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a girl on the train

I am going to tell you this story. I don't think I ever told it before.

 photo by .aditya.

This was a few years ago, and I was less than a year from Lucia's death, and I was pregnant again and coming home from a midwife appointment in the city. I was on the train. I was listening to Stereolab, holding onto a pole, staring out the window at graffiti and darkness passing underneath the city.

Then I saw her waiting for the train. I couldn't believe it. She walked onto the car, brushed past me. I smelled her without being weird. And she even smelled like I thought she would. She had dark hair and eyes like my husband. I couldn't stop staring at her. She was Lucia grown up. I mean, I thought Lucia could look like her. Then I guess I thought she was Lucia. She must have been twenty-two, or so. She looked athletic with wide shoulders. She wore orange and red, and carried a small purse crossed over her chest, nothing ostentatious. She checked her iPhone and listened to music and tapped her toes. She wore cool, sensible shoes. Clogs. Just like me. And a scarf around her neck.

I whispered Lucia's name, but she didn't budge. I turned away now and again for the sake of convention. But I situated myself so I could mostly stare at her while pretending to look through her, like she was a specter, which of course, she was. And when the train pulled into my stop, I stayed on. I stayed on the train to see her longer. To look at her face. Praying she would smile, or talk. She was my baby, but she didn't know it. I wanted to see the way her neck eased into her shoulder. It was a very adult part of the body, and Lucia was never adult.

My God. Lucia will never be an adult.

The fact hits me like I fell in front of the train instead of rode in it. Lucia will never kiss a boy. She will never go to college, or eat a peach or dance in a rainstorm. I will never run into her randomly on the train where we can ride home together. I sometimes forget the details of all she will miss in my missing. She will not wear sensible shoes on a Tuesday, or crazy heels on a dark New Year's Eve. She will not hate basketball, or love it, even. Lucia is missing everything too. This body, this youth, this sexiness, this life we lead when we are young and death is something conquered, not an inevitable destination. Lucia never left the station.

I have nothing left of her. A wisp of hair, and grief. If there was a tea to take away grief, I wouldn't drink it. It is all I have of her--grief. An astrologer said I ride the train through two worlds--the living and the dead. I will never fit in either place. It is my destiny, he said. By the alignment of the stars, and my birth time, and this life, he said, Remember,  you made this soul contract. You picked your suffering. To me, he said, it looks like you picked the express train to spiritual growth, which means this is going to be a hard life.

I want this grief, this dis-ease of the heart. The grief is love, I think. It is the aching part of love. It is the sad part of love. But it is still love. Grief ties me to her. Aching. Pain. Suffering. They are her calls to me, and in that way, the pain is sweet and beautiful. She is just a name now. To my children. They stopped asking me about her weight, and what age she would be. She is Lucy, the very sad story I told them one afternoon. She is a butterfly now, and maybe a ladybug. She is the dedication of a song, or a picture, but not a real girl. She doesn't ride the train, and listen to music. She doesn't wear her hair down. Not like the other sisters.

This ride home felt like a journey between two worlds. I am Orpheus, walking again with a lyre into the underworld, and it invigorates me. It is not unlike going into 8th Street station. It smells of piss and cigarette smoke. There is a darkness in me. One I finally see. If I embrace it, the astrologer says, I will be happier. Even way back then, before I knew about the darkness in me, I paid the conductor, and followed the girl that could have been my daughter. My Lucia is dead. Her ashes are lumpy (so is my soul.) I probably wouldn't recognize my little girl walking and talking like a twenty year old. After all, I never saw her live. But that girl on the train was her for twelve minutes. And I loved her like my baby. The girl gets off the train and runs down the stairs. I watch her disappear behind a wall. Lucia is dead again.

I cross the platform to the train going back to my home. It's only two stops. The car is empty. It is hard not to cry, so I don't fight it.


Have you ever seen a stranger who reminds you of your child? Is there any adult in your life that reminds you of what your child could have been? Who is it? Do you want to be close to them, or far away? What parts of your child's adulthood do you miss most? 

