Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Good Bye to a Grieving Mom

Before I start that story: This Sunday, 12/12, is the International Worldwide Candlelighting sponsored by Compassionate Friends. Per usual, Familia Awful will sojourn to Philly Children's where they will read the names of children who have died there over the years.

When I first considered going to this event in 2007, I was petrified that I would turn into a blubbering puddle making a spectacle of myself and causing great alarm to my family and Bella who was then three. I decided it would make me feel a bit more edified if I took along the names of all the children I knew from my friends in the computer -- written down on scraps of paper in my pocket. They would balance my load, remind me I wasn't alone.

And they did.

Every year I ask if there is a name I can carry with me, and so here I am asking once again: If you would like me to carry your child's name with my own and my now rather modest stack of names in my pocket to my event, please leave it here in the comments. If you don't want to print your child's name here, feel free to email me at tashabf at gmail and I'll take it from there. If you've responded in the past, I still have your child's name. But please go ahead and double check and make sure. Please note that these names are not read out loud nor are they really a part of the ceremony I attend. I write your child's name on a scrap of paper, and the scraps go into a bag which gets put in my pocket. When I'm there listening to all of the other names and watching the flickering candlelight, I know your names are close to my hand and heart, keeping me company. When I come home, they go into a bowl next to a candle for a few nights until they get overrun by Christmas -- and then I make sure to safely put them away until next year lest a neighbor accidentally place a dip and some pita chips by the bowl thinking the tableau was set up for something else entirely.


After Maddy died, a friend of ours sent us Elizabeth Edwards "Saving Graces." It sat on my coffee table for months, Edwards' flawless skin and slight smile staring up at me from the cover. When I finally had the strength to pick it up, I did not start at the beginning -- I skipped right to the chapter "Raleigh," which begins,

I've now come to a chapter that I knew I would have to write.

I knew I had the right one. I read about how the policeman came to their driveway and told them their son was dead. I was awestruck at their ability to celebrate his next birthday. I breathed a most enormous sigh of relief when I read that Elizabeth Edwards, somewhat famous person, had also collapsed into a teary heap at the grocery store. Following this chapter was a chapter -- an entire chapter -- on how the internet helped her through her grief. I had only started blogging, but I thought maybe, just maybe, this lady is onto something. She seems pretty together now. I could only hope that the invisible legions within the computer could help me as well.

Barely three months after starting a blog, I wrote a post about presidents who had lost children. I began by pointing out that a few of the people currently running for president -- including John Edwards -- had lost children. I had heard through the grapevine that Elizabeth Edwards was internet savvy, but clearly that was an understatement: Apparently she must have had a search set up to sift through anything that popped out the name of her family and her son that notified her immediately because shortly after hitting post, I got a comment.

From Elizabeth Edwards.

She wrote a beautiful metaphor about how life is like a blackboard, and when your child dies, the blackboard is erased and it seems as if nothing will ever be important enough ever again to expend chalk and space upon a square. I got that. She claimed over a decade later her board was filling again, and that she still grieved, but it wasn't all the time, and not as painful as in the beginning. It was hard to fathom the metaphor; in part because I was still so, so far away from realizing it, and in large part because I was so moved that she used Maddy's name. She typed out her name.

I was still so blinded and rubbed raw and my blank chalkboard was in pieces at my feet, so it was all I could do to try and respond without resorting to profanity (although from what I hear, she would've been ok with that). She seemed so . . . hopeful. So . . . . ok. Would I ever be? That woman on the book jacket seemed a million light years from where I stood.

It is three years to the week of that post, and I already see what she means. All I need to do is glance at my real calendar to see that even trivial things like bookclub are once again making me feel, well, alright about life. (It's this Friday, and we're selecting next year's books, and I'm just atwitter.) And even where it's not filled, metaphorically speaking, I'm holding that chalk just above the surface wanting to write something. I'm ready. I'm ready to put something down, dammit. I think.

A week or so after that post I went to my first candlelight ceremony at Children's, and perhaps it was presumptuous of me, but on one of my scraps I wrote "Wade." Elizabeth Edwards would never know, but I figured she took time to write my daughter's name, the least I could do was the act of writing out her son's. It came with me that year, and will again on Sunday. Just because his parents are kinda famous, I thought, doesn't mean he's any less missed. And I'm sure his parents fought to keep his memory alive as much as any of us.

I'll always remember Wade. And you too, Elizabeth. And you too.

Please let's all raise our chalk to a woman who suffered way more in her life than any woman should, and did so with staggering grace and dignity. She was a champion to many women for many reasons, but for me she'll always be the woman who took time out of a campaign schedule to write my daughter's name.


pbugsmommy said...

Love this.

mMc said...

She is how I first found your blog, in a round about way.

Charlotte May McDonald.

Thank you, Tash.

CLC said...

What a great tribute to her. I said to my husband tonight that hopefully she has been reunited with her son. Sounds very fairy tale-ish of me, but it's what gets me through the days.

