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dropping petals in march March 18, 2014

Posted by ballet you say in grief, healing, life, loss, moving on.
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i walk upon this barren land; it’s cold
the season that has no color
the ground and trees are dark and gray and brown

scattered around me are the stones
etched with names and dates and poems
symbols, the markers of death, of no more life

buried here are the children
who never lived outside the womb
who were born and breathed, but died
and some like mine who lived longer, but not so long at all

this place beckons me every march
nine years ago death came and grabbed her
and took her breath away
it took my breath too, but left me living

buried far away from here and not too long ago
are the bones of her grandmother
she would walk this place with me
with love and tears, but she never will again

and now this march i grieve
for both my mother and my daughter
but I know that they’re together

i bring flowers to this grave
that are dead and nine years old
white roses dried and kept
the same ones that had been draped on a little casket

they’ve been sitting on my dresser
dropping petals into their vase
gathering dust, lots of dust
i’ve held onto them,  cherishing them

but I scatter them now, releasing the dust
these petals, the color of earth
some will blow away
some will cling to ground or stone

the crumpled petals unleash the tears
i try to let go of this burden
will I be lighter?

soon this landscape will come alive with spring,
the colors will chase the brown away
daffodils and forsythia and tulips
cherry trees will drip with pink blossoms

i’ll come back to see the spring
and smell the sweetness
and drive these tears away
and think of those i’ll  see again

i didn’t get to say goodbye to my mom December 19, 2013

Posted by ballet you say in death.
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Not too long ago, my dad and I sat in the tiny hospital room facing my mother. Behind me, the discharge plans were written on the dry-erase board; we were waiting for a room at a local rehab center. My mom was being treated for pneumonia and she had been hospitalized for eight days. She was looking forward to going to a step-down facility so she could get moving and go home soon.  

Two doctors had visited earlier in the day, and both had said she was breathing better. One of them said he’d be back in the morning and they’d draw labs again–there were a couple numbers that didn’t look that great.

The physical therapist came after lunch. It was time for some leg lifts. With great exertion, my mom lifted her legs one at a time. I sat across from her, lifting my own to match her rhythm and counted the lifts. It was time to stand up from the chair and lie down on the bed so she could extend her legs; she had been sitting for so long.

That was it. She stood with the aid of a walker. She turned and backed up a couple steps. She sat on the bed. She went stiff and collapsed.

As the therapist guided her body so she’d stay on the bed, I went to the other side and leaned over my mother to press the call button. If I had looked at her face just then, I would have known she was gone and maybe the next 20 minutes would have been different.

But I didn’t look at her face. I just reacted. I ran into the hall; I knew this was a situation beyond the physical therapist, and we needed help.  (She thanked me later, by the way, for my quick response.) Soon, there was a  crash cart in the hallway and medical personnel filled my mom’s half of the small curtained-off room. They were working on her. I was not with my dad when the doctor asked him if he wanted them to continue the resuscitation. I was coming and going, in and out of the waiting room. Pacing. Breathing. Praying. Inhaling essential oil. Calling my husband.

I asked if I could see her. A nurse let me in. I looked at my mother’s face, her open eyes, and saw emptiness. Death.  I had stared death in the face before and this was it: life and soul and breath are no longer. Only a body is left, the person is gone.

I shouted, “Give Abby a kiss for me.” And then I left the room.  Yes, I shouted. Not that she could hear me if I shouted. But the room was so loud, loud with beeping machines and men giving orders. So I shouted.

I didn’t believe it. I went in the hallway and told my dad that on my drive the day before to visit them, I had imagined her dying peacefully, but this wasn’t how I had imagined it. This wasn’t peaceful. His response was that it was peaceful for her; it just wasn’t peaceful for us. I realized he was right and expressed my agreement.

Also, I didn’t believe she was gone yet because I thought I’d get to say goodbye. No one had told us she was going to die.  The doctor said he’d see her tomorrow. I just thought that sometime in the years to come, we would know her time would be short, and all the family would be there, singing and reading psalms and then we’d all say goodbye and have sweet words and then with a great Hallelujah, she’d enter heaven. Others have recounted stories like this. Why would ours be any different?

I didn’t get to say goodbye. No one did.

When my dad told me that the doctor had called it, that she was gone, peace flooded me. Might seem weird. But I knew her earthly struggles were over and she had been released from the pains of this earth. This peace continued for a couple weeks until I went back home and crashed. I stayed in bed for a few days and read Pride and Prejudice, only getting up to fix meals for my family and to start another load of laundry.

