|more pics here|
I've written about this before, but the first person I e-mailed after Eliza died was a woman named Kate, whose e-mail address was listed on the Glow in the Woods website. It turned out that she hadn't contributed to the website in sometime, but she wrote me back quickly, kind and knowing and comforting words that were the first balm of shared experience on the great and gaping wound in my heart.
We didn't carry on a lengthy correspondence after that--just a few e-mails here and there--but since that first compassionate reply she sent, I've basically hero-worshiped her.
She speaks each year at the Walk to Remember in her area. You can read her beautiful, moving, and painfully true words from this year's walk here. Of course the whole thing is wonderful, but this was part when I felt like she was speaking to me, to the me who stills cries in my office on a Friday afternoon, to the me who feels like maybe it's been too long and nobody except for other BLMs wants to hear about how much Halloween hurts my heart, to the me who wants to know more than almost anything in this word if Eliza would have blue eyes like me, or hazel ones like her dad and sister, to the me who is sometimes still overcome by the sense of how much I failed her:
Don’t ever apologize for being sad. A child in a wartorn country does not need to say she is sorry for stepping on a landmine. Don’t apologize for making other people uncomfortable with the fact that you’ve just gotten gaping chunks of your body blown off. I’m sorry. I’m a mess. I’m so sorry. You don’t need to be.
Don’t apologize for speaking to the dead. Don’t apologize for hearing them speak back. This is ancient magic, the truest truth.
Don’t apologize for no longer fitting into the ideal—not even inwardly, to yourself. Don’t apologize to your baby, taking on what feels like the failure of your body. If you do, and if you listen, you will sense it: baby will say Mama, that is going too far. Be gentle, mama.
I still reread her speech from last year. I don't exaggerate when I say this speech changed my life by giving me another insight into love and loss. I love every word of it, especially this:
Loss is the human baseline. What happened to you -- to us -- was a horrible trauma. Such an injustice. Extraordinary. But the effect of it brings us home to the most fundamental human state: suffering.
We mark it with these balloons, hanging onto it thanks to a ribbon that tickles your palm. You might feel a strange re-enactment of loss, a little twinge when you let go, and then awe and wonder as it goes up, and up.
We don't just honour our babies when we let go. We honour what we lived through as the people who loved them. We mark our loss of faith, of our innocence, our obliviousness, our grace. We mourn those things as we mourn our children.
But there are things we've found, through suffering, and we note them too, as we let go. We've discovered truths, and strengths, whether it feels that way right now or not. Through our babies, as with all babies, we were given glimpses of otherworldly things we never would have noticed before.
One day you’re able to pause, and nod, and say without collapsing: I remember you, baby. And you sense a nod back from some other place. Not necessarily from your baby but from the sky, the wind, the weather. They approve of the way you tip your hat and continue on with ordinary things like a desperate craving or an afternoon with a book or a good sweat.
After a good cry (which I just had while writing this post), I try to take a deep breath. And then when I let it out, I send out love into the universe.
Love for Eliza, love for the other babies lost, especially right now the September babies like Otis and Olivia, and love for that little Liam, whose mom promised me that broken wasn't the same as ruined forever.
She was right. I can say it now, without collapsing: I remember you, baby. And this year, again, I will walk and remember.