And thank you for carrying Hannah's name with you.

Ya Chun said...

Geez, so many things happening to one person. RIP.

I don't know if Serenity is on a piece of paper or not... if not, please write her up one. And thank you.

still life angie said...

Man, she is incredible. I was reading this with my mouth agape-she wrote you? Wow. Incredible. It reminds me that we are all babylost mamas, not any more than that when we grieve. Candle lighting sounds incredibly powerful, as it did last year. Don't know if Lucia is in your pocket, but I'd be honored. Xo

Hope's Mama said...

Can't believe I am here doing this for a third year in a row. Wow, where does time go? You know when I found you, and others in your class (as CLC has called it before) you were like Elizabeth Edwards to me. You were a couple of years out and you were functioning. Awful But Functioning so it would seem. And you, as well as many others, gave me hope that one day I would function again as well. And here I am now, two and a bit years out, functioning. Not so awful any more, but functioning. So thank YOU Tash.
Being in Australia, I don't know much of Elizabeth Edwards, but on hearing about her death today through FB, I have done a bit of reading. So very, very sad. Reading your post today reminded me of when Elizabeth McCracken commented on my blog. She feels like babyloss royalty, and I was so humbled and moved that she stopped by my silly little blog.
I think you should still have Hope in your pocket from the previous two years but on the off chance you don't, I'd love it if she could be thrown in the mix again this year.
Remembering Maddy, Wade and all the other babies/kids gone too soon. Today and always.

tree town gal said...

oh Tash, thank you for sharing your story and writing a beautiful tribute to E.E. She was extraordinary, brave, powerful, and brilliant.

Will be thinking of you on 12/12. I will say aloud Maddy's name, along with Wade's, as I remember my three tiny ones.

Sophie said...

What a beautiful post Tash. I will do some googling to find out more about this amazing woman.

You probably still have Jordan's name written down. As Sally said, we're here for the third round. Wishing you peace.xx

sweetsalty kate said...

This was stunning, and so was she.

Anna said...

What Kate said. Absolutely. I am now full of tears.

The blackboard comment is so very fitting.

Sarah Elizabeth Bonick

(Although you might already have it? Oh Tash, thank you so much.)

luna said...

I remember that post, and just re-read it. it was just when I started blogging, nearly 3 years after my own loss.

beautiful tribute to a pretty amazing woman. still touched that she took the time to write such a thoughtful comment, to write maddy's name, to care. RIP

Anonymous said...

Alexander x

Beth said...

i never gave the baby i proper name but i think of him/her (i don't know) as Snowflake. please could you add my baby to you list?

thank you so, so much.

Jenni said...

incredible story, tash! i can't believe she wrote to you. the blackboard analogy is perfect. could you put my baby's name in your pocket? compassionate friends has a candlelighting in our area but i don't think we are going to make it this year, unfortunately. thank you.

angel mae haley

Lila said...

beautiful post, Tash. We will light a candle for Maddy this Sunday.

N said...

I had so much love and respect for Elizabeth Edwards already, and am grateful for having been able to see her in person last year, but did not know until yesterday that she'd lost a child. I do hope that she is at peace now, and that they are together in some way.

You've carried before Figment (my baby) and Mikey (my brother), and I'd really be honored if you'd do it again.

loribeth said...

I was so sad to see her obituary in the papers this morning. I have both her books in my towering "to-read" pile -- must pull them out again.

I remember that post, & being awestruck, not only that she took time to respond, but how beautifully she wrote. She was quite an amazing lady. And so are you, Tash. : )

Thanks for such a lovely tribute. And thanks for the candlelighting -- I know you have Katie's name with you. : ) I will be attending my own support group's candlelighting tonight, & I will be thinking of you & Maddy, and all my friends in the computer who have helped me along the way.

Ariel said...

Isabel Grace King

Beautiful post... thank you so much.

Mary Beth said...

This is a beautiful post. EE was so much better than the crap sandwich she'd been given at the end of her life. I didn't know about her son, and now I must read her book.

If you'd carry Calla Valentina with you, we'd be grateful.


erica said...

Love this post, Tash. I'm so glad she wrote Maddy's name. And thank you for carrying the names with you.

A.M.S. said...

What a lovely tribute to her. I have a feeling she'd be thrilled to know you will have her son's name in your pocket.

It is startling to realize how life has started up again. I wonder if its like a pearl forming...that empty space in my heart that the twins' death created has been layered over. The rough edges are smoother and now, there's this pearl of memory instead of a soul-ache.

Zoe Harper and Lennox Maximillian. Thank you for helping to speak their names.

We remember Maddy and all the others.

Unknown said...

I love this post so much. I was lucky enough to meet her many years ago, before losing my twins. How I wish I'd been able to talk to her after....If you would, please speak my boys names: Owen Gregory Wewer died at CHOP on March 8th, 2008. His twin brother, Joshua Rhys Wewer died at UNC Chapel Hill on April 8th, 2008
Thank you.

