Can I Get Back to You?

If you’ve known me for more than a few years, you may have noticed (you imaginary readers, you) that I didn’t write anything on my daughter’s birth/deathday this year.

Here’s what I was doing instead of writing: hanging out with friends, going to church.

For several months now, I have been in this angry-at-religion mode. Not angry at my Christian friends, not angry with God, but angry at all of the trappings, all of the methods and all the ways people use to talk about those methods. It had become reactionary to the extreme. If I thought through the things that set me off, I could identify that they were either really not a big deal, or I could see how I disagreed with them (also not such a big deal). In some cases, identifying something that set me off would cause me to realize I actually agree with that thing. Nevertheless, I was struggling furiously with all of it… Continue reading “Can I Get Back to You?”

The Joy of Grief

It has become somewhat of a tradition to write a blog post on or near my daughter’s “day.” Grief is such a richly varied experience and I have found it to be a kind of beautiful gift. For this reason, there is always something to say beyond the obvious reality that it sucks to have your kid die.

I couldn’t say that I’m glad I lost her, but today and many many other days in the last 7 years I can say that while I lost more than I ever wanted to, I gained many things I didn’t even know I could.

The biggest gain is that I’ve seen God come through for me in a way that I only ever vaguely believed he would before. A week or so after Sarah died, when I realized that I could not grieve in a healthy way, I asked God to take all of it and give back only what is good. While I could recount many occasions in the last 2,555 days that I felt unpleasant emotions; screamed, cried, numbed up, felt sorry for myself, choked on the emptiness, laid in the cold mud of life without her, thought of who she would be now, felt anger at a passing pregnant woman… I have felt all of those emotions and more, but every one of them came at just the time I needed to feel it. Each one helped me heal a little more. Since asking him, God has been utterly faithful to carry all but what I was supposed to walk with in the current moment.

When people find out about Sarah they almost always say, “I don’t know how…” or, “I never could handle…” But of course they’re right and neither could I. Although it might seem weird that feeling pain has been a gift, it’s the way that I have been set free to grieve without guilt or shame, without wallowing or getting stuck too long. I haven’t made this happen, I have only accepted whatever piece came my way…. Continue reading “The Joy of Grief”

My Favorite Ghost

My daughter Sarah is not alive anymore, but sometimes she lives so vividly in my thoughts it’s as though she is alive. But she’s not. It isn’t sad, but it is.

When I’m driving in the car she sits in the back seat and kicks her legs and laughs at something silly I said. Walking down a long hallway, she may skip beside me, she may hold my hand. And sometimes, when I’m sitting in a chair, she gets up into my lap and lays her head on my shoulder for me to pet her hair like I loved to have my mother pet my hair when I was little… Continue reading “My Favorite Ghost”

The Most Awkward Holiday

Most holidays have their darker side. There are the happy celebrators and then the rest of the population with all of their varied and complex feelings. For anyone who has lost, anyone who grieves, each holiday has its own fresh pain.

And here we are at Mother’s Day. 

I can’t remember the first Mother’s Day after I lost my daughter, but on the second, I was working at Starbucks. Displayed for the customers,we had taped pictures of our kids for people to look at while they waited for their coffee. I should have called in sick, but I deluded myself into thinking it wouldn’t be weird… Continue reading “The Most Awkward Holiday”

When You’re Gone

My strongest urge right now is to clam up. This rarely leads to anything good, and so I’m writing.

Today is my daughter Sarah’s sixth birthday. How does one celebrate (commemorate?) the birthday of a dead person? When people have children, they usually spend a decent amount of time planning birthday parties. What you do, you do for the kid. I assume you do what you think your kid will enjoy most. Birthday cake with trucks, cake shaped like a doll, colorful streamers, games, friends. If they are really young, you invite whoever will come and everyone sits and watches this dexterously inept human smear frosting from ear to ear, and from nose to toes.

But does a person who has stopped living continue to age? And what do you do on their birthday every year?

I have been asking those questions on this day for the last six years… Continue reading “When You’re Gone”

Untold Biographies

People don’t talk about the fact that babies die. I didn’t know it happened until it happened to me.

