Friday, February 27, 2009

Days like Today

Days like today remind me of her. Well maybe not such much her, as more the days following her death. Cloudy, warm, quiet. We were coming out of a drought from the year before and in the days after we come home it rained for what felt like weeks. The earth sobbed incessantly all but the days around when it received her. Those three days were gloriously beautiful. A true dichotomy to how we felt yet a reprieve from the bleakness of the rain. A welcomed uplift in the midst of a darkened tragedy.

And then the week after we buried her, the clouds returned. Tim and I sat on our couch that week facing each other silently. We slept intermittently, cried, but mostly just felt dead inside. How could our world have been so completely shattered? I still struggle to wrap my mind around it.

The clouds outside now just burst forth with the rain they have been withholding. It's as if my recognition of their presence here gives them permission to let forth their tears.

Sunday the calendar turns the page on her month. I find March 18th sits empty on most. When I received the family calendar this year, the first page I turned to was March. Blank. Other than my birthday sitting a little less than a week after hers as if I even care. The church newsletter came out with the monthly birthday wishes, again hers was not there. In respect and love, I know my church and my family will honor her memory, but to find her name missing this year is the starkest of reminders of the one who too is missing.

As I continue to survive through February, I find today to be a reminder of the spring of last year. I foresee the days leading up to Cara's birthday being difficult, but I also imagine the days following even more so. As we have warm rainy days, as we remember last year when the world stopped for us, and as around us we are expected to carry on with pace of life void of the societal acceptance of fresh grief that we were granted last year.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ash Wednesday

We gathered this evening with our church community for Ash Wednesday. It was a beautiful service and a reverent way to enter into the season of Lent.

I'm struck tonight at how different my experience was at last year's Ash Wednesday service...

I remember standing at a cemetery on a crisp, sunny, winter day thinking about the cross, death, and what Lent would be about. In the midst of a service on death, my mind was very much thinking about life. Cynthia was due to deliver Cara in only a few weeks. Our Lent season would surely be interrupted by Cara's entrance into this world. Little did I know that I'd be standing a cemetery a month later burying my daughter on Holy Saturday.

Cynthia and I stood there tonight thinking again about death, Christ's journey into the Lenten wilderness, the cross and Resurrection. My perspective has totally changed. Last year, I think I only understood life. This year, I know death all too well. I've experienced the depth of loss, death, pain and grief. And yet in the midst of our Lenten journey, the Resurrection and life can't be denied. We made a vow tonight to follow Christ in the wilderness for the next forty days, but we do this knowing that eventually new life will spring forth. Joy, hope and life will win. Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter will be here soon.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

When grieving, shag.

My grandfather's wake was today. I couldn't bring myself to go. Last night I had a nightmare involving Cara and funeral homes. Without going into the details, it was enough to make me realize that viewings aren't my thing right now.

So instead, this afternoon we went shag dancing to benefit the local Hospice organization. I felt more connected to my grandfather in those moments out on the dance floor than had I been splashing tears on the lapel of his suit. I pictured him smiling at me and wished my family had been there with me. Pop loved life, and he would have wanted us to embrace these lighter moments together.

Tim and I just learned shag in these past few months. Dear friends of ours, R and J, asked us over to their house for an evening of lessons. R's first husband died many years ago on March 18th, Cara's birthday. R said shag was the only thing that eventually got her out of the house again, and it was during her evenings out that she eventually met J.

I have come to believe shag has the ability to heal many wounds, and allow the grieving to catch a glimpse of life again. I look forward to the day when we can pass along our shag steps to another bereaved, dancing them back into the joy of life again.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Good-bye to a Wonderful Man...

We just received a call that my grandfather passed away in his sleep last night. A man who has overcome unbelievable medical conditions over the past few years, left quietly.

Pop fell somewhere in between Thursday and Friday evening. He had broken his ankle at 90 degrees and used his lifeline button to call for help. He was scheduled for surgery Friday evening, but they pushed it back to this morning. Sometime during the night, he slipped away.

My Pop was truly a wonderful man, and quite possibly one of the funniest people I have ever known. I think he became funnier as he got older - better with age!

I will most remember what a wonderful husband he was to my grandmother. Pop was not my biological grandfather, but the only grandfather I ever knew, and therefore just as much mine. He grieved my grandmother's death deeply. I remember how quiet he was the months and years after her death.

The first Christmas without her as we sat around my aunt's house trying to find some semblance of the holiday, I remember him saying "this family needs some kids to liven things up" and then pronounced it was time to go.

