Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Little Girl, our Gwenyth Gumdrop.

March 17th a year ago, was such a good day. At 7:15 p.m. our little Gwenyth was born!

However, until she was born, we didn’t know what to expect...

So many people were praying for Gwenyth that day.

One person was her Aunt Marie;

     From Facebook: March 17 at 3:27pm; 
    Marie Carpenter; Gwenyth, I want you to live and be as healthy as a baby girl can be. We already 
   love you too much.”

Earlier that day sweet Aunt Marie video-chatted with Lillian. (Thank you Becca for taking this picture :) I treasure it.)

It was a good day.

Moving to Philly
My mother-in-law and Aunt Sarah came to Virginia see us off. They helped us pack up for our temporary move. Gwen’s Grammy (my mom) and her Aunt Becca and my mother, moved to Philadelphia with us to help us care for Lil and Gwen - as we just couldn’t imagine how were were going to work things out, so far from home and split down the middle between our two girls....

Thank you all. For everything.

Philadelphia Living
The days in Philly before she was born were actually really good - I know there was so much uncertainty, our apartment was tiny, I had doctors appointments and all that...but all I recall are just good things. I love my memories from that sweet little time...

One little moment is here on Lil's blog.

I remember walking the streets of Philadelphia with my mother. The weather was so warm, the daffodils were blooming. We loved our little apartment and walking to the store, one of our favorites being Whole Foods. I remember turning the corner and there in front of us was a small St. Patrick's Day parade. Just a tiny group, dressed in their kilts and it was just getting started. It was so random and so fun.

I know little Gwenyth heard the sound of St. Patrick’s Day being celebrated. It was maybe two, three days before she was born - I’m not sure. But, she must have been able to register those loud pipes on some level. She is a tiny bit Irish - I’m half meself. So I'd like to think she did hear, in her life, some good ole’ bag pipes. Especially since on or around her birthday, ever year, we can be sure to hear some bag pipes. I’m glad to have a this sweet moment, this special Gwen memory associated with the sounds of St. Patrick's Day.

And, a of course, year ago today, will always be my best St. Patrick's day memory, the day Gwen was born!
Happy 1st Birthday little Gwenyth!

I remember how amazed I was to hold you in my arms. Your wide eyes. 

“I thank you God for this most amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, with is yes.”
- E. E. Cummings

We didn’t know if you’d make it to birth, much less get to hold you even for a moment soon after. You were my “Yes” that day, one year ago. I’m thankful for the good memories I have of your birthday.

(this was right before we walked you down the hall for surgery)

I wanted to keep you forever. I’m trusting I still have you forever, even as it is surely not as I dreamed or wished or prayed. Oh me of little Faith - but for you, anything. To reunite and feel whole again. “Faith is not faith until it’s all you’re holding onto” ... and it is, all I hold now, of you. And memories. Looking forward, looking back... Hoping on Hope.

Your first birthday without you is hard.

Lillian Carries you in her Heart
Your sister has been busy in the last few weeks. She made an angel for you out of bristle blocks, she made a butterfly tower to remember you out of magna-blocks, and she received a box full of cotton balls from a sweet friend who knew the cotton ball story. That story is when Lil picked up a cotton ball one day fairly recently and told me, very excitedly, that she found one of your things. She was remembering the cotton balls I used when I gave you a bath. She said, “let’s throw cotton balls to remember Gwenyth.”

She has collected flowers for you, and drawn pictures of you, and she even asked me the other day if unicorns remind me of you. I had to be honest, no. There was no association. I asked her if unicorns remind her of you and she said “yes, because they’re so beauuuuuitful.”

She’s made cakes for you out of play-dough, dirt, and even bubbles (Aunt Marie must of loved that one : ) ). So often pretends to be “baby Gwenyth” - you’ve practiced saying Lillian’s name, you’ve learned to walk,  you’ve cuddled and laughed... Oh the crazy, sweet-adorableness of your big sister...I love it.

But know, that two little girls would never have been too many. I watch her and soak her sweetness in, I thank God for her, but why wouldn’t I want to know more of my other daughter too? So often I wonder, just what you’d be like. “To Love is to want,” as Mary Oliver writes. I love you. I will always want you here with me...but that is how it is. No parent ever just moves on and away from their child gone. 

“There is a sacredness in tears.
  They are not the mark of weakness,
  but of power.
  They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.
  They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love.” - Washington Irving

It’s a quote I read sometime ago after I lost Gwen. It is perfect. I read it again recently, it was sent with the box of cotton balls... and I knew this person understood exactly - and thank you for that, Angie.

That’s all any of this is...any of my weakest moments, my tears that rise up sometimes so easily, my heart feeling constantly squeezed - it’s Love. Grief is not about sadness and sorrow - it is about Love. It is a type of Love. For Gwen, this is the “type” of Love I’ll always have.

