Tuesday, March 29, 2011

To Live On

Shortly after Eliza died, my mom ordered two prints from an Etsy shop.  She framed one at her house and asked if I wanted one, too.  I said no.

The quotation says, To live on in the hearts of those we leave behind is not to die.

I didn't want it, I thought at the time, because I didn't want her living on in my heart.  I only wanted her living and nothing else was good enough.

It still isn't.

But this week I asked my mom to send me the print.  I want to display something to honor Eliza's memory, and in order to do that, I have to acknowledge that she is living in our hearts alone.

For a while, I thought I would frame one of the photos we got.  But the truth is, I've felt conflicted about Eliza's pictures from the moment we got them.  On the one hand, I'm glad to have them.  I can look at them and see the beautiful baby she was supposed to be.

On the other hand, I can't look at them without crying.  She doesn't look like my Eliza.  She looks like, well, like a dead baby.  Her pictures make me feel sad, they make me cry, they break my heart into a million pieces because they represent not what she was supposed to be, but what she somehow--impossibly--ended up being.  I just don't want to put up those pictures.

But then I feel terrible for not wanting to display them.  What kind of mother doesn't want to look at pictures of her baby?

I asked my therapist this, tearfully, at a recent appointment.  She made a comparison that had not occurred to me.  If we've lost a loved one after a long illness, chances are that we have pictures of them from before they got sick as well as during their illness.  And typically the pictures we choose to display, the way we choose to remember them, are the pictures from before.  When they still look strong and healthy and happy.

When I chose pictures of Gpa V to post on his birthday, I could have chosen some of the ones that were taken after his cancer treatments.  But those pictures don't look like Gpa V the way I remember him.  He looks thin and pale and sick, and I remember him healthy and round and smiling.  So I didn't feel guilty about choosing other pictures.

The problem is, of course, that I don't have any other pictures of Eliza.  So this framed print is a way to commemorate her that is meaningful to us, and, I think, really beautiful.

Just the way I remember her.

My mom special requested this particular quotation--the artist will do any quotation that you like and she shapes it into a heart.  If you're interested, you can order a custom heart print here.  I think the poem I posted yesterday would be really lovely, too, but of course there are so many possibilities.


  1. That is a beautiful piece of art. : ) I too am hesitant about openly displaying my photos of Katie. I have friends who have no problem about openly displaying photos of their dead babies in their living rooms and even on their desks at work, but I find it hard to do. I only have six lousy Polaroids, three in which she is actually visible, & they are really awful pictures. Precious, but awful. I think they make her look worse than she really did, and it would just kill me to have someone see it & recoil in horror, even (especially) in my own home. I have one photo of me holding her (you can't see her face) with dh & my mom beside me, framed, on the armoire in my bedroom, & a framed copy of my one u/s pic on the dresser. And at work, I have a Precious Moments angel figurine sitting on my desk. That's my "picture" of her at work. Nobody but me knows the significance. I think we all find our own comfort level with these things, & mementos come in all forms, not just photos. : )

  2. I think it's beautiful. I also think we need to purchase something for Andrew but I just don't know what-- and looking for "something" makes me super sad. So I've just avoided it. At this moment, his little heart-shaped urn sits next to a Willow Tree figurine of a couple, and a candle that smells like baby. That's it. No photos displayed (in part because like Lori said, I refuse to allow others to gasp at the sight of a dead baby). My husband can't even look at his pictures. I look at them and am amazed at how incredibly cute {he was}. But of course, purple bruised face, not exactly what I want to share with friends/family. I also sort of feel like because we have so little by way of memories, no one else deserves to see him. That's not the best way to explain it, but the few photos we have are sacred. My proof, but something others don't get to see. Maybe I'll change my mind on that someday. Only 3 people have seen his photos: me, my husband, and my mom. No one else.

