Tuesday, February 15, 2011

i carry your heart

(Let me first say that this post was inspired in part by a baby boy named Julius.)

So there's this poem by e. e. cummings that goes like this:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear
no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud 
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

It is a poem that has changed in meaning for me since I had and lost Eliza.  I've always thought it was a beautiful love poem.  I suggested it to Monica to include in her wedding because at the time I thought it spoke nicely to the improbability and magic of a long-distance relationship spawned on the internet.

Now Eliza is gone and nothing means what it used to mean, including this poem.  I'm left to go on without her, forced to settle for the completely unfair scenario of carrying her in my heart instead of in my arms.  As an unexpected side effect of this loss, my eyes have been opened to all of those who grieve alongside me.  I have suddenly become aware of the fact that there are enough bereaved parents in this world, that it could very well be the love we have for our dead children functions as a kind of gravitational force, powerful enough to keep the stars apart.

"i carry your heart" will always be the poem that was read at Monica and Johnny's wedding, but now it is also a poem about losing a baby and yet carrying him or her with you forever.  And, for me, it's also poem about the community of bereaved parents that I have found online.  These are communities constructed by people who feel compelled to share their stories and sometimes their deepest secrets--the fears and hopes and sadnesses that we hesitate to speak to anyone who might not understand.  They are safe places for confessionals and cries in the dark, but they only work as such because they are also forums of consolation, allowing bereaved parents the opportunity to comfort others walking this path, allowing those who are further out from their loss to do some good and share their love in the name of the children they've lost.  Some of those communities are linked on my sidebar, and the comments and conversations and kindness and commiseration that I've found there has been immeasurably comforting (although not always so remarkably alliterative).

I carry all of these stories.  I carry them in my heart.  And sometimes the pain of it is almost too much.  It's absolutely overwhelming to discover how many women have been in my place, how many children are missed and loved by their parents.  It is a heavy burden to bear.

I have had two friends specifically say that they wish they could carry a slice of this grief for me, that they wish they could absorb some of this pain.  I was moved by their words and it's a sentiment that I truly appreciate.  I wish I could really take them up on their offer.  Because sometimes this grief does feel like more than anyone can bear alone.  The support of these friends means a lot to me.  But they can't really carry this pain for me.  No one can.

Except maybe someone else who's been here.

I think that maybe these online communities exist so that we can help to carry each other's burdens.  It's by no means easy and really not much of a relief.  It's as though instead of carrying 100 pounds of your own grief, you've parceled it out so 50 of those pounds are being carried by 50 other people.  But in return, you're carrying a pound of each of their griefs as well.  So your burden isn't really any lighter, but still you share the work of carrying it.  And somehow that makes a difference.

It is a community of grief.  A club no one wants to join.  The price of admission is far too high and there actually aren't any perks to being a member except that when you are awake at 3am and you feel all alone in the world and the only thing that you want is to turn back time and change the course of history and hold your healthy baby in your arms, you can cry while knowing that other people out there are crying with you and for you.

Because if you've lost a baby too, then I also carry your story.  I carry it in my heart, right alongside my love for Eliza.  And when I look up at the stars, I know the deepest secret that nobody should have to know:  the love we have for those babies is, in fact, the wonder that's keeping the stars apart.


  1. Cried reading Tiffany's post and now more tears. Damn emotions!

  2. Such a beautiful way of putting it!

  3. Such a beautiful way of putting it!

  4. I carry a little of you and Eliza in my heart too...while it makes your burden no easier to bare, at least we are not alone.

  5. Beautiful entry and very true. I shudder to think what it must have been like to lose a baby 10-15+ years ago before there were blogging communities and as many resources as there are today. I definitely carry Eliza and so many others in my heart.

    Also, I wanted to remind you in case I haven't already of the Angel of Hope statue in St.Charles. I know you aren't crazy about angels these days but it really is a nice peaceful place just to go and not feel so alone when you see all of the bricks. Anyway, I wanted to remind you that the application is due March 20th for the new spring bricks if you decide you want to get one. Her brick probably wouldn't be far from Olivia's. http://www.nationalshare.org/angel-of-hope.html If you have any questions about it let me know.

  6. I think ee would love the layers of heart carrying. I still carry yours with me everyday and I always will- right along with Johnny's.

  7. I came back not remembering that I read your post and commented.. whew! But then I saw Angie's comment and had to share that we have a brick at the St. Charles Angel of Hope. If you have never been it is very emotional, beautiful, and peaceful. I hope one day we can bring one to Kansas City!

  8. i can't believe i didn't see this post until now. :') thank you. thank you for mentioning my baby boy's name. thank you.

    i loved the way you explained how bereaved parents share grief and lighten each other's burden while not really lightening their own. it's so true. i find so much healing in reading the words of others. knowing that i'm not alone. knowing that there are other people mourning their little ones. but though it brings me comfort, the terrible fact still remains that he is forever gone from me and this world. that will never change, and so i will always remain broken hearted and incomplete. :'( i wish no one had to feel this. i really do.

  9. oh friend, I too carry your heart, and eliza's, in mine, forever.

  10. The first time I heard that poem after Ben died I think my heart stopped. And the meaning of it forever changed for me, too.

  11. I will carry a piece of your grief for you. You speak so eloquently and truthfully. I just lost my little girl one month ago (Jan 9th, 2011), and am just finding these blogs and communities. Thank you for sharing.

  12. We read that poem at Lydie's memorial. I've always loved it and thought of it about romantic love as well... but now, it's all about Lydie.