a good day and a goodbye

Sunday was Father’s Day—our first with Ben and Ellie, our third without Gus and Zoey.  And even though we will always have two more Father’s Days and Mother’s Days without Zoey and Gus than we will with Ben and Ellie, it was alright.  It was good.  It was a day for going to the farmer’s market and the gym and the movies to see two of my favorites on the big screen.  Yes, it was a good day.

Sunday completed a trilogy of Father’s Days: the first was raw, last year’s was fraught, and this one was normal at last—or at least as normal as circumstances allowed.  Sometimes, moving through grief seems like like a Zeno’s Paradox of getting better: you heal by half, and then by another half, and then by half again… until the distance between you and wholeness is imperceptible, but still there.  Or still there, but imperceptible, depending on where you want to put your emphasis.

On Sunday, M. asked me if I had been thinking of Zoey and Gus.  I had, of course—as much, and in the same way, as I do every other day.  It was not until the next morning, while taking the dog for his morning walk, that I thought of them with a more acute sadness.  Maybe it was because I missed them.  Maybe it was because I thought I should have missed them more.




My first post for Glow was last Father’s Day.  It struck me as fitting then, that this brief one, a year later, should be my last.  At least for a while. 

This decision to step aside is one of the hardest I have made in recent memory.  Since I last posted, I managed to return to the book I have needed to (re)write about Zoey and Gus.  I’m thankful to say that it has been going well.  But increasingly, I have come to see how hard it will be to find time—and more critically, the focus—to devote to the book and Glow both.  I hate to take my leave of Glow and its amazing contributors and community, but there is a limit to the number of pieces into which I can divide myself.  To fix Zoey and Gus in the world the way I want to, I need the book and the book needs this.

Thank you for reading my posts over this last year.  Thank you for your comments: for the kind words you offered me and for what you courageously shared of your own lives. Going forward, I hope you will give yourself permission to live where you are: in your grief but also, hopefully, outside it.  I do not wish you comfort alone, but rather, comfort and openness to comfort.  Getting to the other side is not forgetting.  Give yourself permission.  Some people don't.

Whether ocassionally or regularly, I do hope to be back.  I hope to be checking the site often.  (So if you would like to reach me, leave comments on this post.)  And with my time away, I hope to write a good book that honors Zoey and Gus, their memories, and our experience—mine and M.’s, of course, but also yours.  After all, the particulars of our stories may vary, but we all belong to one another in a way that we don’t belong to others, no matter how long we have known this one or that one.

I hope we will go on knowing each other.  I think that is a good hope, as is most hope.  Because, as I try to remember, not all farewells are forever.

Be seeing you.

Be well.


putting it into words

In the time I have been writing for Glow, there is something I have not told you about our loss.  I have not told you about the book.

I wrote a memoir after Zoey and Gus died.  But really, I started it earlier.  Just a few days into our hospitalization, I knew I was going to want to write about it.  Or at least have the option.  So I started taking notes.

I took notes on what the doctors said.

I took notes on what the nurses said.

I took notes on what M. said.

I took notes on how the room looked.

I took notes on how the door handle had to be jiggled in just the right way to open.

I took notes on the torturous route from the hospital entrance to the Labor & Delivery Unit.

I roamed the corridor outside the NICU and took notes on the pictures and plaques and thank-you letters sent by the families of babies who lived.

I wish I had taken more notes.

I took notes on what the ethicist said.

I took notes on what our friends said.

I didn’t take many notes on what the social worker said because she was so unhelpful, but I wish I had, because she was so unhelpful.

I took notes on what we ate for breakfast.

I took notes on the bar and grill where I would pick up our dinner, and on the drinks I forced myself not to steal when no one was looking.

I took notes on Zoey.

I took notes on Gus.

I wish I had taken more notes.

When M. thought I was writing emails, sometimes I was taking notes. 

On our last night in the hospital, after Gus died, after M. was taken away for emergency surgery, and after Gus’s body was taken from my arms, M’s mother spoke to me: the staff was going to need the room now, to clean it.  “If they come, they come,” I told her, but I had to take notes.  Even if it meant the gore had to be mopped all around my feet, I had to take notes.  Besides, my sneaker was already smudged with M’s blood.

I took notes for an hour.

The next day, I took notes about our drive home.

I took a few notes on the funeral.  I took lots of notes on planning it.  At the cemetery, I have taken notes on who is buried near Gus and Zoey—especially children—on the back of an envelope when I had to.

But always I wish I had taken more notes.