  3. :'( i am lucky in that i do have lots and lots of photos to look at of my baby boy. of course, those same photos also break my heart, and i find myself crying if i look too long. the problem is that it's just not right to lose a baby. it's not right at all. and there is no right or wrong thing to do in these situations. the only thing that we can do is to try to make it through each day without having our hearts to badly battered/bruised. i love the pic. and i think it's a wonderful way to honor your baby. and it's great that you were able to be honest with your mom and your grief and not request it until you were strong enough to see it. that is really the most important thing. i think i may check out the artist. i would love to do that for Juju. thank you for sharing that with us. ♥

  4. Don't feel bad about the photos, it's complicated. I know for me, I keep one in our bedroom of all three of us. It's a beautiful photo. I don't share his photos with many people nor do I look at them often anymore, but I'm so thankful to have them. It's complicated because as you said, the photos are sometimes not the way we want to remember them, but yet, it is all we have. It's heartbreaking. Remembering Eliza with you.

  5. I understand how you feel about the photos. They took some photos of my son at the hospital and I have yet to see them. In fact, I don't even have them at home. They are in his file at the hospital.

    Maybe someday I will want to see them, but not now. It's not how I want to remember him. Even if I had them at home, I would not feel comfortable displaying them. Nothing against those who do, but it's just not something I would want to do.

    I think the heart is beautiful.

  6. I have her picture up on our bedroom wall. I found a frame that says "When you fell into my arms little baby, you slipped into my heart" But I don't share it with everyone. Just some of my close friends and family. I would love to move it down into our living room, but something stops me from doing just that. Maybe in time. I think the heart is a beautiful reminder as well.

  7. I think I could just copy and paste Loribeth's comment here as she said just was I was going to say. And I love that she says Katie's pictures are "Awful, but precious". That is EXACTLY how I feel about Love's pictures. And I too, don't want to display pictures of love and have anyone "recoil" in horror. So, I think what you are feeling is what we are all feeling and trying to reconcile. I am currently making a quilt (my first!) for Love that we can have on the couch and snuggle with and it has a little heart on it that I use as her "signature". That is what I will display, and I will think of her every time I am wrapped up in the blanket.
    I love the art that your mother chose. so sweet.

  8. I think this is different for every woman. Personally I could not live without having farmed photos of Cullen in our home. While the best one one of him was turned into a beautiful 16x20 canvas, others are 8X10's around the house next to his sister and brothers photos. I don't see his photos as hard to look at, for he is my son and I study each inch of his face every day.. his image is never far from my mind. I also wear his photo in a glass locket around my neck as well.
    Have to make 2 posts...

  9. I wanted to tell you that there are several services out there who do complete retouching/restoration to photos like this at no charge to the parents. You can see the link to Angel Pics on my blog. While I did have them touch up two photos, in the end I printed the originals. But for families the retouched photos might be a really big help in creating a memory that can be truly cherished.. and displayed. They can fix anything.. bruising, shadows, skin damage, and even remove medical equipment.
    I hope this might help you mamma... even if it is not what you are looking for it might be some help to others.
    And your heart picture is beautiful.

  10. The picture thing hurts me too. I have three, none of which are very good. My husband was afraid to take any as he thought it would be too painful and I was afraid to push the issue because we were already hurting so much. Now we both regret our choices.
    The three that we do have are of a dead baby, not my son. They serve to help me to remember his face but they are just flat images on a paper. There is no life reflected back and it just makes them even more difficult to look at. Still, I treasure them and they, along with the urn, are the most valuable things in my possession.

    I wish there was more for them than measly photographs. The quote is beautiful. You're mother was very thoughtful.

  11. I love the heart print, its very beautiful. I am afraid to put up pictures of my babies, who wants to see pics of dead babies? But oh, I love them still and I love looking at them. I love touching them and remembering them in my arms. Maybe I will send their picture out in their birth/death announcement, fuck everybody else...

  12. Thank you for sharing, it is such a beautiful piece of artwork! I will definitely check out the artist, I love the design she did for you guys!

  13. The artwork is beautiful, and I love the quote.

    I have a mixed relationship with the photos, too. We used to have several large ones around the house, but now it's down to just one, in our bedroom, which I stare at every night...but it's tricky, because Otis has become this two dimensional piece of photographic paper for me, forever frozen at that moment, and sometimes having the photo seems to remind me of how "stuck" he is at forever a newborn...