Thursday, October 25, 2012

An Accidental Gift

Recently, a friend of ours commented on how nice it is that we have many things in our house that commemorate Eliza.  We don't have a specific shelf or table that's dedicated to her, but we have little things displayed throughout the house. In fact, almost every room of our house has something it that's specific to Eliza.  I didn't do that intentionally, but it seems natural to me that she would be seamlessly included in our family's stuff.  I want her to be a presence and not just an absence.

Of course, Zuzu's stuff takes up a lot more space, and Zuzu herself asserts her presence in a way that makes missing her sister a little more bearable and at the same time a little more sad because I know Eliza would have been just as awesome as she is, except different and I would love to know how that would work.  I wonder so much about what the two of them would have been like together.

My friend Natalie visited us a couple weeks ago and met Zuzu for the first time.  Nat and I have been friends forEVER (seriously since we were three years old) and she has been featured on this blog before.  (You are so welcome, dearie!).

So we spent the weekend eating, shopping, and sampling local beers.  We were out to lunch at one of our favorite breweries and Natalie was saying something about/to Caroline and she accidentally called her Eliza.

The moment it left her mouth, she realized what she had said and she was instantly apologetic.  She stopped talking abruptly and then started apologizing profusely.  I could tell that she felt really bad.

I told her that it was fine and I meant it.

What I couldn't quite articulate at the time was what a gift it was to hear her mix up their names.

Because it's the kind of thing that would happen all the time if they were both here.

We have these little things around our house--framed prints, a pencil portrait, her little footprints, an angel figurine, a Buddha figurine, her ultrasound picture in a frame--because it's important for me to commemorate Eliza as our first daughter (instead of just our dead baby).  She brought us so much joy before she died.  She made David and me the parents and the people we are today.  Her influence is huge, and not all of it is sad.  She has been incorporated into our family because of her life, not just her death.  I want my house to reflect that she existed even though she's no longer here.

And Natalie's name mix-up did exactly that.  It was a beautiful reminder that when she thinks about me and my family, she thinks about Eliza and Caroline both.

Hearing Natalie say her name was a simple reminder that Eliza was here, she was real, and she's just as important to our family as her sister is.  Her name might have come up by accident at that moment, but I loved hearing it.

My friend Becky posted this quote on her blog recently, and it says essentially the same thing.  It's from Elizabeth Edwards's book Resilience (which is worth reading, even if you haven't lost a child).  She writes a lot about the death of her son, Wade, in a car accident when he was sixteen years old.  Others are so often afraid to mention the child who is missing, afraid of upsetting people or making them cry.  Edwards explained in an talk she gave that this idea is misguided:

If you know someone who has lost a child and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died, they didn't forget that they died.  You're not reminding them.  What you're reminding them of is that you remember they lived, and that's a great, great gift.

That's exactly what Natalie did when called Caroline by the wrong name.  She gave me the gift of showing me that she remembers Eliza when she sees Zuzu.  And that truly is a great, great gift.

Caro and her auntie Natalie


  1. Aw, thanks Brooke! Or should I say, you're welcome?? Haha. I do think of Eliza as part of your family. I so wish she was here with us.

    It was wonderful to meet darling Zuzu! She is so precious. Love you both.

  2. :) What a wonderful friend.

    Something similar happened at Thanksgiving this year- Scott was watching my 3 year old nephew Joe play with toy trucks on the coffee table and he started smashing them together. Without thinking about it, my FIL asked, "What are you doing Jack?". He must have then realized what he had said and looked up at me. I smiled back, acknowledging that he brought up my son- confirmation as you had said before, that he DOES still think about him. Made my heart happy too.

    Ans Zuzu is too cute for words. :)

  3. Ive done the same and felt so weird about it. But ten I realized that would be the case if he were here, and in that sense, it is pretty cool like u said. It does validate that they were here and are a part of the family. Good thought.

  4. And I love Eliza and David too! Didn't mean to leave them out. :) Love to you all.

  5. Exactly.



    I can't agree more. My father-in-law was SO apologetic when he called Benjamin by Andrew's name and I sort of gushed like a proud mom. Not exactly the reaction one would expect, but in all the ways you explained, including that incredible Elizabeth Edward's quote, I agree.

    I love being known as the mom to both Andrew and Benjamin. Hearing his name, even by accident is a welcome sound.

  6. That made me tear up. I've accidentally called Harliw, Camille. I know I would do it if she was alive. It just breaks my heart. I am so glad your friend made the mistake. It's a beautiful mistake!

  7. I love everything about this I do with so many of your posts. I love when people mention William as a member of our family.

  8. I'm glad you posted this, because I've always been afraid I'd do this when I met you. This is so eye-opening for me, and such a beautiful post about your girls.

  9. Here from the Roundup. Such a beautiful post.

  10. This is such a beautiful post and so true! My heart would sing if someone accidentally spoke aloud the name of one of our twins. An accidental gift, indeed - so nice and unexpected.