Sunday, September 9, 2012

Protecting the unprotectable..."the whole puzzle of being a parent"

May 14th post... I found this in my drafts. I guess I intended to sit on it and edit it or wait and see about posting it...anyway, I'm it is... my rambles from May 14th this year -- the anniversary of two sudden deaths.


I'm quieter here, on Gwen's blog...but not for lack of thoughts about all... all that's happened.  Most times I long to get back here... but I'm known for spreading myself too thin. I'm known for burn-out. I'm known for lack of balance and feeling ten-steps behind where I want to be in life. Why should it be different in grief? It's just another aspect of my life now.

And I know what it means to compartmentalize. It's survival, in loss of a loved one. You don't "get over" it. You compartmentalize it. But, it's always there. But your mind constructs a special place for your grief to live. It is accessible whenever you need to feel it. Sometimes the door falls open and you don't have much choice but to let it all fall on top of you. That's all "healing" is in grief. Compartmentalization. It's not something any more or less human than a simple coping mechanism. It's because time keeps on going, you just don't get a choice. Healing is only answered by the Hope of the Eternal. But for now, in human form, the ever-living anguish is set aside so you can breath, since to live, you must breath.

But I can say, I know now, about those paintings...the so called Vanitas paintings; the lemon, half-pealed, the candle wick with smoke curling up, or the vase over-flowing with flowers and a human skull sitting nearby. Transience.

Of course these paintings are not about missing people, but warnings to temper your soul and think on God. However, for me, they speak of lives I watched be here one moment and gone the next. They speak to me of what Joan Didion writes, "You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends"

She writes:

"confronted with sudden disaster, we all focus on how unremarkable the circumstances were in which the unthinkable occurred, the clear blue sky from which the plane fell, the routine errand that ended on the shoulder with the car in flames, the swings where the children were playing as usual when the rattlesnake struck from the ivy. 'He was on his way home from work - happy, successful, healthy - and then, gone,' "

So much this spring, I recalled sitting in our backyard, beside the hydrangea and peonies, with the one peachy-pink rose watching us from across the lawn, the sun beaming all around on an ordinary spring day in May and telling Lillian, because we had to tell her, that her sister....

Lil was a two, almost two and 1/2. I have no idea what we said. I just know what it felt like. It was the first moment we admitted to ourselves, one of many, that our baby was not with us here anymore.

We were supposed to be spared the news of Marie until I suppose, when the family arrived in town to tell us in person. But we learned of an "accident" via a voice-mail left by her deeply concerned grandmother who wasn't quite sure of the details. "I think she's dead," my husband quoted the message back to me. It was 7:30, our friends kitchen. The most ordinary place we could be. And Marie was dead.

I still feel gutted when I remember all this...

Later, in another book where Joan Didion walks through her grief in the loss of her daughter (to circumstances eerily close to what happened to my brother in August, 2009 - when he fell suddenly and seriously ill to a random virus) she writes, of her daughters death;

"This was never supposed to happen to her"

And it's repeated throughout the book. I know exactly what she means including the repetition of that sentiment. I think everyone who lost someone, especially young, especially suddenly, and add to that, tragically... knows that sentiment.

And as I meandered around tonight online, I found another mom's blog, a mother missing her little girl lost Easter, 2010. I found her because she quoted a song, one I heard and sought the Internets find the lyrics. It led me to her site. There she quoted a movie, Benjamin Button. It says it all:

"You can be mad things went. You can swear and curse the fates. But when it comes to the end, you have to let go."


"Sometimes we're on a collision course and we just don't know it. Whether it's by accident or by design, there's not a thing we can do about it."

Put it together and you have reality. Reality, always staring us in the face, whether we like it or not. "You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends" and there's nothing you can do about it. There's not a thing you can do about it. It's compartmentalize/let-go or I don't think you survive.

Thankfully, thankfully, I believe you can harbor more ability to appreciate what it means to love, when you find a gaping hole in your life where a loved-one used to reside. In my case, I'm blessed with so much love in my life - I don't take it lightly that I live a "roses and wine life" now, now that the "dust" has settled and I have a healthy baby, so far as I know, on the way.

 I'm well aware of the reality-beast staring me in the face every-single-day; the one that taunts me about the transience of my life and every-single-person I know and love and can't live without. The word "ripped" comes to mind - at any point in time a loved one can be ripped right out, or I of theirs. I'd always rather I didn't know what it means to love, the way I know now and could just live in the bliss of it all and pretend that nasty beast isn't sitting right next to me.

Instead the hardest part, for me is the crystal-clarity of how human we are all, beyond the transience aspect, beyond our frailty and quick goneness - but just the day-to-day, how we fail at love, despite the glaringly obvious transience of our moment here. No matter how much we know of it, that we are supposed to love, we can only fail, we are not God. So it's a weird place of deepened appreciation and commendation. Of conviction.

That's all. Just weird. Complicated and yet so simple. Love, it is the the instruction regardless - and it is humbling - you realize, when you really focus on that instruction, how uncomplicated life is and yet how much we let ourselves junk it all up.

"Time passes.

Could it be that I never believed it?...

This was never supposed to happen to her, I remember thinking -  outraged, as if she and I had been promised a special exemption - in the third of those intensive care units....

When we talk about mortality we are talking about our children.

...what does it mean?

...when we talk about our children what are we saying? Are we saying what it meant to us to have them. What it meant to us not to have them? What it meant to let them go?

 Are we talking about the enigma of pledging ourselves to protect the unprotectable. About the whole puzzle of being a parent?"

       - J.Didion

Loosing a child is humbling. Let's just put it that way. And writing about loss, of a child and a not-yet 20-year-old girl (both of whom deserve so much more than such non-descript references, but for the sake of a blog-post the impersonal will have to do) - writing all this while a little baby-boy kicks inside me -it just leaves me noticing how weird life is and unexplainable - it is not a puzzle where the pieces fit together - and it will lead to insanity if you try. I'm just left, small-feeling. Humble. Tired.

And content enough. Content enough to try to do better tomorrow, on the things that I feel I can do better on, which is mostly about Lil and other people in my life. Content to keep trying to grow my garden - the one which Gwen is my muse. Content enough to always be ten-steps behind... knowing you can only do what you can do in the quick hours of the day...

Content in knowing, I just don't know the answers. Content with this exact moment, here where I am, with my imperfections eating at me, my daily little failures chewing on the fibers of my soul, knowing, it may be as good as it gets this week, this month, this year...and soaking it all in "as is." I'm hoping our worst-days-imaginable are behind us, while reality (that beast sitting near) has a good laugh at that daring act of bliss.

And the rain started again outside. How I love the gentle sound of the rain. It is soothing. Simple things. It's all we ever really have. Moments in time passing. If you can notice the moments, at least once in a while, you are doing okay.

I am doing okay.

(The baby-loss mama whose blog I found tonight).


  1. Beautiful :) I love reading what you write here, Laura... You have such a way with words.

  2. Ah, Laura. Some wonderful stuff there.


Ten years loom and as always seems to be the case, I find myself struggling the most in the days ahead of the anniversary  - be it her birt...