My cousins and I went on locally to offer him three great-grandchildren and one angel baby. My aunt kept telling me in the days around Cara's death that he was very concerned about us and kept asking about me.

This is my first loss since Cara's death. It's hard but different of course. Here is a man who has lived a wonderful life, so full and rich with memories. He has left us much laughter to cling to. The family calendar this year has a picture of Pop on one of his island adventures wearing a native headdress. Pop Goes Native, the start of the calendar reads. You can't help but look at it and laugh.

We appreciate your prayers these next few days as we go through the motions of grieving and remembering and hopefully finding many moments of laughter.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What would Cara have grown up to be?

I had a moment yesterday, while sitting in a meeting at work, where I started to daydream about what Cara would have grown up to be. I don't know why it hit me then, but it just did. I guess it's one of those questions that parents always wonder about and ask their kids all throughout their lives...

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

I'll never know or get to see what Cara would have done with her life here on earth. But I do know one thing, she would have done amazing work in whatever she chose to do with her life. She would have been an amazing little girl that would have blossomed into a beautiful woman. She would have lived into exactly what her name means...Cara Grace, "a beloved friend who offers grace." She would have changed this world and made it better. Her impact would have been known.

Our friend summed it up best in a beautiful song he wrote for Cara shortly after her death.

Lyrics from "A Song for Cara Grace"

You might have been a ballerina
might have been a senator
yours was a life with so much promise
the world was waiting for

When Easter lilies open
when green grass starts to grow
when chasing that first robin
we'll think of you and know

Cara Grace
this world couldn’t hold you
Cara Grace
the Lord took you in His hands

Cara Grace
we wanted to know you
but we know there’s a place in Heaven for Cara Grace
please save a place
We’ll see you there
Cara Grace

Monday, February 2, 2009

If we had only known...

We learned about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep the week after Cara died. If we had only known! Here's a great article about the organization.

Stillbirths: How a New Openness Helps Parents Cope

The struggle of isolation

Cynthia and I went for a walk today and talked about what our grief journey has been like these days.  Overall, it's a pretty lonely time right now.  Ten months out from losing the most precious part of our lives, our very own daughter, and the reality of a life without Cara has left us empty and alone.

I shared this sentiment at Compassionate Friends last week and everyone there understood exactly where we're at. There comes a point in every grief journey where you notice more and more that the world around you has kept (and will keep) moving on, while you're left standing still, wishing that you could turn back time.   

We have carried our grief in community with family and friends for which we are extremely grateful, but there is a part of our grief that only Cynthia and I are left to bear.  I think Joan Chittister in her book, Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope describes this "struggle of isolation" best...
Struggle is a very private thing.  It happens in the very depths of our souls.  It comes with the loss of what we have thought to be of such significance that we cannot abide the thought of life without it.  Other people commiserate, of course, as they watch us struggle with the pain of losing, the meaning of endings, the shock of great change, the emptiness of the present.  But they cannot really share our pain because what we have lost, however significant to us is not really significant to them.  What we lose is ours and ours along: our dream, our hope, our expectation, our property, our identity.  All private.  All personal.  All uniquely and singularly ours.  Our friends look on caringly, of course, but there's little else they can do.  They advise but they cannot possibly know the cost of every step. It is not their arms that are heavy, not their legs that have gone to lead, not their "knees that are weak" (Psalm 109).

They talk to us about going on but they do not understand that the thought of going on is unimportant to us now.  If anything, it is what we least want to do; indeed, it seems impossible.  And, as far as we are concerned, it is certainly not desirable anymore.  Go on for what reason? Those others who stand at the edges of our life at such a time as this cannot realize the sense of deep, deep isolation that comes when life as we have known it has been suddenly extinguished.

Desperate to help, they may tell us how insignificant the thing was that we staked our lives upon.  "It doesn't matter," they say.  "You'll have another one." As in child or house or job or lover or dream.  "It isn't worth it," they tell us.  Or, at their best, they remind us that "time will heal the pain," and how we "will learn to live with" the loss.  But, oh, how wrong they are!  I gave my life to it.  Surely my life was worth something.  "This is unjust," they agree, but injustice happens nevertheless.  No one changes it.  No one confronts it.  No one does a thing but commiserate.  And that only for a while.  In the end, we are alone.  Just I and the struggle.  Just I and the violence, the emptiness, the rage within me.  "And Jacob was left alone," the biblical story tells us.  Indeed.