Sunday, October 21, 2012

Walk for Remembrance and Hope

So there was something else weighing on my mind last week (and making me cranky as hell).  I knew that I was tired and crabby and stressed out, but it wasn't really until Friday (when I cried about five times) that I realized how much of my anxiety was actually about the Share remembrance walk we were going to on Saturday.

Are you thinking that I should WANT to participate in these things?  Or that it's totally optional, and I shouldn't worry about doing it unless I wanted to?  Are you wondering why I would feel stressed out about an event that should be a meaningful and lovely ceremony?  

I was thinking and wondering all of those things.

There was a small part of me that didn't want to go at all.  I felt like it would be heartbreaking to hear all the names read.  I felt like it would be a heavy event and I was already feeling very weighed down.

I also felt like maybe I was doing Eliza an injustice because we wouldn't be one of those teams where everybody wears awesome personalized shirts and thirty people walk together and all release balloons at once.  (My friend Katie was that team-leader for her little Libby Lee and I was totally impressed.)  I knew I wasn't in a position to organize that stuff. The idea of it just overwhelmed me.

I was afraid to invite people to join us because I was afraid no one would come. (I already knew my parents couldn't come because my mom had a long-standing engagement that weekend and couldn't come to St. Louis.)

But I also felt like we absolutely had to go because it was something we could do for Eliza (since we do so many things for Caroline).  I want Caro to grow up knowing that we've always honored Eliza's memory.  I don't want to sit down and have a "talk" with her about Eliza.  I just want her to always be aware that she has a sister and we miss her and we also extend our love and compassion to many other families whose babies are not here.

In the end, I sent a few e-mails and I did invite some of our friends to join us.

And no one came.

And it was ok anyway.

My friends all had reasons for not being able to make it, and I think I'd already set my expectations low.

There was also the fact that I didn't know what to expect from the walk, so I wasn't super comfortable being a "host" for bunch of people anyway.  It was honestly a relief not to have to worry about anybody else being there.  I didn't want to put on a smiley face if I didn't feel like smiley and I didn't want to field questions I didn't know the answers to (like "How are you feeling?" or "Where are the restrooms?").  I knew it would be  tough day for me and even though my friends are great and supportive, sometimes I just don't want people witnessing my sorrow.

It was also sad.  Not that I didn't understand why they couldn't make it, but just that I had to work up a lot of courage to send out an invitation for an event like this and then everybody was too busy.

(I want to be clear that I am not upset with anybody for not being able to be there.  I'm really not or I wouldn't be writing about it at all--I'd be silently stewing over it.  I wasn't angry or insulted.  The situation was just sad.)

I think it's wonderful that Share organizes events like this.  I think it's important to acknowledge the many babies who are so loved and missed.  I think it's good for us to get together with our friends who have experienced a loss and truly get what we're going through.

But I also hate that we belong there.  I hate that we're on the mailing list for these events.  I hate that our baby's name is being read out loud in a memorial service.  I hate that I'm a bereaved mother.  I hate that I had to ask friends to be there for something like that.  I hate that I'm missing Eliza instead of snuggling her and kissing her and making her laugh.

That's the main reason I felt so uncomfortable about the walk.  I didn't want to belong there.

But we loaded up the car with the baby and the stroller and bag chairs and a blanket and we headed to the park and found a place to sit and got three balloons so we could each release one when Eliza's name was read and everything was actually really nice.

Waiting to hear sister's name.  I love Zuzu's little hands reaching for the strings.
I cried a little bit--I saw a young couple there and one of the volunteers asked how many balloons they needed.  The girl said, "Well, we just have one daughter.  So, one?"  And my eyes filled up with tears because I know how hard it is to just have one daughter and to have that daughter be dead.  I couldn't even go to the walk last year because that's where I was and it was too damn hard.  (The volunteer gave them two balloons so they could each release one.)  We saw another couple from our grief group who'd lost a baby girl, Claire, just a few days before Eliza was born.  They had a ten-month-old baby boy with them.  I hadn't seen them in over a year, so it was nice to run into them and see their little guy.

It also made me cry to see older kids there--kids who understood what was going on, and who listened eagerly for the name of their brother or sister to be read aloud and then released their balloons and pointed at them until they were tiny little dots.  Their excitement was sweet and made my heart itch.

The ceremony was pretty brief.  A local news anchor who experienced multiple losses before having her two little girls was the emcee.  Her daughter sang, "To the Moon and Back," which was sweet and well done.  A little boy read a poem.  And then they read all the names.

3 balloons for Eliza Taylor Duckworth
Which took far longer than it should have, given that no one should have to lose their baby.

And then we walked.  The park has a beautiful lake and when the sun came out it was a nice day.

Posing (awkwardly, in my case, as I appear to be dragging a bum leg) by the lake.  Caroline was sleeping but her bow is still visible!
In the end, I was glad we went.  Really glad.  It was important for me to be there, and it ended up being a nice day.  I especially enjoyed the low-key lunch we had afterward when we went to a restaurant with friends.

