Friday, August 22, 2008


Usually I blog in the moment. Feel it, write it, push publish, done. Once in a rare while I "work" on a post, and some of you can tell, I think, the difference. The ones I work on make worse reads. The post below I wrote in the moment, but not today's moment. I needed some time to sit with it, even though I haven't changed a word. And I wanted to get the approval of my dear friend N to tell her story here. What I mean to say in this intro paragraph is something I hope comes across in the what I wrote below as well: I remember. Time marches on, but I remember. In the quiet, in the chaos, always. Thank you, N, for letting me remember in this way, and thank you for all that you share with me, especially friendship and love. Thank you, Vicki, for sharing your son with readers like me. I never met Evan, but I knew him still, and your family means so much to all of us out here. I will always remember.


Before my son, my eldest child, turned six months old, I went to the hardest funeral I've ever attended. I went to the funeral of his very first playmate, the little girl with whom he shared his first play date, the child of my dear, dear friend, a child whose birth had brought such joy into my heart. The pain engulfing my heart on that day defied measure, and my poor spastic brain could think of nothing else but the fearful echoing question, "How can her parents survive?"
Her parents. Her mother had become my close friend through a writing group around the time when we both were engaged. We had nothing in common except all the things that matter to me, and we forged our friendship within a smaller group of that writing circle. One day after we'd both been married about a year, she called to ask if I could cover a writing workshop for her, and during the conversation we found ourselves giddily confessing our early-stage pregnancies to one another. Later, while home on maternity leave, my giant ankles propped on the coffee table, I got another call from her: "Guess what I just did?" I thought she had a funny story to tell me, maybe something like the goofy things that I kept doing and blaming on my "pregnancy brain." But no. "I just had a baby! Two hours ago!" Somehow, she made it sound like she just baked a cake or something less physically exerting. Even through the phone, her love and joy radiated, and pain didn't make it to the top ten list of things she wanted to talk about.

I admittedly felt scared of delivering my baby, and in fact had asked her months earlier, "Aren't you scared of giving birth?" She laughed. "No," she told me, "it's the part that comes after that scares me. I am much more worried about raising a child than having a baby."
You will rightly snicker at what I replied - I clearly overestimated how I would handle the challenges facing me as a mother. "I feel like that part will come naturally," I said.

My dear friend has always, and I mean always, had wisdom I envy, and I am sure she rolled her eyes on her end of the line, though she didn't let it show.

She is an amazing, graceful, gracious, wise woman, and a mother to two darling little boys. But I never forget that she is also the mother to a beautiful little girl, a treasured girl, a child we said goodbye to only months after we said hello.
I had no idea how she and her husband got through the several services, the video tribute, the readings they both gave, the goodbyes. I was not sure how to get through it myself, and it was not my child, my grief, my place to ache so deeply. I know that the loss of that child changed who I am as a mother and as a person. I also know that my friend has taught me more about mothering than she realizes.

Among the substantial proof that my friend has more wisdom and strength than I may ever attain, she often sought to help me understand how her faith guided her after her child died. We cried together, and she spoke to me of her belief system, and of her hope, and the belief within her that she must pick herself up and live her life passionately no matter what. At the funeral, I remember fearing that she would not want to be my friend anymore, that my child and I would remind her too painfully of her loss. But that is not how my friend lives, loves, believes. Those fears I felt reflected my own darkness, and my friend does not live in darkness.

With the recent passing of Vicki's son Evan, I have felt almost afraid to type either of their names. This sentence and the previous one have taken me longer to write than all the paragraphs leading up, because I feel like an interloper, like by writing of them I show some kind of disrespect. And then I remember what my friend has taught me, I remember her wisdom, her strength, her light.

Several months ago, around the time that her daughter would have turned four, I went in on a gift for my friend, a necklace with three hearts representing her three children and her love for them all. I remember feeling anxious about giving her that gift. Would it seem too bold? Would it require painful explanations? Would she feel hesitant to wear it in public? Would it seem presumptuous of us to bring up her loss? Would it seem like dwelling on sadness? When she opened it, the other gift-giver and I exchanged glances, and I think I held my breath. Of course, I needn't have worried. With her first look at the necklace, she understood the love we and respect we meant for it to convey, and she said how much it meant to her that we recognize the important milestones when so many others do not. We celebrate the beautiful baby we knew as well as mourn her loss.

I am grieving these days. There have been losses near and far, losses I've written about and losses I haven't, and I am not a good griever, if there is such a person. I am not as strong as I'd like to be. But I know this. I am more prepared to learn from life and loss and death than I used to be. I am stronger and more committed to light and hope than I thought I could be, because I have known, read, connected to women of strength and beauty. My friend has taught me that there is no choice but to go on, and so you do, and that no one corners the market on grief. My friend has taught me that everyone has the right to live, love, and grieve in their own way, but that sadness is not a competitive sport.
I have a lot to learn, but I take it one step at a time. I am blessed to have wise teachers in my life.

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