Wishing you courage

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow'."
- Mary Anne Radmacher

Monday, May 26, 2008

Being strong

Again the thought runs through my head "I just can't do this".

I'm not cut out for a dead baby. I'm not strong enough, not stable enough, not creative enough to honor my son's memory in a positive way. I've heard some people talk about creating a legacy for their deceased loved one, or the valuable things learned from their grief. Compassion, empathy, love for human kind, a profound sense of what it means to be alive. I've just turned into a huge bitch.

Comparing me "before" to me "after", now I frown more, become angry more, smoke more, and drink much more. Empathy and compassion have increased but they are hard to see through the haze of cigarette smoke and my drunken ramblings. And my compassion has conditions! It is only given to people who have real sorrows, using my definition of sorrow. To illustrate how we can lean on God during times of trouble, a preacher at a retreat I attended told a personal story. After many years of marriage, four children, and one grandchild, the preachers wife is diagnosed with breast cancer. With eyes tearing up he describes the long period of tests and treatments until the day she enters remission. REMISSION! Suddenly this guy loses all credibility with me. I understand that it must have been several very difficult years of medical treatments and extreme worry. Empathy can be conjured up for that. But he and his family got what they prayed for, his wife recovered! Me "before" would have felt compassion and sorrow for his family's struggle. Me "after" wanted him to shut up and let me explain to him what sorrow is.

The loss of my son is not killing me but it isn't making me stronger either. Harder, yes... with sharper edges, but in terms of being gentler, wiser, and more supportive of people as they complain about stupid shit, not in the least. Friends have called me "strong"; my psychiatrist called me "resilient". Instead of feeling complimented, I feel offended. I don't feel strong, I am not exhibiting behaviors of a strong person. By saying "strong" and "resilient" it feels like people are telling me "you're doing great, keep up the good work". I am crumbling.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


The garden is still primarily a patch of dirt - dirt with small plants sprouting up. Unfortunately I can't tell the difference at this tiny stage between the sprouts of seeds deliberately sown and weeds declaring a space theirs.
Are you a violet or a weed?
Baby's breath or weed?
Sunflower or weed?

There are a few other items planted in the new garden. Two small butterfly bushes; one should have white flowers, the other purple. A trellis with a decorative glass centerpiece. One small clematis still establishing a root system has heroically produced 3 mauve flowers; it's neighbor on the opposite side of the trellis appears to have died. This dead clematis is a transplant, coming from a spot by the deck where it struggled for years, its main stem badly damaged during transplantation by my clumsy movements. Can clematis be propagated through cuttings? Without even bothering to Google it I have taken clippings, placed them in a glass of water on the window ledge above the kitchen sink, and examine the submerged stalks daily looking for sprouting roots. So far nothing.

The memorial garden itself is in a rather unfortunate location. It's an oddly shaped section of soil, surrounded by brick pathways, at the Northwest corner of the house. The centerpiece of this section of yard is the air conditioning unit. Also included are an old stump from the huge tree that leaned over the house when we first moved in, and a sharp dip to the land where the rain gutters let out and the rushing water has eroded away the dirt. The rotting stump provides growing grounds for interesting fungi.

I'm sitting outdoors facing a patch of dirt, thinking ... all you can do is smile gently at yourself sometimes. Two days ago the horn from a car behind me, urging me to the appropriate action called for by a green light, snapped me from reverie of wondering if this was the afternoon my life would change with the arrival of the latest self-help book ordered. It didn't arrive that day, but yesterday my anticipation was fulfilled by a small package in the mailbox. Frantic skimming of the opening chapters filled me with hope that "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" could provide much desired information.

"Oh! The places you will go!" My life has turned into a search for meaning, a search for an explanation for a dead baby. Or, in the chance that there is no explanation, a way out of this slump. While waiting I tend the garden ... digging ... watering ... watching for growth.

I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You'll be left in a Lurch.

You'll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you'll be in a Slump.

And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

-Dr. Seuss