Remembering Gwenyth with pictures & videos

Below is a paraphrasing of Nichola Wolterstorff from is book, “Lament for a Son” - his words are absolute perfection:

 ---- She is gone now, and, at that end we must now learn to live as faithfully and authentically with her gone as we had tried to do with her present... Her life was a gift. Surely then we are to hold it in remembrance -to resist amnesia to renounce oblivion...We will not turn the photos. We will put them where they confront us. This as a remembrance, as a memorial. ---

These videos are physically hard for me to watch. Every fiber of my soul, every cell in my body tries to pull out and get to her. I ache in feeling so powerless, only to be able to sit and watch lights and pixels on a screen show a vague glimpse of her sweet little person...

But in all that I’m desperately glad to have them and wish only that there were more. I don’t want to forget a thing about her. And, I know so many people - so many who loved her in our family, so many who prayed for her and found room in their heart to love her, they never got to meet her... so here she is.... my sweet little second child.

The day you were born, Gwenyth:

 It was early Friday morning when they wheeled you down to the operating room. You were born the Wednesday before, in the evening. You were not yet two full-days old...

By March 24th you were amazing us all with your recovery. I think you were just starting to be fed breast milk into your tummy, at last. I remember you shaking and wanting to have your tummy filled so badly. It broke my heart.

Holding you close...Kangaroo care style. One of the sweetest moments ever.

Daddy holds you and tells all about your day.

A short moment from typical day with my two girls
(I remember how good it felt, two little girls at home)... 

These are just a few videos, we have others but I can’t get to them yet...they are from another camera, currently on another computer... I long to have everything all in one place. But there is nothing but time for we’ll be loving her as much tomorrow as today, and I’ll be just as excited to post those videos.

------My Tribute to Gwenyth------
Finally here is my tribute to Gwenyth. I introduced it a little yesterday - here is part two. It’s incomplete, but it’s something. Read on, further down and you’ll see more specifically what I’m talking about. I hope you’ll join me in distributing gifts in her memory.

“He who desires to see the Living God face to face should seek him not in the empty firmament of his mind but in human Love.”

Dostoevski quotation from the Brothers Karamazov

Human Love is totally imperfect and a mess, but it is the Living God as close as we can get. Fragile and imperfect. So imperfect. But deep and unending. And I stand on the edge of Love here, when I “spend time with Gwen” thinking of her, Hope is the only thing I love her from, afar?

I see the darkness in my life as truly, the “empty firmament” of my own mind. It’s real. However, it’s empty. It has nothing to offer, it doesn’t reply. It is quiet, but powerful. Things seen in the dark don’t take their proper form, you can’t trust anything you see there. But it’s easy to get confused and misled.

Only one thing is actually seen more clearly than ever in the dark, unmistakable, if only a tiny speck a zillions of miles away - and that is light.

I’m sad. I always will be in these losses. But I do see all the light, the love and the care and not just towards me, but I’ve witnessed the amazing women in the CHD world and the baby-loss world who have pulled together something to help another who finds themselves in that place they know too well. That kind of light, of action while living the “question” of why - I’m in awe. 

The world that Gwen opened up to me is now the world to which I hope to help bring light, care, attention and hearts.

You do have to be willing to let your heart break, you have to look at tragedy and uncomfortable things over here - but if you do, I think that is actually a place where you will find compassion leaking out.

So please, carry Gwen’s moment with me, by knowing she is not the only one - she is a tiny part of a big story.
The question lingers, “Why” but the real question is “What.” I read something the other day about a Priest who explained perfectly, “The question is not why, but what can I do?” That idea has been on my mind and he nailed it - he put it so well.

All the care and compassion from so many, I hope to keep flowing forward, to keep Gwen’s life a blessing and as my way of saying “thanks.”

So my “Gwen assigned” job is to answer the question, “what can you do” for this little corner of the world. But more so, please, do something for some corner of the world, it is so true, the old adage, nothing is too small, do something.  Don’t get stuck in the “empty firmament” of your own mind.

I’ve put together a check list for myself. Please join me in celebrating little Gwenyth and see if you can knock off everything on this list, or even just one item.

That is how you can help me, and how you can help the world I know of...

I’ve created a separate page for the list. It really is the tip of the iceberg for now, but it’s a start. In most cases I can speak first-hand of each organizations effectiveness, each “task” of its impact. 

There’s lots of gratitude and care to pass around, so yes, cry with me (I appreciate that kind of realness I’m not going to pretend to be stoic) but please help me too... and have fun and  - thank you for celebrating her with me in this way!

Click here to see my Gifts of Gratitude list.

Gwenyth. We love you. Happy 1st Birthday. Wish you were here.

1 comment:

  1. In case you don't see my comment on the other blog... You have to set your Youtube videos to "public" in order for your blog readers to see them on the blog.

    Can't wait to watch them!


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