The call of the fire

A tribute to five years of writing at Glow

“My baby died!” she cried out as she walked down the street one cold day in July.  

“She died!” she shouted as she walked by a couple with a toddler in their arms. They turned away, shunning her. Awkwardness causing their stances to stiffen.

“How dare she say that out loud?” the mother growl-whispered to her partner, pressing her palms over her son’s ears.

But they knew the woman's baby had died. They were there when it happened, passing deep condolences, offering words of encouragement. They’d heard her weep and watched her bang her chest in agony.

“Why, oh why did it have to be me?!” She’d told them over and over again. They had squeezed her hands. Let us know if you need anything.

She expressed her disappointment to everyone until there was nobody around to listen. They could only take so much of her sadness.

“My baby died.” Her words faded as she sank to the ground. Her head low, shoulders slumped.

Around her, passersby shook their heads. Some were horrified by her outward display of what should be a private thing. Some pitied the poor woman who wore her grief like a soiled rag cloaked around her. They wondered how long this misery would last, how long she’d be that way. It was uncomfortable. She was gloomy. How long would the darkness follow the woman? They locked their doors to her eventually, and warned their children against her.

“She’s mad, you see,” they whispered, knowing in their hearts the untruthfulness of those words.

The woman wasn't mad. She was grieving. She'd lost a piece of her heart, a vital part of her existence. In alot of ways, she'd lost her soul.

The woman rose and walked down the road. She decided it was better to hold in what she felt. The bolted doors and odd glances were disheartening to say the least. She would no longer wear her heart on her sleeve. She woddled home. The emptiness in her belly was frightening, the fullness of her breasts a curse. She walked into her silent space, unaware of those around her. She was on a different path.

Some tried to reach her with acts of kindness but she'd felt their cruelty. Besides: her baby was dead. So was she. She lay on her bed, letting the comfort lull her to sleep.

“I miss you, baby,” she whispered.

A week later she was strolling through the park. On a bench she saw a woman much younger than her staring blankly ahead. She approached her with caution.

“What are you looking at?” She asked kindly, also wanting to see what brought this woman joy.

“Nothing. I'm just looking at nothing.”

The woman took a seat beside her. “Then we'll look at nothing together.”

The other woman sobbed.

“I didn't mean to upset you,” she placed a hand gently on the stranger's shoulder, a bold move even for her.

“I'm not upset. I'm happy—I've been noticed.” The woman beamed down at the stranger. She had lost her baby too.

They held hands and promised to meet again to stare at nothing—to share their experiences, stories and memories. In time, their circle grew. Other women joined them, and they built a fire on colder days. None of them had asked to be in this tribe, but they were.

The woman's soul was fed in a way her body never quite was. There were times she felt aloof from the real world, but she'd been looking at it all wrong—this was the real world. People had turned their backs on her when she needed them yet she'd found refuge around a metaphorical fire that warmed her on her darkest days.

She visited with her friends often in the beginning, then not quite as much as the years went by. But she always held them close, like the scent of lemongrass or the woods. It's hard to get off.

She'll be back again, when the embers burn. They'll all be waiting for her. If ever she's needed for someone else, she'll come. One need only sit on the bench.


Have people's reactions to your loss changed as the years go by? Have they become somewhat less tolerant? Is there a group of friends or a community who've been with you through your loss you'd like to pay tribute to?