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Reader Comments (24)

This post has me in tears. You so eloquently write about what all mothers who have lost a baby probably feel. I do. I sit and wonder who my Finley would be. He looked like his daddy but with my nose. Would he continue to look like his father? Would his hair stay blonde like mine? We he be kind and considerate? Aware of how he fits into the world? I will never know. I grieve for the loss of my son - not only for the baby who died, but for the toddler, child, teenager and man he would become that I will never know.

August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
This post has me in tears. You so eloquently write about what all mothers who have lost a baby probably feel. I do. I sit and wonder who my Finley would be. He looked like his daddy but with my nose. Would he continue to look like his father? Would his hair stay blonde like mine? We he be kind and considerate? Aware of how he fits into the world? I will never know. I grieve for the loss of my son - not only for the baby who died, but for the toddler, child, teenager and man he would become that I will never know.

August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
This was hauntingly beautiful to read. I have a hard time envisioning what my life would be like if my twins were here, two chubby eight-month olds, instead of one year, one week and one day dead. I've had a couple of premonitions of a dark haired infant girl with my husbamd's hairline, but I don't think it's Aliya, my lost daughter...I think it may instead be the twins future baby sister. I had an astrologer tell me something similar about my soul path, that I'm on the fast track and have learned much already, although mine is more about inhabiting a physical body (which has been hard for me and which both pregnancy and second trimester loss have helped me work on...although, damn).
August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
Such a bittersweet story, brilliantly written. Although I haven't had this exact experience yet, meaning I haven't seen anyone whom I could imagine my son looking like if he could grow up. However, I have little moments like when I look into my husband's beautiful eyes and think did he have his eyes? When I see a little boy running around or having dinner with his parents or playing with his dad and I think would he have been like this? It just makes me so sad that our babies will never grow up, that we will never be able to share with them the beautiful things on earth, or even the most ordinary aspects of daily life. We will never know them. It really breaks my heart, and this post reflects it wonderfully. Thanks for sharing your story.
August 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereyr2012
Beautiful, Angie.

All three of my boys like like their father. Like exactly. So in George and Henry, I see Sam but of course I'll never see Sam truly and that is heartbreaking. All those things our children will never do is what kills me sometimes.

Sending love to you, Angie.
August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonique
"the express train to spiritual growth"
Wow, that really hits me. It seems almost like a blessing. I also like feeling the pain because it means that I loved, that I love.

The only time I think of my lost son is when I look at my living son. Sometimes I look at him and am reminded of how much I have lost. I have not yet met my nephew who would be almost the exact same age as my son who died. I imagine that will be hard for me.
August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeigh
What a haunting post, yes. But beautiful at that.

Physically, I see my son in my husband. When he sleeps. There is one picture of my son where he doesn't look dead. He looks like D when he sleeps. So now, D looks like my son. D sleeps...his muscles are relaxed, and his face is the void of expression. He breathes. That is my son. I usually wake before him. I watch him sleep, knowing that's as close to watching my son sleep as I'll ever get.

I see myself, now. Full of heartache, grief, and despair. Sad. And so deeply connected to what I've lost. To this boy who never was.

I don't know why, but I see my son as me. I wonder what heartaches life would have brought him. What sorrow he would have wept over. Oh, and in those thoughts, I connect with him. I know how emotionally intune he would have been. Just like my father is in me, I would have been in my son. And this intense emotional capasity would have linked us together.

Maybe not would have... but it does. That part of him is what still lives.
August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVeronica
I told a story once on my blog where I was directed in a department store to "Maddalena, who I'm sure is free to help you." I practically ran. I could not have been more surprised to find an young Asian woman (which begged a million questions, I bit my lip, but god barely), and grumpy. Really grumpy. So grumpy I didn't compliment her on her name, which was prominently displayed on her tag. I just chalked it up to karma or whatever and hoped her day improved.

Honestly the kids who most remind me of Maddy, whether young or grown, are those with disabilities. Because there but for one less issue may have walked my family. And it's haunting like your story, to think she could be here to touch and smell and take care of, and it's also haunting to think *she could be here,* because I'm not sure what the "being" would actually be.