Unknown said...

Weepy. Beautiful. I'll never forget Maddy and will be thinking of you.

Betty M said...

Beautiful tribute. We don't know much about Elizabeth Edwards here but I do remember reading your post about her when you linked to it before. She was clearly an impressive woman in many ways.

Which Box said...

Amazing and beautiful. I don't know how I missed the post in 2007, but am amazed. Thank you for this post. I think too often with major 'figures of importance' we forget that they are no more and no less than human beings, as we all are.

JW Moxie said...

Beautifully woven.

For my most recent (and now last) IPs, please carry their son's name with you - Kimani.

SarahB said...

Wow. What a beautiful post.

Mandy said...

Beautiful post.

As Hope's Mama said, you are my Elizabeth Edwards. After losing my daughter on August 9, 2010, yours was one of the first blogs I stumbled across. It helped me so much in those first few days/weeks.

I would be honored if you would carry my daughter's name, Brianna Tatum, with you on Sunday.

Searching said...

Amen. I have more names to add, babies who never met their parents, and a few baby patients I dearly loved and lost this year. Aiden, Brock, Casey, Teonna, Lonnie, TJ, Shana. Thank you, Tash.

Emily said...

I'd love to have my baby added to your pile. Thank you for remembering him.

"Aidan William".

Amy said...

Beautiful post! She is an inspiration to women.

It was a mere 2 months after our son died that I found myself in the grocery store, barely keeping it together. It was a bad night and my eyes were red and puffy from tears. Happens that John and Elizabeth were in the same grocery store that night and I happened to be reading "Saving Graces". I built up the courage to approach Elizabeth and told her with a shakey voice that her book meant alot to me. She knew, from those few words, she knew.... and then Elizabeth hugged me.

That moment is one of the few early memories that survived the fog of my grief.

May she rest in peace and love.

b said...

Beautiful post. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

She is also one of the first comments I noticed on your blog when I started reading. Yesterday a fellow bereaved sent me a quote by her, and i blogged about it. Thank you so much for this Tash.....

I'd be honored....Cullen Liam

Sue said...

I don't even have words. Just tears.

She was an amazing woman. And so are you, Tash.

Thank you for remembering Jacob and Joshua, especially during this long difficult month.

I have an acquaintance whose daughter is named Madeleine, but calls her Maddy. It always makes me think of you. And of her.

Cibele said...

Thank you for taking the time to write about her. My heart broke hearing the news of her death. I thought all about she went through... and she carried on with such a grace. She will be misssed

gailcanoe said...

I just found your blog through The Stirrup Queens blog list on Friday. I was very moved by your post and I also went back to read about the President's post from a few years ago.
Keep writing!

bibc said...

mel was right. i certainly couldn't get through this post without crying, for you, for Maddy, for Wade and Elizabeth, and for my two loves, Ayla Joy and Juliet Grace.

Elizabeth was a beautiful, graceful woman, always known to me as a babylost mama first.
so lovely that she reached out to you and wrote your child's name. i know how much that means to a grieving parent, so thank you for offering to take my girls with you this weekend. i cant explain how it makes me feel, it just fills me with mother's pride to know they are remembered to someone, anyone but me.

now to wipe the tears and get back to work. thank you.

Just me said...

I am always gratified when public persons whom I admire turn out to be the good people I think they are.

Thanks for sharing this. :)

sarah said...

this is an amazing tribute to a wonderful woman.

I would love if you brought my son's name in your pocket:

Otis Allen Nidy

many thanks

Me said...

Your post about this made me sob last year too.

Could you please add the name of my friend's daughter, born this week - Annique. Thank you.

Bea said...

Beautiful tribute, wonderful story.


Anonymous said...

absolutely beautiful

Janis MK said...

I am late to this wonderful and beautiful post. I mourn the passing of Elizabeth Edwards.
It pained and angered me that there are people who wanted to picket her funeral because she dared to question God after her son died. Every good God wants to be severely questioned! And they were angry at her because she "played God" in resorting to fertility to have more children. I will never understand these people.

Melissia said...

I had to come back several times in order to find the words to comment. She was a gracious woman who lived under very trying personal times with grace and elegance.
Thank you for remembering her and sharing this wonderful story about her. It just reaffirms everything I thought about her.

rebecca said...

So thankful to have found you via Mel's Friday round up. Such an incredibly beautiful tribute to Elizabeth Edwards...I was too was so inspired by her grace in the midst of loss and now after hearing how amazing she was at reaching out to you I love her even more! Thank you for sharing what she did for you, the metaphor she used really spoke to me as well. I look forward to following your journey as well and am glad to have found you ((hugs))

Hennifer said...

You and your blog was the next thing I thought of when I heard that Elizabeth passed. You both have touched my life profoundly.

Thank you!