In the first six weeks after they were gone, I wrote five pages.  Then, on the weekend we went away to our friend’s secluded ranch, I wrote thirty.  By the end, I had written 300 pages and two drafts. 

“It must have been so therapeutic,” people would say when they found out.  “It must have been so cathartic.”  I suppose it was, but the point was never to purge.  It was actually the opposite: the point had been to retain.

In the hospital, when I was afraid and did not know the future, I did know this much: This will have been one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life.  And I knew that if I did not do something, I would lose all the details, all the moments, everything that was giving this time its textures.  Everything that makes a memory a living thing.  

So I wrote a memoir to stamp it all onto my mind.  And now I find that I cannot remember much of what happened outside of what I wrote.  The story has become the memory.

The first section of the story is an account of the week M. and I spent in the hospital.  Monday.  Tuesday.  Wednesday.  Thursday.  Friday.  Saturday.  Sunday.  Day-by-day. The next section recounts the spring and summer that followed. 

(Did you know that they died on the first day of spring?)

Some parts were easy to write.  Some were hard.  The hardest task was reconstructing moments where my notes were shoddy and my memory porous.  What did the doctor say when…?  Was that conversation before or after the one where…?  You would think the hardest task would have been writing about the deaths of my children.  But that was easy.  I wrote about our daughter dying, and our son dying, and our shock and our wailing and my many dissociative states quickly and in one afternoon.  After all, I had very good notes. 


300 pages.  Two (official) drafts.  And now the book is languishing.

It needs more.  More episodes from my life, and from our life, before.  More memory—but I worry that I have already used all the memory I have.  Even worse, it also needs a new structure.  Something more reader-friendly with a smoother flow.  It’s daunting.  Basically, it’s as if your house needed a new house. 

I worry that I don’t have it in me to write the book I have come to see in my mind.  With Ellie and Ben and a new job, I worry that I don’t have the time—or, more to the point, the focus—to try.  This is not the kind of writing project you can pick away at twenty minutes here, twenty there.

I won’t lie: I could use some motivation.  Encouragement.  Help.  Whatever you want to call it, I could use it.  Not to deal with what happened, not to pull myself out of it, but to plunge back in. 

To write the book this book needs to be. 

What creative outlets did you turn to after your loss?  How did others respond to your efforts?  Are you still engaged in them? 

you are here

Next month, on the 21st, it will be two years.  To a toddler, that may be a lifetime, but to an adult, it is an election cycle.  And yet, thinking about the amount that has been packed into that brief stretch is like thinking about how, in one second, light will travel 186,000 miles, or how one teaspoon of a neutron star would weigh six billion tons.  They are things that can be known, but not comprehended.  Not really.

Lately, I have been having more of my “Gus and Zoey Moments” than I used to.  These are moments when I think of them and feel the floor drop out from underneath me.  When I think of them and feel sad.   As the second anniversary of their births and deaths approaches, I may miss them more than I did after the first one.  I may.  It’s hard to remember.

Maybe it is because we are now within a month of their anniversary.  Maybe because Ben and Ellie’s growth provides reference points for what Gus and Zoey might have looked like, or acted like, or been like, if they had only, simply lived.  Either way, they are more present to me these days.  That might have been a nice thing, but it means that there are moments when suddenly, Ellie and Ben seem like my other children.  And I don’t know how to explain that to them or to my own heart: Don’t worry. It’s only because the anniversary is coming up.  It will be like this for only one month out of the year. The other eleven, you guys come first.

Maybe that sounds crazy.  If it does, then here comes the crazy on top of the crazy:

In those moments of connection to Zoey and Gus, and wondering about them, and imagining them, I miss Ellie and Ben.  I have to: in that universe, my other children never were and can never be.  So when those moments with Gus and Zoey end, and I feel myself being pulled back to what is in front of me, I cross a space where I have lost them all.  I am leaving a place where I have Gus and Zoey, and not fully back in the place where I have Ben and Ellie. 

I am in this in-between place for the briefest measure of time—what is shorter than a nanosecond?—but the experience is so distinct and definite, the tinge lingers for seconds or even minutes afterward:

For just a sliver of a moment, I miss all four of my kids.  And why shouldn’t I?  There is no universe that can accommodate them all.

And if that sounds crazy, then here is the crazy on top of the crazy on top of the crazy:

Sometimes, when I feel I can only hold one set of our children in my mind, and not the other--or worse, when it seems like because I cannot keep all of my children, I cannot keep any of them--it feels as if our only constant child is our dog.