Lovely, aching story. I'm sure she had a Lucia in her life, and I'm so glad you saw her even briefly. I guess to me this story shows how much Lucia lives on in your life, and I think that's a wonderful -- albeit sometimes sad -- thing.
August 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertash
This is such a beautiful piece. I relate to Veronica, my daughter had my husband's face and I see it when he is asleep. Calm and sweet. I've haven't seen another child or adult that 'could have been' her yet.
August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
In the first six months or so, I used to look at girls aged 18months to 2 years old and think that's what she would have looked like. Little girls with blonde bouncing curls. That doesn't really happen any more. Not at all. I have no idea who I'm missing and can't imagine her at any age. I look at her baby photo a bazillion times a day and she's the only one I miss, the 8 pound perfect baby I held in my arms for 21 hours. I simply can't imagine a single thing beyond that moment. And that's a different pain entirely. I wish I had a clue. I wish I could get a sneak peak, a vision i to who or what she might have been. Even in a dream. Or at a train station.

This post was amazing.

"If there was a tea to take away grief, I wouldn't drink it."

Same here.

August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSally
Grief is love. Well said. And yes, it ties me to Ethan.

"the express train to spiritual growth" - most of the time i want off of this train, looking around for some emergency pull to make the train come to a halt. but that phrase does resonate with me.

I do find myself wondering if Ethan's eyes would have been brown like his dad's & sister's, or blue like his 2 brothers' and mine. I wonder just how tall he would have been, taller than his 6'6" father? perhaps the tallest of all of his siblings?

I miss the opportunity to see my 3 teenage boys playing on the same basketball team together (if they desired). I liked to think of my boys, all predicted to be quite tall, filling 3 out of the 5 starting basketball positions in high school. The Gray boys, a force to be reckoned with. Now there will always be one missing. I miss the opportunity to see him graduate high school, or learn what career path he would have chosen.

This has me in tears, and that is OK. How much I miss my sweet Ethan - those 4 days were a blessing, but not long enough.

Thank you for this post. Beautifully written about a brutal truth to our sadness.
August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie
This is a beautiful, sad post, Angie, but what a gift those breathtaking moments are when we feel we have been granted a window, a connection, a something to our lost loves.

My father-in-law gave me the book "Bloom" a few months ago, a very kind and thoughtful gesture. The book is a memoir by a mother who very unexpectedly delivered a healthy baby girl with Down syndrome (trisomy 21). Emotionally it was a tough read for me. Why couldn't AdiaRose have trisomy 21 and maybe have a shot, instead of the trisomy 13 that took her life?

I was looking at all of the beautiful photographs of this baby girl through her first year of life and I was taken with a sudden longing to see what my baby girl might have looked like if she had lived and grown. So I googled "babies with trisomy 13". Because some babies born with what killed AdiaRose do make it, at least for awhile, some surprisingly far. I learned that babies with trisomy 13 are affected by it in a lot of different ways, that there are not hallmark features like with Down syndrome. I looked and couldn't find her anywhere until I saw one baby, almost as pretty as AdiaRose, who was awake and wore the sweetest expression and had her nose.

Really, though, it is her older sister. When she was born, even though she was much smaller and blue, she looked like her sister, who looks a lot like her Daddy. She looked like one of us.

I know if she had lived with trisomy 13 her life would have been different than her sister's in a lot of ways, but the same in how very loved and cherished she would be. But she would have suffered from all of the complications. So my idea of her stops there, really, as an infant. Because she slipped away from bodily suffering, and I can't wish her soul back into her dear, tiny, perfect body if it means she would suffer. Her future on Earth was always this, from the moment she was made.

But I still miss her so much. My arms long to hold her, my hands to tend her, my eyes to drink her in.

I'm so glad you had this visitation, Angie. I'm so glad you could see Lucia in physical form, with a healthy body and an earthly future, if even for a few precious moments.
August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Wow. This is an amazing post. I read it so intently, as if I was re-living the feelings of getting to see my own lost daughter. I have not seen a real person remind me of an adult Shoshanna, but I often visualize her among the crowds. Thank you for this gorgeous piece of writing.
August 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSapphira
How beautiful and amazing. To see what might have been? Perhaps?

