Friday, August 24, 2012

January 12

Sometimes…straight from the journal works. Here are my unedited words from January 12.

“Dear Mara,
Today was okay. Nothing more, nothing less. I woke up, did things, cried between them, and kept moving. That is really all I can say for myself.
I love you. I love Daddy, and I love Aaron, and I am trying so damn hard to be okay.
Love, Mommy”


(Aaron drew this picture today of a knight on one of his Christmas thank you notes. I thought it was so cute how he has the lines in front of the face like the eye guard from a helmet)

January 11

This was a really rough day for me. It was dark and cold and rainy all day and I wanted to be outside and see the sun. Chris and I haven’t been sleeping well, and Chris is especially exhausted from being back at work. I spent some time attacking a long to-do list I had been making for my maternity leave…I figured since I’m still at home I could at least accomplish some things. I saw a young boy and his little sister walking to the bus stop this morning and it choked me to tears. Aaron and I both had dentist appointments today and while the dentist had her hand in my mouth, she asked me that perennial harmless question, “Is he your only child?” It was the first time I had been asked that question by a stranger since Mara died and I found myself in the horrible position of having to decide how I would answer in that particular situation. With her hand in my mouth, and the sensation that my chest had been sliced open by her question, I answered, “yes” but I knew in that very same instant it was not the right answer. I had thought it would be easier to say yes that to explain the whole story to someone I didn’t know while having my teeth cleaned, but it wasn’t easier at all. It felt like I was denying my girl, and I knew I would never, ever answer that way again, no matter how awkward or inconvenient it may be to give a fuller answer. Now, writing this eight months later, I can say that conviction has been put to the test and I always say that I also have a daughter who was stillborn. It usually results in the other conversational party being stunned silent, then fumbling for words of apology. I hope that by breaking through that barrier myself I can help others to do the same.



(clean teeth!)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

January 10

Today my parents flew back home and Chris headed of to work, and I slowly got Aaron out of the house for school. He was so happy to be at school he could barely be bothered to kiss me goodbye. As Aaron and I were walking, I noticed that the trees in the Prince William Forest were gorgeously covered in snow and ice, so I decided that my walk would be along Dumfries Road. It was my first day alone.




I felt Mara in that walk. She was in the cold air blowing in my face, and the snow sprinkles blowing off of tree branches that sparkled me to blindness in the morning sun. I became aware that I felt close to her out in nature. Spending time outside quietly observing natural beauty would give me great comfort in the weeks to come.

January 9



Today was Aaron’s first day back at school since Mara died. I was excited for him to get back in his routine and back with his friends, but I knew I would miss having him around. Everyone at Aaron’s was so wonderfully warm and supportive and I knew that he would be watched over carefully. He got right into talking and catching up about Christmas with his friends as if he had just seen them the day before. I was worried about what I would say if any of the students in his class asked me about the baby, because they had seen me pregnant every day and there were lots of kids who rubbed and hugged my belly on a daily basis and asked about the baby. I wanted to make sure that if their teacher had a way of explaining it to them that I had a chance to hear that and support it in case any of the kids asked me, but none of them did. I walked back home, grateful for the cold air on my face, but sharply feeling one of many coming aches as I thought about how I had been planning to make those walks back forth to Minnieland with a baby in a front pack. Instead of heading home to a day of baby bliss, I was walking home alone. I thought about that walk off and on all day and how I wished so hard to be making that walk with Mara…harder than I had ever wished for anything. I imagined that I would have lots of those days ahead, as we would keep realizing all the ways we were missing her. Now as I write this post eight months later, that was exactly what happened.

My parents talked to me about how sad they were to be leaving the next day and how hard it is to live so far away, especially during a difficult time like this. I read a little about Grandparent Grief, it's called "double grief" because you are grieving for your grandchild but also for the pain your child is experiencing that you have no power to ease.


I wrote one of many long journal entries on January 8, and like many from those days, it was addressed to Mara like a letter. I reflected on all the people who couldn’t wait to meet her and welcome her into their hearts, and the fact that now all of those people were grieving in different ways. Some people wanted to use her name and talk about her in a loving way, and some people didn’t want to talk about her at all. But even so, she was already loved by so many people, and I felt that the love others were ready to give to her was being transferred to us to help us through this horrible time.