I thought of all the things that my mom was going to miss–the important events in my children’s lives: Alex’s graduation followed by that of his 3 siblings. Mary dancing the lead in a ballet someday. Soccer games. Debates. Weddings. Births of  her great-grandchildren. Holidays.

But most of all, she is going to miss our every days.

And I thought of my dad. alone. He didn’t get to say goodbye either.

I miss you mom. I know I’d miss you even if I did get to say goodbye…

happy birthday, beautiful February 26, 2011

Posted by ballet you say in christianity, death, grief, heaven, life, loss, moving on.

A lot of my friends have been asking me how I’m doing…I haven’t been writing except little snippets on facebook. Blogging is virtually non-existent and has been replaced with one liners.

I’m good. Most of the time, I’m great. I really am. God has blessed me and given me peace and joy. I am living my life and enjoying it. Tonight I’m thinking back eight years ago waking up in labor with a certain baby girl.

I want to go kiss that baby girl right now.

But she’s getting all her kisses in heaven from her great grandparents right now. And from the angels.  And from all the other little girls who have slipped from their parents’ arms into Jesus’ arms.

About a month ago on facebook, a friend asked for inexpensive ideas for her daughter’s 8th birthday party. We had been pregnant together. A few minutes later, another friend posted pictures of her daughter’s 8th birthday cake.  Another blonde girl. BAM BAM. I hadn’t really had any moments of grief for a long time.  Tears. But that’s not all. Then another friend whose baby was stillborn just a short month before Abby’s life ended was writing about her grief too. More tears.

I want MY birthday girl where I can see her and touch her and watch her eat cake.

Today is Abby’s 8th birthday. Where has the time gone? We only had 2 birthdays with her. Then she was gone. Now she has been gone nearly six years.

As I was thinking of my labor, I decided to look through her photo album. When I got it out of the cabinet, my tears fell. Then I opened it.  On the first page is her name:

“father rejoices”

“the bright one, the shining one.”

Then on the next page is this picture.

Do you see her praying hands? I remember her folding her hands quite a bit her first few days.

So sweet!

It’s almost as if she was born to worship, born for heaven right out of the womb. With this thought and looking at this picture and the others on the page, Forget a couple quiet tears, my body was racked with sobbing.

I miss my Abby girl!

It’s been a long time since I’ve cried like that, and I want people to know! This has been the EASIEST February ever. I can’t even believe it. My growth is phenomenal since last year and the previous ones. Part of the reason is I haven’t had time to have a personal pity party because my heart has been heavy, so heavy for others in recent weeks. I was reminded of something I wrote a month after Abby died:

A month. 4 weeks ago tomorrow, our journey of death began. When we were driving home yesterday, Todd asked me if I was doing a lot of crying that he didn’t know about, and I told him not really. I asked him if he cried when Rachel died. The answer was no. I asked him if he cried when Petros died. No. I asked him if he cried when Corrie died. No. And I asked him if he cried when baby Anna was stillborn. No. And I asked him if he’s been broken and weeping and praying for Beth’s recovery. No.

I have spent 9 months, many nights sleepless, just crying and praying for other people. Now, there’s a million people crying and weeping for ME and God is answering their prayers and God has brought me peace and grace.

I don’t think I’m holding it in (so to speak). I asked Todd if he remembered that Thursday morning. How could he forget? I screamed at the top of my lungs and relived every detail of those almost 2 hours of agony where Abby was hurt and dying. I scared him, he said. He kept telling me to relax. He said he reverted into his Bradley mode because it reminded him of labor (before I wrote about it in that way in the funeral memoir) My release was in every way physical, emotional and spiritual. And now I have peace. And my tears are much less than his.

Happy birthday, beautiful. My pretty dancing, singing girl in heaven. I miss you.

I never got past those first 2 pages of the photo album. I’m saving those for the morning when I go to the cemetery with whoever wants to go with me. Not sure which of the kids, if any will want to come. I have some tulips from church that I’ve been enjoying all week that I’ll toss on Abby’s grave.

come sunday: a book review October 14, 2010

Posted by ballet you say in book review, death, grief, loss.
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I buried myself in this novel on a road trip this summer. A heart wrenching story about a child who dies and a mother’s grief and journey to her homeland to find healing, this book isn’t for everyone.   When my husband asked me what the book was about and I told him, he replied, “How can you read that stuff?”

