Thursday, January 29, 2009


Recently I had an interesting conversation with a friend. (She reads this blog. Hi, friend!) The gist of the conversation is that it would be devastating if I didn't accept Cara's death in response to my assertion that I never would.

I am using the following definitions of these words for the reflections below.
Accept ~ 1. to receive as to meaning, 2. to reconcile oneself to
Reconcile ~ to accept something not desired

Acceptance definition 1 ~ Obviously I understand that she died. She isn't here, I get that. I guess the part of acceptance that I am not ok with is reconciling myself to it.

Is our society's call for reconciliation a desire to fix the broken? "I want you better, so I want you to reconcile to it." It makes me think of the song Fix You that Chris Martin (Coldplay) wrote for his wife after her father died.

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

I just don't believe death is something we should reconcile to, our grief can't be fixed. It's contrary to the original design of life. We were not meant to die; the Design was for life, not death. To reconcile ourselves to death is to accept that which is contrary to the Design.

I'm really thankful for the hours that transpired after Cara's death. My parents were out of town at of all things a funeral when we received the news that Cara's heart was no longer beating. We went home and called our pastor, who quickly made his way to our home. He stayed there with us for eight hours and over the course of that day his wife and another pastor friend from church joined us.

I remember sitting at our kitchen table, trying to eat, only able to take one bite, distraught and shaking my head. "Why?" I asked. "Why did this happen?"

"We'll never know why," he said to me. "But there are two things I can tell you. God is not responsible and you are not responsible. We'll simply never know."

And in that moment, my theology around this entire event was shaped and has not wavered since. The God I love does not kill babies. His desire was for fullness and life. For me to reconcile myself to death is to reconcile to that fact that in some way this was meant to be. To use our definition from above, to accept something that is not desired. I can't reconcile her death.

What I can reconcile myself to is her redemption. Ultimately I want Cara here, but I have reconciled myself to that fact that she is now with God. And in that, I find these verses have all the more meaning...

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

So for those who have a desire to fix this, I hope our reconciliation to the redemption is enough to satiate that desire, for reconciling ourselves to her death was never our goal.

And for my baby loss friends in the blog world, I would love to hear what acceptance and reconciliation look like in your lives. Is there a desire in those around you to fix the problem? How do you reconcile yourselves to this mess we live in?

Full Circle - Another Reflection

I read this passage from Christ of the Celts by J. Philip Newell this morning, and it perfectly summed up my thoughts about a subsequent child from yesterday. A note, while this passage uses a lot of birth imagery, it is not written in the context of pregnancy but in our longings of life.

There is a connection between desire and conception, just as there is a connection between conception and birth pangs. To be in touch with the deepest desire of the soul and the love-longings that stir within us will lead to new conception in our lives and relationships. These will in turn lead us into both the joy and the pain of new birthings. In one of her visions, Julian [of Norwich] sees that Christ's countenance is a combination of pain and sorrow on the one hand and joy and bliss on the other. What births happen without pain? And what are the new births of delight waiting to happen in our lives and world that also will be costly? We are invited to be in touch with our deepest desires and to know in their unfoldings the pain of new beginnings.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Full Circle

It is in the character of very few men
to honor without envy a friend who has prospered.
Aeschylus, Agamemnon
Greek tragic dramatist (525 BC - 456 BC)

I started this post assuming that the subject was about envy. I looked up envy in the dictionary - a feeling of discontent over another's success. I really like the quote above, but for me envy means longing and longing doesn't have to mean jealousy. Whatever we call it envy, longing, desire, it comes from events ensuing around me as well as the purest feeling I have ever known, love for my child.

Over the next six months, we will (hopefully) receive 11 announcements of babies born to friends from all stages of my life. I shared this at our grief group last night and a collective gasp went up in the room. They get it. I would never want one of these babies to die, but all around us, our friends are embracing new life while we are facing our daughter's death. The one baby we want most, we will never physically have here with us again.

In the midst of this, I am dealing with some of my own internal struggles. As I long for another child, I picture myself in a hospital with a child snuggled in my arms. How will I respond? Joy? Unfelt grief of what I have lost...that I will never have Cara? Another child never replaces Cara, but will another child set forth a new wave of grief.

I talked to the leader of our group last night. Her son died at 2 and a half over 30 years ago. He was her only child at the time, and she went on to have two beautiful daughters. She said there is joy, but there is grief. Lighter moments come, but the grief never goes away completely. I'll always long for the child who should also be here.

Our counselor encouraged me early in my grieving to embrace other people's joy as my own. THAT'S CRAZY to tell a grieving mother. I blew it off at the time thinking it impossible, but since have caught glimpses of what he meant. Most recently, a friend was over for lunch with her little girl born several months before Cara. As they were getting ready to leave, I sat with her daughter in my lap, putting her shoes on, and my heart just swelled with love for this little girl. If she had stayed with me that day, I could have loved her as my own. At the end of our visits, she ultimately goes home with her mommy, but dances delight into the days that I see her.