January 8, and a note

Before continuing, I want to make a note about the blog. I started this as a fun and easy way to share some of our daily happenings with far-away friends and family, and I also got into P365 photos and scrapping. Daily ANYTHING is hard to keep up with…and even though watching us it may seem like our daily lives haven’t changed much, life has been completely altered. I started keeping an online journal so I could keep record of my grieving, and I’m so glad I did. At the same, I took far fewer pictures than any time since Aaron was born. Part of this is related to just feeling quiet and thoughtful and somewhat withdrawn, and part of it is related to how nice it feels to set down the camera sometimes and just experience something. In the past, I have made posts to reckon for every day of the year, noting the days when I had no photos. That has started to feel a bit silly to me, so I’m just going to post pictures for the days that I have them. You will see lots of huge gaps. But I would rather post what I have than stop this completely, and now that I’ve gotten over the hurdle of yesterday’s post, I’m excited to move forward with it.

*Much content from the months January-June is drawn from the journal I kept during that time and so truly reflects how I was feeling at those times.


I noticed today and yesterday how Aaron seems to have grown up so much in the past week or so. Maybe just a trick of the eyes or a trick of the heart, more likely, but it seems awfully noticeable to me. Just when babyhood is something I want the most, Aaron seems to be getting further away from it.

I sent out an email to the family today telling them about our morning in the mountains, and offering to send pictures to those who wanted to see them. I heard back from from everybody very quickly and I sent pictures out to everybody. It means so so much to me that my family is so willing to accept Mara as a part of their lives even though she’s not here. Auntie Kathy even said she was going to print the pictures of Mara and scrap them and I was so so happy to hear that. I think it will be a while before I can scrap the pictures of Mara herself, but I hope to be able to soon.

Elsewhere in the household, Ashley did a lot of moving to her new place today, with the help of everyone in the house. I am also looking forward to Aaron going back to school tomorrow. Taking him will be hard, and I know I will miss him sorely in my fragile state, but I know it's the next step that we all need.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

