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All the living people have their own hearts

All the living people have their own hearts

Functional hearts that beat and slosh their blood through brain and vein

Angry hearts betrayed, broken, wreaking havoc, taking names

Troubled hearts pounding for the pain of strangers

Retentive hearts for memories of rain and safety

Faithful hearts given away with the promise of eternity

Treacherous hearts twisting burning too soon turning

Playful hearts that invert an empty eggshell in its cup and invite their mother to tap it with a spoon

Wistful hearts trembling for midnight and the moon.

My other children grow and speak in different voices

With words I didn’t teach them

And explore their complex hearts


But my daughter’s heart with all its potential for infinite variety

Stilled in my womb and never had expression

And that became my lesson

To live another’s heart and cells and memory

To write her death in all its vile potency

To understand that I’m her only legacy

And there could never be enough

Money to honour her

Voices to speak of her

Or babies to save for her

The world in its entirety could not satisfy her loss

It rests with me to somehow be worthy of her precious heart


And so I end and start


This is my last post for Glow. I often think of my writing as part of Iris' legacy. How do you feel about creating a legacy for your baby or babies? Do you do something "in their name"? What does that mean to you? 

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Reader Comments (16)

I hope you never stop writing. I hope you never stop writing about Iris. I love you, Jess.
July 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSally
I'm (gulp) six + years out and I feel a bit guilty that I don't really have a legacy. I have a blog too I suppose, and a bracelet, and a couple trees, but nothing that screams her name to the world -- which is I suppose what I want deep down. If only I could muster the courage to do so.

The heart-talk got me here: my daughter had a slew of problems -- no discernible white matter being the biggie -- but it was her heart stopping and starting and stopping again that ultimately broadcasted her certain demise. That her heart failed on Valentines Day holds great irony for me, and I'll probably never see/hear/think of a cartoon/metaphorical heart in quite the same way again.

Thanks for being here Jess, all the best to you moving forward. Thank you for sharing Iris with us.
July 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commentertash
We sponsor a child in Africa and send her to school in Tess's name. We buy goats for African orphans. We buy gifts for needy children every Christmas. But it is never enough. I cannot do enough. None of us can. You saying that you are yor daughters legacy really struck me. You have made me realize that I am Tess's only legacy too and I do not want her legacy to be the angry, bitter one that I present to the world now. Thank you for this. I wish you peace
July 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoy
Thank you so much, Jess. You're such a lovely presence and I so appreciate everything you've contributed here... and I know so many others feel the same way.

Joy, that was an amazing point about legacy. Made me pause today.
July 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkate inglis
For me legacy is the only thing that I can give to my son now. My only child who I had so many plans for, whom I would have given my life for. And now there is nothing left I can do for him in life, so I continue to build a legacy and to make his short life worth while. But you're right - it will never be enough. I strive towards a goal that I will never reach, because the love I have for him is limitless.

This was a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing it.

Lisa | <a href="http://www.thestarsapart.com">www.thestarsapart.com</a>
July 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLisa
Thanks for sharing Iris and your words with us - I'll miss your voice around here.
July 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMonique
Thank you for sharing. I am saddened by the news of your leaving, but I understand. I have found solace in your words more than once, a voice calling out through the storm letting me know I am not alone. This post was no different.
Just last night I was communing with my Amelia and I asked her who she was.
Reading your post this morning sparked within me an answer.
She is in everything. She is in me. She was here to teach me. I am her legacy. I am the living monument of her life. She is inside of me and she is the beauty in the world and in me. She made this possible, made me beautiful, and I am her monument. She is my daughter.
Thank you for sharing your voice with us. If we are our baby's legacies, Iris's monument is a beautiful one.
Take care, Mama.
July 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEmily C
i also have to respond that its is such an important sentiment, this idea of being their legacy...
you put it into words, exactly matching how i feel. thank you for writing it and for sharing it here. much love to you and your sweet iris.