I have never had a similar experience but there are a couple of instances that always bring Georgina to my mind. Sadly, often it is when I catch a glimpse of a certain expression on her twin sister's face. Ridiculous really. I have absolutely no reason to believe that they would have looked at all alike, being fraternal twins and not identical. Perhaps I just have to fill in the gap left by my own lack of imagination and her sister is an obvious choice.

Georgina often seems to turn up at that transitional age of around twelve or thirteen. When I see a young, skinny girl with long hair and bad posture. A daydreamer. Or perhaps I'm just looking for myself? Before any of this happened.

And when I see a child with cerebral palsy. I think of her.

I miss . . . everything. Because she never left the station. She'll never love or hate or read a book or eat anything. She'll only ever be a baby. A tiny, ill baby struggling to live. And I try to console myself with the fact that she will never experience any more of the painful things this life contains. But, somehow, that is cold comfort. Because this life, right here, is all I know, all I understand and all I had to offer.

Four later, I hope I have less pity for myself. But I am still so very, very sad for her. That she didn't live, I can't help but feel she was robbed. Of everything that I can understand anyway.

I wouldn't drink the tea either.
August 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine W
Having teenagers, I have almost daily glimpses of everything Florence will miss. My eldest daughter is 16, she's just left school, about to start college, had her prom, she's discovering the wider world and all that brings. Florence will never get to do any of those things, she and we have missed so much, will miss so much.
I understand what you mean about grief being love, it's pretty much all I have of Florence now, sometimes even her name seems like "just a word". Only the grief is real.
I would have stayed on the train too. x
August 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeanette
Beautiful, Angie, as always.

The closest thing I had to your experience was a dream, the only one really, that I had where C. appeared to me. It was just a few months after her death, and I was not yet pregnant with her sister. She was an adult, all grown up. I remember our conversation exactly, how we hugged each other and laughed with each other. I commented on her appearance, that she looked so different to how I had pictured her. I thought she'd be tall and dark, like me. She was fairer (and shorter!), with hazel eyes and curly light brown hair. Funny that, considering that is just how her living sister looks now. And because of that resemblance, I feel like everyday when I look at Naya, I get a glimpse of C...

I never dreamed of C. again. It was almost like a chance encounter on a train, never to be repeated. No matter how often I sit and wait, in hope, for that moment when I think I can see her out of the corner of my eye.
August 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJ.
Oh, what a lovely story. I would've stayed on the train, too.

Once I saw a little girl who looked like Pearl might've, a quick little wisp of a girl with curly brown hair, who was the same age then that Pearl should've been. It wasn't on a train, it was at a birthday party, and I turned away so that her very nice mother wouldn't engage me in conversation. I'd already heard her give the little girl's age. I was pretty sure I'd be compelled to tell her about my daughter, who should've been the same age, and I didn't want to. I wanted to eat cake with my oldest instead.

I've been thinking recently about what she would've looked like. At birth, both of my daughters had curly dark hair, while both of my boys were blond. But based on her newborn face, Pearl resembled her brothers more than her sister, so I think she would've looked like them. If all four of my children were still here with me, I think there would be three carbon copies of their dad and one (my sweet Louisa) who looks like me. So I sometimes see her in her brothers' faces, less often in her sister's.
August 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterM
"Not like the other sisters." I see E thinking sometimes about other kids' sisters and how different they are than her own. She's too little too have to think these things.

I haven't had the same experience, but I've had two similar ones. One weekend, about 3 months after A died, R and I spent a weekend away in a resort town filled with 20-somethings being ski bums and having fun. I saw a beautiful blonde woman with a red silk flower pinned in her hair sitting at a table with two guys and drinking a beer. I'm quite sure A would never have looked anything like this woman, but I could not stop staring at her, thinking about what it was like to be that age, wondering what my living daughter, E, would be like, what she would do, and hating, hating, hating that we'd never know what A would have been like, that she would never have the chance to wear flowers in her hair, be 23, drink beer with ski bums in some mountain town with her whole wondrous life ahead of her. I felt this incredible love for that woman and when R and I left the pub and walked past her I felt like I was trying to beam all of that love onto her, to put some kind of charm on her so that she would always be happy, always be beautiful and young and have flowers in her hair. I know it was because of A that I felt this so strongly.