What are some of the "crazier" thoughts, ideas, or feelings your loss can bring up? What does the anniversary of your loss trigger for you? What are some of the ways you cope with it?


should old acquaintance be forgot

I just thought of something: in a few days, last year won’t be last year anymore.

Good, some people might think. The more road between us and Then, the better

Not me.

When I hear M.—or myself, but especially M.—say, “when we had our loss last year…” it is a welcome jolt. In that moment, Zoey and Gus sound so much more recent than they often seem. It has been a whole twenty-one months since they died. And as if that fact were not enough, these months have not been the regular kind. Sorrow, infertility, the second pregnancy, the twins, new friends, their grief, our memory, and more have stretched these months sideways. Their new shapes eclipse and defy the simple, boxy, snapshot image of the calendar page.

I’m glad to think of it as not that long ago. I’m glad when I feel like we haven’t really journeyed that far.  When I feel that M. and I, and Gus and Zoey not at opposite ends of a country. When they seem nearer—even if it means that for a moment, my sadness is, too.

This is why the words “last year” are so loaded to me now. Sometimes, when I hear M. use them—or myself, but especially M.—I see them capitalized with a little TM sign at the end.  Or I see them as little gravity wells, tugging on all the other words, warping the fabric of the sentence. Last year infuses whatever we are saying with the thing we are not. We are saying, “We remember.” We are saying, “Don’t you forget that we have lost.”  We are saying, “It’s not as far away as we know you think it is.” We are screaming in code.

And that’s the thing, really. Even more than a way to keep Gus and Zoey close, invoking last year feels like a way to jab everyone else. To provoke not only our sadness, but also theirs. Or their guilt. I don’t care which. As long as we keep our claim on their compassion, then frankly, either is fine.

Maybe this is weak. Maybe this is hostile. Maybe this is natural. I do not know what it is—except only that it is.

Maybe it is simply that I will seize any bridge to Gus and Zoey that I can. Any way to keep their shape—or the outline their absence—definite.

Last year sounds close enough to do that. Last year sounds so close, why, you could land there just by hopping a few steps to one side. But with “two years ago,” or anything beyond, the bridge dissolves to just a few beams. It is an extension of an extension, and where is the gravity in that? The solidity? Last year is familiar; it is land. Everything from there is uncharted. What is this thing supposed to be when it is no longer as nearby as last year?  What are we?

So, it turns out, we traveled across a country after all.  And now we are at the shore.


How does the new year (or any milestone) make you feel about your loss?  How has your loss affected your experience of time?  Please know that I'm wishing you and yours a gentle holiday season and much health and healing in the year ahead.







many thanks?

Last Thanksgiving, which was the first one since, M. and I sat at my brother’s table while my parents toasted how wonderful it was “to have the whole family here.”  Our nephew and niece, 7 and 5 at the time, did not know about their cousins.  Maybe that was why no one mentioned Zoey or Gus.  Maybe it wasn’t.

It had been a bad day already, as M. had begun cramping—an almost sure sign that another attempt at trying again had failed.  Our final attempt, in fact, before our fertility doctors would drop us off the cliff into who-knows how many rounds of bank-breaking IVF treatments: the scenario I had feared for two years.

It had been a bad day and a bad night.  In the morning, M. and I were resolved that I would confront my parents about how missing the missing were from the alleged festivities.

First, though, we learned that M. was pregnant.  She took a picture of the positive pregnancy test with her cell phone.  She texted it to one of our close friends from the support group, and I went into the kitchen to have breakfast and ask my parents just how much their dead grandchildren are still with them.

In the year since, I have been given much to be grateful for.  That much is certain.  But I had much to be grateful for last year, too.   And I don’t just mean the basics: health and family and the other big-ticket gifts.  I mean about Zoey and Gus, as strange as that may seem.

So what follows is not intended as a list of what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving (although I am).  Instead, it is, retroactively, a partial list of what I am thankful for last Thanksgiving:

I am thankful that there is something that marks me, that makes me different than most and bonded to a few.

I am thankful that as early as that first day in the hospital, I had enough perspective to know that this would probably end in tears, but would also be one of the most extraordinary experiences I will have had in this life.

I am thankful for talking.

I am thankful for writing.  Especially the book.

I am thankful that pain recedes faster than memory.

I am thankful to have realized that even if what we had been given what we regret not having (good pictures, more time), we would have always wanted more, and so those regrets don’t matter very much.

I am thankful for the alive-feeling of sadness, but not for depression.  For the bright line that separates the two, and for realizing that I need to police my feelings only when they are one side of that line, and not on the other.

