Tomorrow my Ma sets foot on the US soil again. She will come to us for a few weeks, in a new town, in a new house, and we will see her more than three years later. Three years since I have hugged and held my mother. Three years since we have wept on each other's shoulders.
Everyone grieves, and justifiably, for all kinds of reasons. The Buddhists sit accordingly. Our suffering unites us. Our longing for things to go the way we would like is the most human of all. We are the only animals to despair. Given that our extended community includes those who have experienced pregnancy loss—miscarriage being on a shared spectrum—how does it change our concept of community and healing to consider that a wider breadth of parenthood loss is the same kaleidoscope, given a twist?
I didn't need much from you. I simply needed you to walk beside me every now and then. I needed you to spare me a thought even if you didn't know what to say, even if you didn't entirely understand. All I needed was for you to simply acknowledge that my sadness is real, and that I have lost so very much. I never doubted that the sun would shine again. It’s always there beyond the greyness of the clouds. But until then, I would have liked a gentle thoughtfulness. A recognition that my grief mattered, a thought for the loved ones I have said goodbye to, too soon.
Election day is almost here, and I know I am not the only one whose anxiety levels are off the charts. It's not a new or unfamiliar feeling. It's just that usually when I walk around with a permanent pit in my stomach and a permanent knot in my throat I can't expect that most of the people I'd meet in a day might be feeling the exact same thing. There is community in this too—in sharing difficulty, perseverance, dark humor, but also determination and joy.
For the second year in a row, we move Joseph’s urn to the mantle, along with his birth announcement, and the photo of my pregnant belly days before he died (was dying even then?). But this, too, in its own way, feels empty. Why do I do this? I wonder. I do not believe that this night the veil between the worlds will open. I do not believe the dead will come back to visit us. I do not believe I will be reunited with my son.
"This isn't just sad," I said. "These are the best stories. The ones that take someone's suffering and shape it, form it, use it. As writers, we take this character—you, me, Chanie, even baby Liam—who might be feeling lost, and scared, and brave, and determined all at once—and we give them love by paying attention. We will almost always find understanding. Even a bit of magic. Even if it's fifty years too late, it counts. It matters to try, and this is art."
I pulled out this drawing not long ago, years after our third and last came to be, and subsequently die. I studied the faces I had been so oblivious to before. Suddenly, what was once was a charming picture of our future family now represented my son’s intuition of what was to come—for our faces were anything but happy.
We pause naturally and both stare at the ground, the serendipitous coincidence of our exchange catching up to us. She picks up the conversation by stating what I already know to be true, but is so often and easily disregarded as obvious: “Even after 30 years, it hurts as much as it did the day they died.” As it has done so many times over the last two years, my heart breaks all over again. For her, for me. For what should be.
During the five days of festivities, the city never sleeps, and millions of people throng the streets all night, decked in their newly-bought finery. Friends and family return from all over the world, and in many homes, the festival also occasions their own daughter’s homecoming, from a city or country thousands of miles away. The festival is about new unions, reunions, of the coming together and being one again, of dispersed loved ones. There is space for all in these festive five days—from the deeply religious to the merely fun-loving.
It doesn’t get said out loud very often anymore. I think that others think that enough time has passed. That maybe they don’t want to remind me of you, my great love, my great loss. I think they think your little brother keeps me occupied and that I’m not missing you always. They don’t understand that both of those things happen simultaneously. I am deliriously in love with your brother and constantly remembering and missing you: “Henry, Henry, Henry.”
A lot of who we were is what makes us who we are. It is often what we once shared as a couple, that provides that extra blanket during the coldness of grief. This book spoke to me of the excruciating pain of losing but also of love and romance and living, of everything that existed before and during the sadness.
Si fuera elefante / If I were an elephant / Yet I never could be / And you, who never were / Dwell in this other plane of existence
You can see swimmers behind the people being interviewed—some in bikinis, some in tankinis, some in burkinis, not to mention swim trunks of all imaginable cuts and lengths—you get to understand their confusion. I wished that our world would become a bit more like that beach—that it would be ok to be as we are, that it would phase no one to see each other the way we are each comfortable being seen.