The second similar experience: Last summer, when I was newly pregnant with A and E was 2.5, I had to get a new passport. At the passport office I saw this really interesting looking young girl, probably about 19 and with blue hair and a couple of tattoos and cool boots - just really her own person, and I watched her for a long while wondering what E would be like as a young woman and hoping she would be as completely her own person as this girl was. Then the girl pulled out a book to read and it was titled "The A to Z Encycolpedia of Serial Killers" and I thought, hmmm....maybe not so much. R and I laughed about this story later that night. A few weeks ago my mother had to get a new passport and when she said she was going to the passport office, I thought immediately of the girl with the blue hair and the serial killer book and it just reminded me all over again that my sweet ghost-girl A would never grow up, never have questionable taste in reading material, never wear big chunky boots and dye her hair blue and head out somewhere with a backpack and her passport.

Yikes this was long. Thanks for sharing Angie. I would've stayed on the train, too.
August 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJLD
I'm on that train, but my train is a time machine. So F's little sister M is now his older sister, and as she looked so much like F for their parallel age-spans, she seems like the guide to what could have been him.
Today is three years since F died. What I miss for F's adulthood is his chance to love like I have, and his opportunities to succeed at whatever would have made him happy.
Thanks Angie, thanks Glow in the Woods, you are a haven.
August 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter-V.
There is a beautiful undercurrent of acceptance or integration or something like these things in this post. You say -
"I want this grief, this dis-ease of the heart. The grief is love, I think. It is the aching part of love. It is the sad part of love. But it is still love."
And the words leave me silent, with out the proper words to describe the feeling that rises in my heart. I find that in life there are people, or moments, or blogs that somehow touch on this beautiful truth. That grief (and perhaps death itself) is not some unfair thing to wish away. But rather they are dark parts about being fully human. They are painful, awful part of love and life, but they are still parts of love and life and that makes them somehow beautiful. I don't know. I can't find the words to express myself clearly. But I'm so thankful for your words. They remind me of an old post of yours that still sticks with me..."I bend from the love..."
August 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKari
"The grief is love, I think. It is the aching part of love. It is the sad part of love. But it is still love. Grief ties me to her." This is so true and it is the reason why I can't/don't fight my grief. My grief is all I have of them and as you say, it is love. So while it hurts so much, but I guess you could say I am indulging in my love. I sometimes watch boy/girl twins interact with each other and feel like I see or know something of N&A in them, but nothing as intense or as specific as what you experienced on the train. Interestingly, for some reason I always tend to think of them as toddlers - not as babies or as older children or adults.
August 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterA.
You know, I write a lot about grief, Lucia, and my daughter's death, but writing and remembering this experience made me cry. The line: "My, God, Lucia will never be an adult." was me thinking that at the same moment I was writing. Tears pounced on me in a way that hasn't happened in a while. That isn't the first time it occurred to me, but sometimes the reality of it seems so tragic.

I thank you all for your kind words and for sharing your experiences here. So many of you said your husbands or family or children or yourself. I totally agree that watching my daughter be all these ages that Lucia will not is bittersweet. Yet Bea is her own being, so she isn't that shadow of Lucia.

I am so grateful for your generosity in sharing your experience here and in our forums. I am continually blown away by this community. xo
August 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngie
My two sons looked just like my husband. My youngest son, Jet, especially. My daughter less so. I have photos and memories of all three of them. And I see them in my husband. Every day.

I see people too, and think "my children will never get to do this, or make that choice, etc". I think it every day. Whenever I see children or teenagers.

I think my life is hard and will be hard too. Three dead children and no living children. It can't be anything but hard.
August 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermirne
I do this with my nephew James. I look at my daughter's classmates and choose which one he would be. Strangley, I rarely pick the child who looks most like his brother. Rather I look for a the opposite, in personality and appearance. When I think about the beautiful boy, my sister (and our family) lost, I picture him as the opposite of all of us. He is our better, he was going to be the one to save us from ouselves and right the world's problems. So I look into the eyes of my daughter's classmates and try to find her cousin who was going to save the world.
August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

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