Kathy. How she’d wanted that car so badly. How her girlfriend had had one. How Grandpa Paul went to Miami to get it. How it was a surprise. And how that morning, my Aunt’s last morning, she’d left Grandma a note, which read: “I took some change from the cupboard, Mom.” She’d signed it, “The Brat,” a name she called herself. A name that, looking at my Grandma, I knew had not and will not be forgotten.

The waves of grief and healing come. I relearned this with Grandma. Sometimes one is pushed by the other. Sometimes they arrive in tandem. But always, always, they come.

Those four days with my grandmother were sacred. We shared and rode the waves together, whether she knew it or not. She helped me remember that one does reach the other side of grief. And that the other side is written with gratefulness for what was had, not bitterness for what was lost.

Thank you, Grandma.

For your time. For your lesson.
And for your love.

Our hands

Our hands.

A wife’s letter to her childless husband on Father’s Day

 

I lay in bed the other night, hands crossed over my heart and legs pin-straight, and thought of those words:

This is not about me at all, is it? This is all about you.

That’s what you said to me when I told you I wanted to have the procedure done. A procedure that would be risky, as any procedure is, but that might point us to what’s wrong. The answer to why our children are in the clouds and not here with us.

I was angry at you for saying such a cruel thing. So I went to bed in silence and didn’t tell you to sleep with God and dream with me like I always do. I didn’t kiss you or reach for your hand in reconciliation. I simply lay there, emotionally entombed, trying not to breathe too hard or feel too much as I waited for sleep to find you and take you deep into the hush of night.

But here’s what sleep whispered to me: you were right.

Much of the past six years has been about me. When I was pregnant it was all about keeping me healthy, happy and calm. And when I wasn’t, it was about the same. You took the brunt of my suffering and sadness. You held me when I cried and told me we’d be okay when I ran out of tears. You told me that I was more than enough, that the two of us were more than enough. And on Mother’s Day, when nearly everyone forgot to remember, you were there just as you always are.

Our first child would have turned five this year. My instincts told me she was a girl and this is how I’ve seen her in my dreams: a green-eyed chatterbox with my curly hair and your long lashes, running through a field of asters, buttercups and thimbleweeds. She’s always wearing a white eyelet dress with blue ribbon threading its hem. It’s soiled with what looks like chocolate ice cream and her knees are skinned. I hear her calling to you:

Daddy, Daddy, come find me.

Then she ducks behind a Black Maple, certain you can’t see her. You can, of course, and you find her, pick her up and swing her around as you tell her you love her. Then I wake up, still hearing your laughter, yours and our daughter’s.

I thought of this dream last Sunday as I watched you in the quiet moments before releasing your butterfly in the RTS (Renew Through Sharing) Garden.

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And I wondered if you whispered I love you before you opened the purple envelope and let her fly away. A symbolic gesture of the sorrow we have felt and an acknowledgement of the tremendous weight of empty arms.

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When I opened my own I sent some sadness with it: sadness for thinking my heartache went deeper because it could be seen and sadness for not honoring the differences in our grieving.  Because there are differences.

Perhaps you have always been strong because you felt you had to or because that’s just who you are. But I want you to know…

it’s okay to cry,

it’s okay to scream,

and it’s okay to shake your fist at the moon.

And it’s also okay to be silent. I know that now.

If we earned parenthood, if it was somehow based on merit, you would be a father because you deserve a child you can hold and touch and by whom you can be completely enamored. And you deserve to be called daddy in more than just my dreams. So, this Father’s Day, I hope you know how much you’re loved, both here on Earth and beyond where our angels reside.  And that it is about us.

Always us.

Always the five of us.

Butterflies_nook

 

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,

Mommy

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

three clouds

Shooting wooden stars

Image courtesy of marklinfinancial.com

Image courtesy of marklinfinancial.com

On a recent trip to Canada, I heard a startling fact on public radio:

349 American service members committed suicide in 2012 (to put that in perspective, that’s 54 more than were killed in Afghanistan that same year).

I was shocked. disheartened. and ashamed.

The broadcast went on to share the story of a 31-year-old Marine.  He’d been in Afghanistan.  He’d come home to four children and a wife who loved him.

And a personal hell of what he’d done and seen.

He was depressed. He reached out. He went to the VA.  He asked for help.  He was told there was a 3-week wait for inpatient care.  By the time they were ready for him…

He.

Was.

Gone.

His widow said she’s angry she’s without him, but happy…

He’s. Finally. At. Peace.

I remember the Recruiters walking the halls of my high school.  I remember their tables.  And their signs…

“Be all you can be.”

I remember friends approaching those tables and being told of benefits and opportunities and a college degree paid for through service.

I also remember getting a call from an Army Recruiter.  He was interested in my language skills (and my affinity for learning languages) and thought the Army would be the fertile soil in which to be planted.

And. in. which. to. grow.

We asked lots of questions (I take that back…my husband asked lots of questions.  I sat and quietly stared, dumbfounded by the questions, the responses and the meeting itself).

In the end, there was no way to guarantee my safety.  So, there was no way I was going to join up.

Despite the good I could have done, self-preservation kicked in.

No guarantee.

No dice.

Since then (and despite having family members who’ve served) I’ve never thought much about the military.  I mean I’m thankful for them in the quiet moments before and after my head safely hits my pillow, but I’ve never been brave enough to bring myself to a place of discomfort over their service, sacrifice, and, at times…

Suicide.

I was not born with much of a backbone.  Not the kind that willingly (and oftentimes gladly) puts you in harm’s way.

Not the kind that runs, drives or flies toward danger.

Not the kind that sees friends fall…and continues on.

Not the kind that catches a person in the crosshairs, pulls the trigger and doesn’t feel as though he’d/she’d lost a piece of himself/herself in the process.

Not the kind that carries the heaviness of such a burden.

For. a. lifetime.

There are people much better than me who have signed on that dotted line, sworn that oath, and found themselves running, driving and flying toward danger.

They risk everything so that my head and yours can safely hit our pillows.  So that we can say one more “Good morning” and “Goodnight” to those we love.

They serve.  They sacrifice.  And eventually…

God willing…

They. Come.Home.

And to what?

A broken system?

A waiting list for care?

A hope that 3 weeks won’t be a week too long?

They deserve better and we have the responsibility to demand that for them.

At least I do.

What kind of country recruits you for the type of service from which some never return and then fails to provide the necessary aid?

3 weeks to get care!!

It’s preposterous and an outrage.

It’s a disgrace to these United States, to our flag, to all those who have served and will serve.

To those whose names are etched in stone in Arlington and in cemeteries (both formal and informal) around the globe.  And whose faces are not-so-simply etched into the hearts of those who love them.

In the grand scheme of things, I am small.  Some might say insignificant.  I am smaller than the tiniest grain of sand on the tiniest beach on the tiniest island on the planet.

But those who know sand, know it only takes one, tiny granule in the right place, at the right time to make a pearl.

And that people seemingly smaller than me, have made a difference.

There are millions of posts on WordPress.

M-I-L-L-I-O-N-S

And it’s easy to fall through the cracks.

Don’t let this one.

Don’t let our service members.

Extend your hand…

Extend. your. heart.