It’s treated, I think, much like bulimia, suicide or drug abuse. So many people have experienced those things in some way, but they don’t go around talking about their experience.

Why? Probably because it would be awkward and probably a huge downer to any conversation.

I used to work with a young woman who was actively and openly bulimic. If you know any recovering drug addicts, you know the kind of honesty this woman displayed, except that she wasn’t recovering. She was in it full time, but somehow managed to have no shame. I don’t think she was proud of her obsession, but she knew it for what it was and she didn’t pretend.

When my daughter died she was 19 hours old. The autopsy says she was 12 hours old and my theory is that had she not been under the hands of the paramedics at 4pm that day, she wouldn’t have lived until 9:30pm. They did everything they could do, but her lung infection was much more agile and had done too much damage before there was anyone fighting it off. Anyone besides herself, of course…. Continue reading “Untold Biographies”

Heart as a House

Something I discovered last year stays true today; breakdown leads to breakthrough. After the crying moments I experienced last week, there has been so much more peace.

This week God gave me a picture of something really beautiful concerning these dark places in my heart that I had noticed but wasn’t sure what to do with. Bear with me while I give some back story: In 2003 there were several times when my heart was likened to a house. At the time the house was shut up tight. Blinds down, door locked. It was pretty cozy in the living room area with a fire in the fire place, but no one was getting in there with me. Two other pictures of this house that year involved my struggle with depression and that soon I would stand up from a slump I had been experiencing.
Then several years later I was dealing with some issues I had with food and had a mental picture of that same house with a big, hungry monster in the basement. Insatiable, demanding and grown out of a desire to protect myself from pain.

I’ve been walking out some awesome healing this year. I have been finding more and more how God really will satisfy my needs…. and that most of those needs come down to a need for love. This is so good and feels a little bit like learning how to fly…. Continue reading “Heart as a House”

Counting Thursdays

January again.

This year I had better intentions for the month. I had planned, not only to be busy but also to be happy. The funny thing about my “happy plan” is that the only thing involved in the “plan” was that I choose to be happy. Certainly this is a possible thing to do, but I might have been smarter to give myself helps along the way.

This doesn’t mean I’m unhappy today, it just means that the melancholy I felt a little yesterday and the grumpy I felt a bit this morning were both confusing surprises to me. I tend to deal better with emotions when I know why I feel them.

But here is what I realized this morning. I was thinking about the coming week because my roommate had asked me if today was my daughter’s birthday. “No,” I said, “it’s (and I had to count the date and days on my fingers) Thursday.” This, then made me realize a lot of interesting similarities that are occurring this year that haven’t occurred since she was actually born…. Continue reading “Counting Thursdays”

Anger and Gratitude

I have not really felt like “myself” in days.  This is both disturbing and a bit freeing.

Thursday I came down with what seemed to be the stomach flu. Since I can’t recall the last time I had the stomach flu, it was not what I guessed was happening to me until my fever rose up high in the evening. At this point I was at Jessica’s house and she and her husband let me sleep and sweat on their couch that night.
I guess I don’t really need to go into great detail about being sick except that it adds a strange quality to packing, saying goodbye and then traveling when you feel that exhausted.

I would like to write a post that sort of wraps up my thoughts and feelings about coming back to Colorado Springs into a tidy package but I’m not there yet. My internal landscape for this step is vastly unrecognizable to me. Part of me wanted to stay in Washington, part of me wanted to come back here but most of me wanted to curl up into a little ball and sleep for the rest of the month.
I do not like January... Continue reading “Anger and Gratitude”

A still, small gaze

Last night I sat for a while with an 11 month old baby in my lap. He sat calmly staring into my eyes for a long time- searching my face with his little fingers and then taking hold of my nose as if it were my hand. He seemed to have his own inner stillness while he studied my face and it amazed me. The memory of it even now calms me and simultaneously reminds me of the last living moments I had with my daughter.

What do babies know that we do not? What we know may be summed up in the vast amounts of information and stimulation that they have not yet experienced. Everything is right now. Need, joy, hunger, want, adventure, intimacy, sleep….. Continue reading “A still, small gaze”