I am thankful for who showed up.

I am thankful for the professionals who help us and for where their help has taken me.

I am thankful to know more about the limits of what I can endure.

I am thankful that we had the funeral, that I planned it, and that I remember it.

I am thankful for the people who are in our lives now, even if they are here only because the two who are not.

I am thankful that the spot where they are buried feels so special—like the top of a hill and the very heart of the cemetery, even though really, it is neither.

I am thankful for those songs that have been stamped by the time of, and after, our loss, and that the sorrow they stir up is that exquisite kind.

I am thankful for M.

I am thankful for Arthur, the dog.

I am thankful that there is such a thing as healing—in general—regardless of how much of it I personally have or have not done.

I am thankful to have learned that a relationship with God is not supposed to be easy. 

I am thankful that while we do not control what happens to us, we get to be the authors of the stories we tell ourselves.

I am thankful that they were here.

I am thankful for thankfulness.


What are you thankful for?  Are there aspects of your loss that can also be seen as blessings?  How do you and/or your loved ones treat your loss over the holidays?

shelf space

In the living room, on the end table, under the lamp, is a plaque commemorating the hundred trees that M.’s mother and stepfather had planted in Zoey and Gus’s memory.

Across the room, on the built-in shelf, are two large photographs: one of Gus’s name etched in the sand of an Australian beach, the other of Zoey’s.  The pictures were put there by my mother-in-law, who moved them to this place of prominence in the hours before we brought home Gus and Zoey’s siblings, Ben and Ellie. In each picture, the name appears beyond the reach of a wave that would lap it into nothingness, and underneath the sun as it gives a goodnight kiss to the horizon. Of course, this was only my assumption: that when the pictures were taken, it was just before night, not dawn.

In the den, on top of the bookcase, sits a wicker basket. The basket contains the rest of the physical evidence of Gus and Zoey: sonogram pictures, a hospital wristband, a receipt from the purchase of the baby furniture (and a receipt from the refund), condolence cards, and more. Some of it is gathered in the scrapbook M.’s mother began, not realizing that the one she bought matched the paper from our wedding invitations.  Some of it is not.

If the house were on fire, the basket may be the one thing I would save that is not a person or a dog. But on the days when there is no fire, it is something I don’t always think very much about. Something I see without seeing. On those days I see not the basket, but a basket-shape—a shape nestled among a vase-shape and box-shapes and oversized-stuffed-animal-shapes.

Still, inside the basket, there are a few objects I think about more often than the rest: six Polaroids of Gus and Zoey taken by the hospital after their deaths. Though closely related, these pictures are not like the company they keep in the basket. They are not sign-in sheets or parking medallions or the page torn from a hospital room’s wall calendar. They are not symbols or signifiers. They are the most direct evidence there is that our babies ever were.


Since Ben and Ellie’s births, I have taken approximately 2,400 pictures (although I am frequently reminded that many include, or are simply of, the dog). Of Gus and Zoey we have just three each. Worse still, they are not very good. They are cold and clinical and seem chemically unstable. As if being kept out in the light just extra moment would erase the likenesses entrusted to them. 

Polaroids of the dead. What else would you expect?

I last saw these images of Gus and Zoey the week Ben and Ellie came home. Almost a month earlier, during one of our last doctor’s visits, I remarked to M. that when these babies arrive, they will look huge. Consider our frame of reference, after all. But later, when M. was looking at the Polaroids—this time as a new mother—and I glanced down, I was staggered by Gus and Zoey’s smallness, by their fragility, even though they were already gone. In fact, for just a sliver of a moment, I did not realize I was looking at babies, let alone at my own. This was what Ben and Ellie had accomplished after just ten days of life: swapping their side of the prism for Gus and Zoey’s. 

Several times in those first weeks Ben and Ellie were with us, M. commented on how much Ben looked like Gus. Now she says Ben looks like me. As he fills in, his resemblance to Gus fades. And as the resemblance fades, the before-and-after line that separates the loss of one pair from the arrival of the other seems to grow wider and more impermeable. So I am making a place inside myself for a paradox: I have two sons, but my sons have no brothers.

We make places for lots of things.  We keep the physical ones—mementos, totems, emblems, symbols—because they are powerful.  But their power is not just the power to make us remember; it is the power to make real, if only for a moment, a space where two states overlap: the state of having and the state of once having had.


What objects embody the memory of your lost child or children? Does looking at them bring you comfort or refresh your grief? Were you surprised by any of the items you found meaningful and wanted to keep?