People come and go like leaves on a tree. To try and avoid that loss only makes you avoid true happiness. We die. But as Snoopy always says, on the rest of the days you live... you only die ONE of the days. I always loved that. Grief can be a good thing if you let it in. When you don't argue with it like a drunk husband, much good can come from its stillness. —Jann Arden
Individually, none of them were aware of each other nor would they have been enough. But collectively, they brought their own tools and skills to my huge mess of severed dreams, and thoughtfully stitched together my rough and ragged edges as the months went on. I clung to them carefully, with a gratitude not yet realized, and over time, was able to see their unique contributions to my story.
On the wall in the family room is Lydia’s name—painted, framed and gifted to us—sitting above the small patch of carpet where a little boy eagerly puts on his shoes to go outside, where a little girl shuffles across as she cries out for her mother, and where two parents collapsed nearly two years ago, sitting numbly and staring out into the grey sky of a world that no longer made sense. Above the fireplace mantle, her name carved into stone, her body burned to ash.
This is where my memory begins to fade. Wanting, what I now believe was the protection of my sanity, my mind started uprooting entire events and details of Raahi's hospital stay, as I could not bear to remember the nuances, grief sweeping through me like a forceful mudslide. My memory wanted to forget death, and with it, it had to forget life too.
For a brief moment, I feel a kinship with a nameless stranger who grieved for her child as I grieve for mine, so I stoop down and leave my field daisy at his grave for her—look, someone understands, someone remembers.
I remember exactly how we were sitting on the hospital bed. I remember the color of light coming through the hospital window. I remember A and I looking at each other, our pause of disbelief, and looking back at this idiotic woman who hadn’t gotten the memo. Then saying what I suddenly know I’ll be saying over and over and over: “The baby died.”
Every day, I get out of bed and pretend that I am okay. That it is okay. But the truth is, it still devastates me, three+ years out. Not a day goes by. Starting kindergarten (and milestones) or even when we're just laughing with our kids, I think of all she is missing out on and all the milestones that should have come between birth and death. I know how quickly bad news can happen and shift everything to black. Sometimes I read other stories here and I think, I could not survive that. And then I remember, I did.
Sitting on the sand a few months ago, staring out at the raging ocean, I wondered: is this a good place to put her ashes, to scatter them in the sea I love so much? Maybe with her name engraved on a bench, overlooking the place where I scatter her? Maybe her name doesn’t belong on a tombstone.
She laughs lightly in that social way. She is older now, and so am I. I don't want to think about how criminally, absurdedly cruel she was to me when my baby died. I don't want to recall, as I'm sitting here across from her, all the forcible bootstrap-pulling. Grief was superceded, upended, re-formed. Grief became compost, making the earth stinky and rich, and from it new things emerged and became green. I feel love, longing, but not upset. Not anymore. I watch her face. My Relic revs his engine and scowls from underneath his toque.
While getting ready for bed tonight, I caught a glimpse of our honeymoon pictures. My husband and I, four years younger, were completely oblivious to what lay ahead. I had no idea about so many things. I didn't know about the joy and beauty that waited for us. I didn't know about the heartache that waited too.
I’ve unpacked my entire belief system. Every day, in some capacity, I examine previously held opinions against a new and more open, unbiased mind. I carefully examine it from all angles, attempt to solve it with something satisfactory, but end up with nothing.
Today, she is a little girl; giving as much as taking from her siblings. Giggling, fighting, and bonding with them in a way that continues to bloom throughout their lives. / And today, like every day, she is gone.
No water for her, I say to myself. No force, no beauty. No fear of nature’s power, no joy at the earth’s beauty. No wonder at the universe’s expanse, no humility in our own smallness. She does not ask us questions, does not giggle at the sprinkling water, and does not rub her face against her father’s wet neck. I almost feel like she is not even in Aahir’s heart, like he has emphasized for almost three years. I realize how absent she is from this sensory experience that one can only participate in by being present.
What is the love particle? At what speed do these particles travel? As they head out to the vast, cold Universe, are they merely our sad SOSes? Perhaps they are also testimonies—a tiny speck was there, yes, all the way down there, and the speck’s mother loves him still.