You would think having children would make you look down at the ground where they are, and be very grown-up and practical.
But actually, having children teaches you to be little enough to walk under trees and stare up at the blossoms in wonder.
Such lush abundance couldn’t go uncelebrated!
Outside tonight it’s chilly
and so windy the treehouse rattles
The very stars tremble brightly
in the deep, dark blue of the sky.
I wonder how the earth looks from up there,
a patchwork quilt of cosy lights,
a humming globe of life
burning in the darkness.
Nearly three weeks ago, on March 30th, it was the six month anniversary of my baby daughter Josephine’s stillbirth. I approached the day with a bit of dread, worried it would send me back and undo my recent period of emotional improvement. I tried to decide what to do…plan a trip with the kids to Science World to distract myself, or invite fellow babyloss moms over to honour the day. In the end, because of a tummy bug, we did neither.
I tried to truck through the day, homeschooling the kids, keeping them fed and occupied, and not allowing my emotional guard down too far. Around 4 pm my sweet friend Kate stopped by with a little pot of bright yellow flowers and homemade chocolate chip cookies. “It’s a day for chocolate,” she told me.
This little visit and chat outside her car (which was full of her own 5 kids who were sick), meant so much. Her kindness in acknowledging my grief gave me the freedom to release it a little. It often takes the hug of a good friend to bring out those hidden tears that are lurking inside like saturated storm clouds, waiting to fall and wash your heart clean again.
The kids, always happy for any birthday, ate Josephine’s half-birthday cookies with gusto as we walked over to the graveyard accross the street where she is buried. We brought her the yellow chrysanthemums, and the kids gathered sticks to make a little enclosure around them.
After this, we took some anniversary pictures, and the kids talked about how big and beautiful baby Josephine is now in Heaven.
Their assurance that she is safe and happy shines through their smiling faces. For them, Heaven is very real, and very close. Once my oldest said,
“Mummy, it’s kind of good Josephine died and went to Heaven.”
“Really, why?” I asked.
“Because then she’s right with us all the time, just like Aslan, and never even as far away as if she was sleeping on the couch when we are in the kitchen.”
Kids really get it that love breaks down all barriers, even that of death, and keeps us together.
It is true, but I am little Jo’s mummy, and want to have her in my arms, so while the other kids played happily in the graveyard, I sat by her grave and cried. It was around 5 pm, the time I had been in early labour, when she had quietly passed away from the tight cord around her neck.
The kids hunted for dandelions and blossoms and went about placing them on graves with no flowers, “so they’d have some.” After this we went to the dollar store and everyone was allowed to chose a new colouring book in honour of Josephine’s special day.
Perhaps it seems that we did a fair bit…we at least did something, but it wasn’t enough really. Except for a call from Laura, one of my best friends, who remembered, the day was spent very much alone. I had asked a few friends for extra prayers that day, but that was all. It is a lonely feeling to be living the anniversary of a tragedy when for almost everyone else it is just another day. The very cars driving by so blissfully unaware seem rude. You unreasonably want them to stop, or a least drive slowly, as in a funeral procession.
For me, the next day was not March 31st, it was November 1st, the day after her birth, and the day I came home from the hospital without her. The awful quiet of no newborn cries or coos.
I wanted to write all about it then, to reach out for sympathy and support, but it can be hard to keep talking about loss. Sometimes you feel bad to burden others with your pain, but when you keep it inside it grows claws and shreds it’s way out…so it’s much better to come out in tears.
But like I said, sometimes only the loving acknowledgment of your suffering by others releases them….enables you to drop your stern guard and be vulnerable. This involves telling others what you are going through, so they can walk you through it, or sit with you in it, or whatever it may be.
So I encourage everyone who is suffering some kind of loss, to reach out to others who love them and ask for support, to acknowledge what is happening inside and not try to bury it inside to fester. Put your anniversary of loss on the calendar, own it, do something special on it. And if possible, don’t do it alone.
I’ve been told we can only get through grief by going through it, and anniversaries, as hard as they are, are an opportunity to move through it…rather than remaining stuck in grief by denying it…so don’t skip them. No one gets better by saying “La, la la!” and pretending nothing happened. Sadness grows in darkness and isolation, so let the light of love, that of family and friends, shine upon your soul.
Light a candle, release balloons, have a prayer circle with close friends, make a fancy dinner and toast your loved one lost, or whatever it is that honours the day, and lets you know it’s ok that your grief is still raw, whether it has been 6 months or 10 years.
Oh, the beautiful scent of spring lilacs wafting up in the warm sunshine…returning year after year with reassuring hope.
when you’ve been up and down all night
with coughing kids,
giving medicine and fruit smoothie,
rubbing Vicks on hot little backs,
tucking and retucking in,
the only thing to do
when they mysteriously get up extra early,
before the decent hour of 7 am,
is to start the day afresh
with Frootloops for once—
very healthy with all that ‘froot’—
and “The best breakfast ever,”
according to my three year old.
Maybe smiling will help the bad bugs go away.
Homemade Spinach Feta Pie
This yummy recipe was inspired by my good friend and retired chef, Bonnie Mitchell, who first taught me to make spanakopita. Here it my version in a pie crust, just out of the oven, but how did I make it? Here are the simple steps:
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine:
a small container (250ml) ricotta or cottage cheese
half a block crumbled feta (again about 250 ml)
a pinch of salt
a generous amount of dried or fresh dill, to taste (at least 1 1/2 tsp dried dill)
2. While working in this dry steam a bag of spinach in a large pot or pan, maybe half at a time, until wilted.
Let spinach cool, squeeze out excess liquid, and chop.
3. Then add chopped green onions (3-5) or chives (a handful)
4. Mix with the rest of the ingredients.
5. Make a simple pie crust (no French pastry degrees required) from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood cookbook.
Actually I used whole wheat flour and threw in a tablespoon of brown sugar for good measure.
Here I am being spoiled and using the kitchenaide friends gave me, but this can be done by hand or with a pastry cutter as well.
6. Grease pie plate with butter and place in pie crust.
7. Put filling in crust.
8. Put in preheated 350 C oven for about 40-45 minutes.
9. Enjoy! Would be nice with a side of green or Greek Salad, or even Greek Lentil Stew, but that recipe will be for next time!