Our small group has decided to have a candle for Ellie when we get together. We were hosting tonight so we were the first to have a candle for her. We were looking around at Ten Thousand Villages today and noticed this wonderful candle holder. It seemed very appropriate to us. I think we'll start lighting it when we fold our cranes, too. Someday we'll have some of the cranes strung up and will send a photo.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
I took this picture at the Calendar Garden south of Goshen. This is perhaps the only example in my life of a picture I took to illustrate an idea working just as I imagined it. At least, it did so for me and Craig.
Friday, September 24, 2010
I got pictures of:
Thursday, September 23, 2010
For my birthday he bought me a camera connector, so that I can download pictures straight from my camera onto the ipad without having to go through itunes. I can then email them from the ipad.
For example, pictures of me playing with fire.
It's been great working on these.
Craig's been taking some photos of Kristi's work while I've been playing in her studio. They both do excellent, excellent work. I'm sure he'll post samples at some point.
The last week or so has been a mix of good days and harder days for me.
Last night as we approached our house, returning from Kristi's, workers were flushing the fire hydrant in front of our next door neighbor's house. There was a city truck with bright white flashers on the back parked on the street beside the hydrant. I was reminded of this commercial - the water was shooting out in an arc that was perhaps 20 feet long, and when the lights would flash you would see that the arc wasn't solid water, but a myriad of tiny droplets that caught the light like diamonds.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
8 weeks 2 days
Some days are better than others, of course. We're having fewer periods of the crippling grief, where all we can do is cry because we long for Ellie to be with us, to hold her in our arms. Some days I don't cry at all.
Life these days has a ground state of sadness and loss. I find myself unconsciously doing a mental check, finding that I'm sad, and trying to figure out what's wrong so I can fix it. Then I become aware of my thoughts and realize again that Ellie's gone, and that there is nothing that I or Craig or anyone else can do to change it. All I can do is continue to continue on.
So that's the base state of my emotions. But there are also periods of intense grief, where I literally cannot stop crying because I miss Ellie so much. Her absence is incredibly painful. I find myself reliving the hours around her birth and death amidst other jumbled thoughts and feelings. The emotional and rational sides of my brain have little discussions: "It's not fair! Life is not fair and you know that you can't expect it to be." "Why did this have to happen to her and to us? There's no answer to that question; it happened and now we have to live with it." "I never got to hold her in my arms when she was alive. I never got to hear her cry. I never got to feed her or care for her. I won't get to see her grow up. I know, but that's just the way it is." "How are we going to make it through the evening? The next day? The next week, month, year? We just are. We just keep moving forward."
When grief overtakes us so strongly, it's impossible to remember what it feels like to not have the pain crushing us. But then, after a while, it wanes and fades to a murmur. And then, the rest of the time, we can't quite remember how it feels to have the knife of grief twisting in our hearts. We know we felt it, and we know we'll feel it again, but it's a little unreal.
I think it has to be that way. We couldn't go about our lives, make a living to pay the bills, get through the days and nights, if that debilitating grief was always there. I think it must be like that for everyone, a survival trait that lets us feel the pain and emptiness of loss in waves, so we can tread water and recover our strength for the next time the water rushes over our heads.
Craig and I are a good team. We support each other, and after the first couple of weeks have been able to sort of take turns - when all I can do is cry, he is there for me, to hold me and offer strength and comfort just by his presence. When grief overwhelms him, I do the same for him. It doesn't make the pain go away, or even really make it even less, but it's somehow a promise that it will pass, and that we'll survive.
And, of course, we talk to each other. It's been incredibly helpful to be able to talk about the future. It doesn't diminish our pain, and we know that we will always grieve the loss of our little girl, but sometimes we just need to talk about what we want later on, to remind ourselves that there will be a later on when we won't hurt as much.
Being able to be open and vulnerable with each other about how we're feeling in the moment has also been key. We can say how we're feeling and know that there is someone else who understands perfectly, who loved Ellie so much and now feels her absence all the time, consciously or unconsciously.