Engaging in conversation at lunch.
dreaming of Eliza?

comforting Daddy (special thanks to my friend Kim for taking many of these pictures)
I'm glad it's behind us now.  Next year will be easier.

Which is astonishing, considering I still don't know how any of us who have lost a child are still standing.

Next year will be easier.

But next year we will miss Eliza just as much as ever.


  1. I hate *so much* that we belong at these type of events. I hate it with a rage that just doesn't subside. :(

    I have to say, I've been lol'ing at your "bum leg" for the last few minutes. I pose like that too, and look back at pictures and "wtf?" all the time. ha.

  2. I'm glad you went...but hate that you "had" to. You know what I mean.

    We spent the day at a pumpkin patch dealy with Daniels nieces, nephew, and 2 of his 3 sisters. There were ton of kids there...lots around the 7-8 month mark. I did my best not to imagine myself there any other way. Damn, it's hard. I have this pounding voice, saying, "you shouldn't HAVE to be living this life. This shouldn't HAVE TO be this way". But it is. And it will always hurt.

    I too hope that annual remembrance ceremonies get easier... Lighter. Happier?

    Brave of you to invite people. Glad it worked out the way it did with how you felt.

  3. This year was a little weird. I felt like there were less baby names read (which I guess is a good thing..if only that was representative of fewer babies dying) but more people there. Someone else said the same thing.

    I understand your stress about going. I was the same way for it last year. I feel like it is actually a little less heavy than the candlelight vigil, not sure why that is (I'm sure the candlelight vigil is heavy for you especially since that's Eliza's birthday too.) Both years, it has turned out to be a pretty decent day, sad and bittersweet, but also comforting I guess, to see we are far from alone. (With all of the babies and kids there, though, I think it might have been hard to go without Lucas.)

    I'm not sure I would want to host a lot of people for it, ever. I know that is good for some people, but eh. I kinda like it as a mostly family and loss friends day for us. Also then you can't really be disappointed that people don't go if you haven't asked them.

    On another note entirely, it's a good thing David can't breastfeed because I'm not so sure he would EVER let you hold Caro if you didn't while he is around! He has such a proud daddy glow. And I cannot believe how much she has grown in just a few short months!

  4. Just coming to post about our day this year and here I find we share many feelings about the sad to be glad they have something for us to go to, to publically recognize the loss of our child. It's just so hard.I didn't invite anyone either. I was affraid no one would come and that would have made me feel worse and I wasn't sure how I would feel especially with Harlow here now. But...I did go last year so I knew we had to go this year too. I am srry we have to go to these things.It is so heartbreaking.

  5. What a lovely tradition for your family, but I am so, so sorry that you have to go.

  6. I love the second to last picture of Zuzu and you can read David's shirt. So heartbreaking and sweet all in one.

    Glad you went and glad it was a nice day.

  7. Oh my goodness, I felt the same way about our walk this year! We ended up having a scheduling conflict and went out of town for the weekend to visit with out-of-state relatives. I felt so incredibly guilty about missing the event (even though I am also having a lot of pregnancy-related pain and walking any sort of distance would probably just hurt anyway). How could we miss this *one* thing we can do for her?

    A week later we ended up attending a memorial event at the hospital where we delivered our daughter. We were there with our donation of a bear, which I'd prepped with a sweet little bow and a card with her name and birthday, feeling relieved for another chance to honor her. I knew I would be sad, but I wasn't prepared to sob like I did. I guess I don't often give my grief space to explode like that. It was awful. I was a snotty mess and also felt guilty for being there with my very pregnant belly when some of the losses in the room were so new. And they read the most gut-wrenching book during the service called Born to Fly, An Infant's Journey to God. It was beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time. And it went on forever because they would read a passage in English and then repeat it in Spanish. The whole room was sobbing by the end.

    There is no easy part in this journey, is there?

  8. So, I would love to walk with you guys next year if you'd want me to! :).

  9. I'm glad you guys went. I wish I had the courage to research if we have a similar event (which I'm sure we do) in Chicagoland.

    My heart breaks again for that couple you mentioned. They *seem* to be behind us in this grief journey and yet it doesn't matter at all-- because we're all on level playing field with babies who are not here and won't be here.

    Proud of you. I know your heart is heavy. I'm so angry that we're part of a group that will have to endure this sadness for our entire lives.

  10. I haven't been to a public memorial event in awhile, but I used to take great comfort in the ones that our support group put on (a Walk to Remember in the fall, a candlelighting at Christmas and a butterfly release in the summer). Some years, it was more of a social thing, getting to see the friends we'd made through the group; other years it was harder, although I never knew in advance which it would be. I do remember going to a candlelighting; the group always asked that parents leave children under 6 at home, but one mother brought her daughter, who was about 8. The little girl lit the candle, saying, "This is for my brother..." & I totally lost it. Seeing the children, especially ones born after their lost siblings, was always comforting & hard at the same time.