January 7-Mara’s morning in the mountains

**this happened in January, I wrote the post in April during Spring Break, and now I’m finally posting it in August. It took a long time to want to sit down and write about it, and after I did I was completely drained and felt like I had to stay away from it for a while. Yesterday was our eighth wedding anniversary, it’s a special week, I’m feeling good. I’m ready.**
We got up the morning of the 7th and showered and got ready. I brought two dresses to choose from with plenty of things to layer under and over them. Chris was a little surprised to see that I had brought dresses. When I was packing, I knew that we would be taking a lot of pictures, and this was the closest thing that my daughter was going to have to a funeral or a service…and I wanted it to be special in every way. So I wore a purple dress, and did my hair, and put on jewelry.
The night before, I told Chris that I was very afraid about opening the box that held Mara’s ashes. I didn’t know what they would look like, or if there would be recognizable pieces of bone in with the ashes. Would some be stuck to the underside lid of the box because of static? If so, would some of them drift out on their own? How did the box even open? Were they sloshing around in the box? What if I opened it wrong and some of them spilled? I was afraid that we would get up there in the windy mountains, and I would open that box for the first time and be completely freaked out by what the ashes looked like. I didn’t want to cause something bad to happen to the ashes out of shock or revulsion and then not be able to do what we had planned. I had sat up in that small dark hotel room while Chris slept and kept looking over at that box, and I doubted myself and our decision. Did I really want to let those ashes go? It was her body, and we had have so little of her, and maybe we shouldn’t let it go. Maybe I just couldn’t. I know I have said this before, but…my baby’s body was in a box. It’s incomprehensible. Chris said that he would open the box and look inside at the ashes and tell me what they were like so I wouldn’t be shocked. He did that this morning. Of course he did. He can always do the hardest things with so much calm and strength. It turned out that inside the box, the ashes were in a plastic bag that also contained a certification of identity that we and the funeral home had signed.
We went downstairs for breakfast. It wasn’t any good, but we didn’t have any appetite anyway. We drove from Luray to the Thornton Gap entrance to Skyline Drive. Our plan was to head south and check out some of the overlooks I had researched. We stopped at Mary's Rock Tunnel Overlook, Hazel Mountain Overlook, and then Pinnacles Overlook. We loved Pinnacles, because it had everything we were looking for. There were two more overlooks to the south we wanted to check just in case, Jewell Hollow and Hemlock Springs. They were pretty, but we really loved Pinnacles, so we turned around and headed back north to just south of mile marker 35, to the Pinnacles Overlook. We saw lots of deer on the way and enjoyed the beauty of the mountains so much during our drive.
We wanted a spot that had plenty of space for us to walk down from the other side of the barrier wall and away from the road, as per regulations, and then a steep slope down to a sweeping view. Pinnacles Overlook had all of that, with an incredible view. It also had just the wind we needed to carry Mara’s ashes up and out over the beautiful valley so that she could be a part of the sky.
We talked a lot about the pictures we wanted to take of our special time in mountains with Mara. I was so grateful that Chris felt the same way I did about taking pictures. I had some distinct and gorgeous images in my mind of Chris and I with our arms outstretched with the wind carrying Mara’s ashes up and away, and I wanted very much to capture those so we could keep them. I knew that setting up the camera and tripod and releasing Mara’s ashes a little at a time so we could take pictures would seem awkward and staged, but we have learned through our experiences that you have GOT to take the pictures when you can. No matter how strange or creepy or morbid it seems then, it must be done. Even if we didn’t want to look at them for years, or ever, we would at least have them. But if you don’t take them, you will never have them. Chris and I were of the same mind as we prepared for the specific photographs we wanted. We took our time.
First, it was my turn to lift some of Mara’s ashes up into the air. Chris held onto me as we opened the container. We had opened the bag while we were still in the car so the wind would not swirl the ashes around before we were ready. Once we opened the container outside, the ashes began to swirl immediately. We both started to cry. Chris stood back at the camera and when it was time, I could barely make myself lift my arms. It was the hardest, most painful thing I have ever had to make myself do. The first time I did it, the wind shifted and blew some of the ashes back towards me, as I had been scared of, and I just couldn’t make myself continue. I lowered my arms and my head and Chris came over to stand with me. We stood together for a few minutes and waited for the wind to change. This is when we took the pictures of us standing together looking out over the valley. When I looked at the pictures Chris took of my first try, I could see that I hadn’t lifted my arms high enough, so the ashes couldn’t come out of the container to be carried by the wind. I tried it again, and although it was still hard, I reached high above my head and saw the wind carry the ashes up and away. I felt immediately relieved.
When it was Chris’ turn, he was able to do what I had not, send Mara’s ashes flying far up into the sky, weightless and part of the wind. It actually took my breath away to see the ashes in the air being carried away, and I got amazing photos of Chris during that brave, painful, beautiful scene that was over in an instant. Chris stood there for a minute alone and then came back to where I was. We quickly packed up the camera and tripod in the car and then went back to sit together and look out over the valley for a long while. Other cars pulled up, people got out and took pictures, and we just stayed and looked and held onto each other. We let the rest of her ashes go when we were alone again. We talked about how beautiful the place was, and that even in cold January. After all the ashes were gone and we sat and sat, we both noticed that the wind got warmer. The sun was shining on us, the wind was warm, and we felt like Mara was with us and like we had done the right thing. We talked to Mara, we talked to each other, and after a while, we walked around a bit to take some pictures of the sign marking the overlook. Then we got back in the car to keep driving north out of the park and back towards home.
As we drove, Chris talked a lot of about how much he wanted to come back to the mountains often with our family to do fun things and visit Pinnacles. We planned on getting an annual pass and coming back all throughout the year so we could see what Pinnacles looks like through all the different seasonal changes. We know it will be gorgeous throughout the year and it will be wonderful to see it grow and change every year. We would also love to start bringing Aaron for some camping and hiking. Someday, we will show this spot to Aaron and talk to him about how Mara got lifted up into the sky, just like he said it did the morning after she died. We talked about how we loved that the place we chose is a beautiful, living place, not a mournful, dead place. With every minute that passed and every mile we drove, we felt more and more peaceful about our decision. Nothing can ever make this easier, be we want to have happy lives and remember all the happiness that Mara brought us while we were together. We felt more settles as we drove back home and resolved to always remind ourselves of what that felt like when we had difficult times and to deeply invest in time spent with Aaron. I told Chris it was the best I had felt since Christmas Day. We enjoyed our drive home, chatting only off and on, and shortly after we got home I looked at the pictures we took. They are just incredible and we will always treasure them. Here is one precious photo that we want to share.

That evening after we got home, we prepared Dad’s birthday dinner, which was mostly Thanksgiving-ish, and enjoyed a great dinner and some birthday cake.