About ten months after Lucy died, Sam's uncle visited our home. I never met this particular uncle, but I had heard many stories about him from many different perspectives. He is the wrestling uncle, the basketball uncle, the chummy kid-at-heart uncle. Sam was very fond of him.
I had just kicked off my shoes for nap time when the bell rang. It was an hour before they were due to arrive, but there they stood on our doorstep. Sam hadn't quite made it home from work in time for formal introductions. I welcomed them into our home. Offered them drinks and kept my voice low. "There is a sleeping child in the house," my demeanor whispered. And so we retired to the lounge with some sparkling water. We sat back for a moment in the uncomfortable silence of not knowing how to break the ice after questions of travel and traffic.
"So, Angie," the uncle looks at me very intensely, "how did you bounce back from your stillbirth?"
I breath in and think.
She fits into the smallest jar I have ever seen, Uncle. One that only three years ago I would wondered aloud what possible use it could have. When it arrived, filled with Lucia, I couldn't believe they fit all my baby into such a small container. I don't know if you ever bounce back from holding a baby one day and then fitting her into the smallest jar the next.
There is her jar, Uncle. It is silver and inlaid with turquoise and has a pattern of the dove. It was too much to think about the day before Christmas when the funeral director came to our home with a catalogue of urns. Big ones next to little ones. I didn't know which one seemed appropriate, or right for my daughter. I asked the funeral director to put the catalogue in a manila folder, and leave it on my desk. He was very accommodating and gracious. He walked around our house blindly trying to find the office, the desk, the manila folders.
I hate the choice I made, but I also can't imagine transferring her ashes to earthenware or something more like us. People ash is so much more human than I ever thought it would be. It is lumpy and full of pieces of things that make your brain wander dark halls. I am content accepting her urn as part of her.
I don't want to leave her jar some days. I don't want her to be alone in a big house when we go on vacation, or run to the mall. It seems insane, I know, but I want to tuck the smallest jar into my pocket and pretend it has emotion or heart. Instead of treating the jar like a person, I used to speak her name to conjure her. Maybe I can feel her in that name.
After a few months, Uncle, I stopped wanting to hear her name, even though her name is the most beautiful thing I could imagine. It is God whispering. It is the wind through chimes and trees when no one is listening. It is Nature crying. Her name is Light and Peace and all things too beautiful to hold. When it comes out of someone's mouth, it is like a sacred prayer mispronounced and cut short. She is mine. My moment of horror. My connection to the Divine. Only I know her. Only I whisper her. Only I miss her.
That is what not bouncing back is like for me, Uncle. I think it is only me who misses her, thinking her death was only about me. Lucia does not reside in a small jar. Lucia is not her name. She is our tears, and laughter. She is the trees and the flowers and the wind. She is kneeling and standing again. Lucia exists in the air between us that feels electric and powerful and alive, but it is just the weight and height of love.
In the end, Uncle, your question is refreshing and difficult. I am grateful that you have acknowledged my daughter's death. I am grateful you recognize my trip to Hell. But written in the lines of your question is the answer you want. That mothers come back after walking into the underworld, like Demeter. Persephone is restored, but I am not. I have not rescued my daughter from Hades. I have not been granted six months of her. She is gone. My crops have withered. And spring is no where in sight.
But, still, Uncle, I think I am bouncing somewhere, but not back to where I was. I am bouncing upwards, off-kilter. I am bouncing out of bounds, but still playable, if I get to me fast enough. I am bouncing to a place that resembles peace. I am bouncing with the smallest jar in my pocket. I am bouncing with new vigor and compassion. I am bouncing somewhere, but it is not anywhere close to back.
The question hangs there in the seconds I have took to breathe in, think all this and clear my throat.
"So, Angie, how did you bounce back from your stillbirth?"
"I haven't quite."
He nodded and asked me about the Embran and Woonan baskets from Panama displayed on a floating shelf six inches above my head.
What difficult questions have you had to answer? Do you find it refreshing when someone is blunt about your loss or do you find it upsetting? In what ways do you like to be engaged about your loss and the time after?