We fold a paper crane together every morning and evening. It's a quiet space we create for ourselves to think about Ellie. We usually write a little something to her on the back. I sign my notes "Mommy" and Craig signs his "Daddy" so that we can remember that we are parents, even though we don't have a child to parent. And, as Craig mentioned, we also take a walk together every evening to give ourselves space to talk about the past day and about our dreams for the future.
We also want to make space for others to remember Ellie. Craig talked about that a little at small group last night, and we decided that we will have a symbol for Ellie present during our meetings. We'll start with a candle and see how that feels, and maybe stay with that or move to a different symbol. We know that others are grieving for her, too. Our pain is different, but that doesn't dismiss the loss that others who love her feel. We know that, and acknowledge it, and would love to talk to you about her if you want to talk to us about her (though we will certainly tell you if it's a bad time and we need to postpone the conversation for a later time).
Ellie was in my thoughts almost constantly during my pregnancy, especially in the last few months. She still is. But I want it to be because she’s still here, not because she’s gone. I miss her so much.
Our grief is like an inverted mountain, which makes sense since our world was turned upside down. We started climbing at the peak, the steepest part. It’s gotten less steep, but we're still climbing. There are parts that are steeper, parts that are easier. There are ridges and dips and crevices and scree and beautiful views, like our community which has held us up so well. Some days are sunny and some are windy and some are stormy, all while climbing the mountain of grief. Even when we reach the foothills, someday, it will still be there, we know, a constant presence in our lives. But that’s ok, because Ellie is our daughter, and always will be, even though she’s gone.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Mourning is hard
Kathy and I went to an Ultimate tournament this weekend, and again discovered how hard mourning is. We were expecting to go to tournaments with Ellie, and now we won’t be able to do that. Many places where we expect Ellie to be we experience enough to adjust to her absence. For example, walking past her nursery room can still cause pain, but I have done it enough times that I usually don’t even think about it. This is only the second tournament without her and the experience is still new, opening up raw wounds of grief.
It doesn’t help that someone on our sideline had a little baby about Ellie’s age.
Besides missing Ellie at the tournament, neither of us have been working out hard or regularly. We both felt our lack of shape on the field. I am used to playing all day and feeling tired by the end, but still being able to push. Instead, I felt a lack of drive, a lack of competitiveness. And a body that is used to a slower pace.
Since the day was not going well, we decided it would probably be best to head back home. Home meant sleeping in our own beds and having time to discuss our feelings from the day.
To that end, we went for a walk on Sunday. When we got home we found two hours had passed since we left. A quick calculation gave us an estimated five mile walk. It was a lovely day and we had great conversation. Those are the reasons we enjoy walking together these days.
Another factor in our decision was Kathy’s parents. They were in town for a concert and we would not have seen them if we stayed for the entire tournament. We ate brunch together and hung out for a few hours before they headed back to Ohio.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Writer’s Almanac on 9/10/10
A friend of mine, who also lost her daughter several years back, sent me the Writer’s Almanac for today. I think Kathleen Sheeder Bonnano (her site) wrote this poem for us.
What People Give You
Long-faced irises. Mums.
Pink roses and white roses
and giant sunflowers,
and hundreds of daisies.
Fruit baskets with muscular pears,
and water crackers and tiny jams
and the steady march of casseroles.
people give money these days.
Cards, of course:
the Madonna, wise
and sad just for you,
Chinese cherry blossoms,
sunsets and moonscapes,
and dragonflies for transcendence.
People stand by your sink
and offer up their pain:
Did you know I lost a baby once,
or My eldest son was killed,
or My mother died two months ago.
People are good.
They file into your cartoon house until it bows at the seams;
they give you every
except your daughter back.
"What People Give You" by Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno, from Slamming Open the Door. © Alice James Books, 2009. (buy now)
Of course it is even better if you listen to Garrison Keillor read it. The poem starts at 3:00:
Thursday, September 2, 2010
I wanted to try to capture how close we were. She is kind of hard to see but there is a little green blur by the feeder!