Morley describes grief in such a genuine way that I doubt she is a stranger to loss.  I found Come Sunday well-written and at times, poetic. For example, in the hospital scene after Cleo’s death, Morley pens,

Cleo’s lower lip is crooked, weighted to the right as it always was when she was asleep or when she was scared.  Exactly how it was when she was born.

“Cleo!” I cry, calling into the abyss, calling her back from the void; a loud clear call. “Wake up, Cleo, open your eyes, darling; it’s time to go home.”

But she has gone to the burial grounds of drowned boys and crucified Lords.

A child dies. A mother mourns. What else can I say? That’s my life story.

But that’s where my path diverges with the grieving mother in the book. She lets her grief overshadow the rest of her life for a time. She places blame for her daughter’s death where it doesn’t belong. She shuts out some of her closest friends. She leaves her husband.

The main character remembers a conversation she had with her daughter Cleo about a statue of the virgin Mary:

“What’s her name?” she asked.

“That’s Mary, Jesus’ mommy,” I answered.

“Is she sad?” she wanted to know, glancing up at the Holy Mother with her downcast eyes.

“I’m not sure,” I said after a pause.

But I know now. I know that Mary’s grief is a thousand fathoms deep, where blue is so dense it becomes black. So vast is her sorrow that she cannot speak but only part her robe and reveal the crimson heart that in its stubbornness will not cease its beat.

It’s passages like this that made the book a page turner for me.  I found myself holding my breath, feeling nauseous, laughing, wiping a tear from my cheek, and wanting to get to the last page to see how it ends and then wanting more of the story.  I recommend the book to those who don’t mind being a little sad or mad…

In a conversational video, Morley says about the book, “I want people to feel that redemption always triumphs tragedy and loss and  hope trumps sorrow. I want them to feel assured about holding onto hope, that although life is hard and sometimes there are seemingly insurmountable tragedies that there is a new day, a Sunday coming.”

genuine care or mere curiosity October 14, 2010

Posted by ballet you say in family, grief, healing, life, loss.

What follows is something I wrote in April of 2008 and am just now getting around to publishing it.

As life continues to march on after the death of my daughter, I encounter people who didn’t know Abby. When strangers ask me about it, I merely tell them she died in an accident. If pressed for more information, I say what type of accident. I don’t really give any details if I don’t know the person well.

I especially enjoy talking about my daughter’s life–both her short time on earth as well as the eternity that she has started in heaven without me. I don’t mind talking about my daughter’s death. When asked how Abby died, I quickly process the request and the person making it. I need to trust the person if I’m going to tell my story. If he/she has a genuine interest in me and my well-being, I proceed. The reaction is usually one of total compassion that includes tears, a hug, prayer, and perhaps disbelief. I welcome a listening ear from someone who cares.

But if I don’t know the person very well or if I think the request comes from mere curiosity rather than a genuine care for me and my family, then I won’t tell my story. I’m vulnerable and don’t want to get hurt. I told my story to the wrong person last week.

I mean, I tried to tell my story. When I told her I don’t mind talking about it, she asked me if Abby had been sick. (this is a common question and I don’t mind it at all), but when I told her that she died in an accident, she said that her interest lies in illness and death caused by vaccines. I should have stopped talking right there.

But I didn’t. I continued my story. When I told her a couple details, she said,

No wonder why it’s so hard for you.

I include this picture from the funeral as an illustration as to why “it’s so hard for me.” My daughter’s body was in a casket. It doesn’t matter how she got there. Just that she’s there. Still there.

And why did this person think “it” was so hard for me?

Because I asked a few people to pray for me as the third anniversary of her death approached? It was the season that was more difficult than others and I asked for prayer. Usually people tell me how well I’m doing. I’m living life and getting out and mothering my children all the while living with great loss.


how to be insensitive to someone who has lost a loved one

So I continued my story. I’m not exactly sure why I continued. I guess I was as insensitive to her needs as she was to mine, meaning I should have picked up on the fact that she wasn’t interested in listening to how my child died since it wasn’t the kind of death that she likes to hear about.

Maybe if I kept talking, she would be interested in MY story that she asked to hear?? I don’t know. The third time she said this, I said, “Well, I can’t help you with that because that’s not how she died.”


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