doing something in their name has been so important to my husband and me...
for coral, we purchased a painting for the l&d floor at the hospital where she was born, paid for by the monies that were donated in her memory from family and friends. it is such a perfect painting/image, and it is right in the waiting area, with her name on a small plaque... this filled our need to memorialize her. when her birthday comes around, we always take the day to ourselves and do very specific things to mark the day- we purchase a car seat or stroller or some other baby item for the local homeless shelter, in her name. the sister who runs the shelter knows us thru coral's memory, and it is wonderful to connect with her for that day. and to know that there is a mom/dad/and-or/baby in need that will benefit in honor of our daughter. they have no idea, of course, but we do and it matters.

for anton, we have set up a trust in perpetuity to buy art for the hospital he was born in. his death was so tragic and horrible. we wanted something beautiful to replace that tragedy (hah, yeah, like that could ever really happen, but that was the idea), so, for long past our lives here, there will always be art around to comfort and appease those who visit the l&d and nicu there, in his name. his name will continue on... this is what was so appealing to us, that anton's name will always be real and remembered, not only by us, but by others who appreciate art and see his name on the little plaque. on his birthday, we bring small stuffed animals to the nicu, and let the staff distribute them as needed. it is so hard to go there. but it is worth it, to connect to him in such a visceral way, to be at the place where i gave him his birth, regardless of his heart being still :(
July 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterss
It is never enough and sometimes it is too much. Never enough because only having her would be enough. Too much because it's stuff to honour her...but it's stuff...what I want, what we all want, is our children.

Anyway, I have a blog. I had 2 trees. One died (the irony) and now I have one. I have a small garden and a rock...oh, and we donate toys to Ronald McDonald House and bring blankets and phone cards to the ICU but it's all really nothing. Tokens of the heart that burst. I also have a ride. Eva's Ride. And Eva's Ride is where I feel her legacy lives on for more than just my heart. And that too, is nothing.
July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEm
I loved listening to this poem in your voice, Jess. Thank you. You are a wonderful poet and I'm so grateful to have heard your voice today.
I have also benefitted from reading all the ideas about legacy in the comments. I don't think I've done anything yet to create a legacy for my baby, but I know that he is more loved than I have ever been, for all my living. So I hope that some small legacy will emerge in time.
July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRuby
This is simply beautiful and I thank you. I never really thought of myself as my daughter's legacy, but how could it be any other way? This has made me stop and think about how I'm navigating through this world. I can be better, for her, for her legacy, absolutely.
Best wishes to you and thanks for sharing Iris with us.
July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterILM
I also love the idea that I am my daughter, Clementine's legacy and did not see it that way - though I am struggling to mark her short life as the anniversary of her birth/death is tomorrow. And you're right, there can never be enough done because she can never be back here with me.

Your voice is beautiful and so is your writing. And, like for many other mamas here, you have been a source of comfort to me and written the words my heart wanted to say and needed to hear.
Thank you.
July 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJanet
God spoke to me today and I wanted to share His love with you and your beautiful Baby Iris. She is in His hands. She is so loved, just like you are. Never give up faith, hope and love - also remember Mother Mary never did.

so I say, "Gone is my glory,
and all that I had hoped for from the LORD."
the thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
"The LORD is my portion, " says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in him."

Lamentations 3: 16-33
July 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercynthiasolc
Beautiful. Thank you. And thank you for all of your contributions. You will be missed here.
July 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKari
Love you Jess. Wish this was not your last post.

I think Freddie's legacy is our family, which is better, happier and more stable because he came. And I am a more peaceful, more certain character.

But his mark is tenuous. I have not been able to make a beautiful memorial of him somehow. I keep waiting for the right time.
July 17, 2013 | Registered CommenterMerry
It was Z who got me writing again so I tend to feel that is part of her legacy. But I also love the thought that some of her little cells float around in my bloodstream, so that I am also her legacy - I like who I am better for being her mama.
July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

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