So maybe it's not jealousy or envy, maybe it's just a deep longing or desire. Could we change the quote? It is in the character of very few men to honor a friend who has prospered without similar longing. I'll caveat that by saying there many things one could long for that are not worth it. A friend receiving a hefty promotion and longing for that, this is not what I'm talking about. Longing for a child is different. Maybe we just scratch the quote altogether and just call it a point from which I started this post. Coming full circle through feelings of sorrow and joy and pain and happiness. Such is my world these days...

Cara's Song

They played Cara's song last week at President Obama's inauguration. Cynthia and I sat there with tears welling up in our eyes, listening to the beautiful melody of Cara's song, "Simple Gifts." This was a memorable performance on a historic day. I know you were listening and watching, Cara...

Friday, January 23, 2009

It's coming...

Do you see this?

Those are buds on the Bradford Pear outside Cara's room. It means her birthday is imminent. I remember the last day she was alive sitting in the nursery looking out at the blooms, thinking any day we would be home, sitting together in that same chair nursing. I just sat there with her in my belly dreaming of what it would be like to have her in my arms.

I delivered her that week and as we drove all around from the funeral home to the cemetery, everywhere I was reminded of the life that had been growing within me days before. So here outside my window is a constant reminder of what I have lost.

The beautiful memory is that Cara was kicking while I was sitting there that day, and we taped her jumping around in my belly. That is the last video we have of her alive. I took the picture above two days after she was born, so I could remember that moment.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Memory of the Song

I'm reading a book called Christ of Celts by J.Philip Newell. The first chapter, The Memory of the Song, offers reflections on the birth of creation.

One of the first reflections asserts that creation was born of God. The earth and all living in it is an extension of God's being. I have heard so many times that the earth was created from nothing, but to be created from nothing would render it with little value.

But by affirming creation is also an extension of God's image, one must also believe that ultimately that the heart of life is good. And if I believe that, when I am looking at my life I want to live into the part of myself that is good and not the sin part. While ultimately the sin part is there, so many times I feel as though I spend more time reflecting on the bad parts of my life and character rather than the good.

The last few pages of the chapter says this in reference to another teacher, John Scotus Eriugena.

"Eriugena uses the analogy of sin pouncing on everything that is born. In commenting on the words from Genesis 4, "Sin is lurking at the door, its desire is for you," Eriugena says that sin is hovering at the door of the womb, ready to infect everything that comes into being. Given what we now know of the interrelatedness of life and how even the unborn child is infected by the psychological scars of its family or by the pollution of its wider environment, we may wish to say that sin is lurking inside the door of the womb. The shadow comes very close to the beginning of our lives, but deeper still is the Light from which we come. The conception of all life in the universe is sacred."

When Cara was first born, I sought peace in the fact that "she never breathed a breath of this tainted world." I recant. She did find the effects of sin through her life in the womb. She knew the heated fights of her parents. She knew her mother's stress of a job that at the time was very draining. She knew the brokenness of relationships and the pain they caused her mother. She received nourishment from food sources with chemicals poured into them. She knew the sin of life.

However, Cara also knew the Light, and I can tell you she loved it! Some of my most precious memories are of her kicking in my womb at our beloved church home. She would get so excited!! I remember one day during the service grabbing the hand of the person next to me, someone I hardly knew at the time, and putting it on my belly so she too could enjoy my wonder of a child's energy. I recall the day a friend exclaimed across the table in our New Member Class, "I just saw her move." Cara was an active baby, but most abundantly when we rejoiced in the presence of the Divine. I can only dream of how active she most be now!

Cara knew brokenness of life in death but also found the wholeness in resurrection, the Light of the world. I'm challenged to not forget that from which we were born, and draw near to the heart of life.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Emotional Hangover

I have had an emotional hangover since leaving church yesterday. It's been dark days here, my friends. We are moving into a season of grieving Cara that is very difficult. All around us our friends are having babies, and we are coming up on the one year anniversary of our only child's stillbirth. Tim has had his fair share of tears to wipe from my eyes.

My walk found a brief reprieve this afternoon. Tim called me at lunch and said "treat yourself right, make a latte." Wise words from my husband. A conversation with a friend has too eased the burden. In reflecting on a thought our pastor shared with me and Tim last week, I cling to these moments when the space between heaven and earth draws close and the divine slips into our lives. And I feel like that happened today over a cup coffee with a dear friend.

Reign Over Me

I received the movie Reign Over Me for Christmas and was able to watch it again over the holiday. Cynthia and I watched the movie for the first time back in February when she was about 8 months pregnant with Cara. We were really struck by the movie back then for reasons we wouldn't totally realize at the time.

The movie is about a husband and father, Charlie, (Adam Sandler) who loses his wife and three children in one of the plane crashes on 9/11. The movie shares Charlie's story as he tries to process this incredible loss while suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

I think the movie accurately portrays the depth of someone's grief after losing a family member. It shows the pain and anger that accompanies a loss. But what I love about the movie is the way Charlie breaks out of his anger, isolation and pain into a place of healing. After years of burying his pain inside him, he finally shares his story in what is one of the best scenes in the whole movie. After attending countless number of counseling sessions where hardly anything is said, finally there is a breakthrough.

I could write more about this movie but I don't want to ruin it for you. I highly recommend checking it out.