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come sunday: a book review October 14, 2010

Posted by guinever 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 guinever 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.”

Grandpa, a man of many hats July 23, 2009

Posted by guinever in christianity, death, everyday life, heaven.

I’m cleaning today, digging through a drawer that is stacked with papers and photos. I found a piece of notebook paper folded in sixths. On it was the memoir that I wrote for my Grandpa Herrick’s funeral, who died February 3, 1996.

When I think of Grandpa, I see a man with many hats. I think a lot of us here gave him at least one over the years. I see a man with many plaid shirts, suspenders, belt buckles and tools.

When I think of Grandpa, I see a man in a chair. Reading, doing crossword puzzles, winning at Scrabble, and snoring.

I remember one time he accused us grandkids of eating the toilet paper because it seemed to disappear whenever we visited.

When I think of Grandpa, I see a man who was always building and making things for the people he loved. He and my dad built the house on Beecher road. He built the cabin in the woods. The bunk beds. A see-saw and swing for us grandkids. A fort in a tree so he could hunt for deer. When he wasn’t falling off ladders, he was climbing them, to  erect a bigger than life satellite dish on the roof.

I’ll always remember the love and care he showed Grandma. The last thing he made …only minutes before he collapsed, was a sandwich for her.

For me, the most special thing he built is the simple wooden chest that still sits in the corner of my room. What once was filled with toys is now filled with linens and blankets. Even after 20 years, my name that he carved in the bottom of the toy box has not faded. Neither will these memories. The assurance that Grandpa is in Heaven makes the pain a little less and the memories even greater.

Grandma and Grandpa H

Isn’t it lovely that I have this old photo to go along with this memoir? Based on how old my brother and I look, I’m guessing this was taken around 1977.

don’t want to leave this house May 11, 2009

Posted by guinever in grief, healing, life, loss.
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We’re moving. Our growing family, although diminished needs a little more room. We hinted of it before March 22. But now that leaving is closer to becoming a reality, its hard. I think its harder to leave this house now than it would’ve been before Abby’s death. I feel like we’re abandoning her a bit.

Some might think we’re running away from this house because our daughter died here.

But we’re not. Because of Abby, we want to stay. She’s everywhere. She was conceived in the blue room that is now the boys’ room. I labored in the tub with her. I brought her home to this house. She rolled on the wooden floor and then moved on her belly and pulled herself along, ever a struggle until she was up on all fours. She took baths in the kitchen sink. She crawled and walked and ran and laughed and smiled and sang inside these walls. And then one day she escaped these walls and walked outside and soared to heaven.

And now all we have of her are the pictures on the walls and the pictures in the albums and her memories. And a box in the attic filled with her things. In this house. This home. The memories of her are in every room. Every corner. This house.

In the first few days after death, I sat on the couch nursing Mary, facing the doorway to the kitchen. I ached because I waited and waited for Abby to come prancing through that doorway like she always did. I just wanted it all to be a horrible nightmare, something to wake up from with a start. To slow my beating heart. But it’s not a dream and she’s never walking through that doorway ever again.

She sat on the kitchen counter as I prepared meals and she emptied the plastic containers onto the floor. And she played with the containers in the spice rack. And she was by my side every day as I readied for the day. She opened and closed, opened and closed my makeup drawer in the mornings.

But it’s just a house. Walls and walls and floors and a roof.

We need to let it go. A possession. A home. Someone else can come and live where our daughter lived and died.

We can buy a different house and we can make it our new home.

And next spring we can visit this old house and see the daffodils blooming by our front porch that were given in her memory by so many of our neighbors. And I can take pictures of the dogwood tree, blossoming golden in Abby’s memory. And I can turn the corner and see the driveway where her life started slipping away. And I can imagine the blood pooling on the blacktop. And I can see the steps where I held her lifeless in my arms. And I can remember where she laughed and ran and sang and played. Happiness and joy. So much happiness and joy.

Seven years ago in July we closed on this house and it became ours.

And seven years this house has been our home. We don’t want to go. But we must.

Clay has turned to loose and rich soil under Todd’s constant supervision where lettuce and cucumbers and beans and tomatoes now thrive every summer, even this summer in the drought. Todd painted this plaster covered drywall seven years ago. Perfect satin finish now stained with fingerprints and smudges of boys. And there are knicks on every doorway.

I just discovered this on my computer while looking for something else. I don’t even remember writing it and it remains unfinished. I wrote this four years ago.  We never did move from this house. We spent the summer searching and decided that the best house for us was the one we already had.

losing a child; four years later April 7, 2009

Posted by guinever in christianity, death, grief, healing.

It’s Tuesday of Holy week. Four years ago, Abby died the Tuesday between Palm Sunday and Easter.

Quite frankly, today has been like any other normal day… cooking breakfast, checking math pages, watching a Moody Science film, making lunch (today it was baked chicken drumsticks, beans and homemade bread with cookies for dessert,) walking through a 5 paragraph essay with my 4th grader, letting the kids have cheerios for dinner so I don’t have to make something, answering e-mails, doing stickers with the toddler,  listening to Latin prayers,  shuffling the little ones off to bed. Discovering another grieving blog. I could go on and on.

That’s today. But the last couple months, there have been more tears than normal. This is because February started my “season of grief.” Overall, I’m doing ok. The tears may come but they haven’t translated into lengthy bouts of depression or walking around feeling numb, having to put one foot in front of the other, forcing myself to get out of bed in the morning.  Life is better and easier than that.

So all this to say, time has lessened the pain…a little. It’s not gone, will never be, but I’m healthier.  I’m walking in God’s love, sustained by His grace.

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