Wednesday, November 26, 2008


A year ago today a friend I never knew outside the virtual confines of my computer screen died suddenly just a few weeks after giving birth to her second child.

She died. Just like that.

There is a widower suffering the anguish of unthinkable grief and no doubt clinging to his two motherless children for dear life tonight, and I feel selfish taking up even the tiniest amount of space talking about how her death affected me when I know for a fact that their sorrow is utterly matchless.

So all I'm going to say - because for some reason it feels important for me to say it - is that I haven't forgotten her or the kindnesses she showed me.

I will never forget.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Two steps forward, one step back

Yeah, yeah, I know I said I'm at least as big as my sorrow now, but sometimes I still worry that if I let it go unchecked, I could quite easily turn into one of those ugly people who let a wound fester until it becomes so big that it's all they feel. And when it eventually scars over, instead of shrinking and disappearing it turns into a gigantic chip on a self-absorbed shoulder. An excuse to think bad things. Say bad things. Feel bad things.

I don't want to be that person. I don't. But sometimes I feel her lurking quietly inside, waiting for me to fall asleep at the wheel so she can kick me out of the driver's seat and commandeer the bus.

My Beloved and I had a "discussion" on Friday that has had me thinking about all this ever since.

Misdirected anger. That was the topic.

I was blowing off steam in a spectacular non-stop tirade. When I finished, he pointed out that I wasn't angry - I was simply jealous.

I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it.

And he was, of course, right. I didn't want to hear it at the time - and I still maintain that some of what I was venting about was actually warranted - but still, I know a lot of it was fueled by something uglier.

And I hate that it's in there. It's demoralizing to know that some of the goodness you once had has been displaced by bitterness. It makes the struggle so much harder when it feels like you're battling from the inside out.

And I feel like I've somehow cheated My Beloved by changing into someone who has the capacity to feel spectacular anger and bitterness.

I was never perfect. But at least I wasn't this.

My only defense is vigilance.

I will always need to vent. I will feel jealous and bitter. I will want to rage at the world and have the one person who lost the same child as I did understand that sometimes overwhelming need.

But I will be careful never to let myself get too comfortable or like it too much.

I will be watchful.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"As you wiiiiiiiiiiiish!", says Brad Pitt

Look. Now he's channeling Cary Elwes' Westley...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Jesus and then some

During the SARS outbreak back in 2003, Catholic churches in the greater Toronto area advised their congregants to take communion by hand instead of directly into the mouth. It was a practice most people were doing anyway, but after the edict came down from above in the midst of the SARS pandemonium, pretty much everyone opted to follow the new rule.

Because SARS scared me, I obeyed too, even though I was used to simply popping out my tongue and being served.

We stopped shaking hands at the sign of peace for quite some time too. They were strange times, that frightening Spring of long ago.

Anyway, for some reason I never got back into my old full-serve habit and have been taking communion by hand ever since.

And it's been working out just fine.


On Sunday...*shudder*...on Sunday, in that fraction of a second when you see something that isn't quite right but don't have enough time to react to it, I saw a hair on my host.

A. Hair.

And I know it wasn't Jesus'.

With absolute horror, I saw it laying across the top of the host sitting in my upturned palm. "BLOW" was my first thought, but it somehow seemed wrong to dust off the body of Christ before putting it into my mouth. I didn't want to offend. Or cause a scene. Or get Jesus all mad at me.

So I ate it. Hair and all.

I can only assume that it belonged to the Minister of Communion. The good news is that she looked nice and clean, albeit colour processed.

But still, dudes, I ate her hair.

I didn't sign up for this. I totally did NOT sign up for this.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mark your calendars

A while ago I mentioned a documentary called Capturing a Short Life...

Dimestore Productions Inc. in association with CBC Newsworld have just released a new documentary film called Capturing A Short Life, by noteworthy Toronto director, Sheona McDonald.

This beautifully photographed film uses verité footage, interviews and still photography to tell intensely emotional, poignant film about the tough, and often taboo, subject of infant loss. It hits right to the heart of the matter and allows the viewer access to situations rarely experienced.

“You, as parents, form a bond. And the moment that you feel that baby move inside you, you’re attached and you’re talking to it and you’ve got a relationship, you have hopes and dreams and wishes...and it all just shatters, right in front of you”
- Amanda, Hailey’s mother, Capturing A Short Life

For many, the idea of even talking about the fact that babies die, may seem disrespectful or inappropriate. Sometimes, however, the opposite is true. In many cases, parents want to talk about their babies to acknowledge that they existed.

Few people are aware that in North America every year, tens of thousands of families are having to say goodbye to children they’ve only just met and millions more lose babies to miscarriage or stillbirth.

When a baby dies, it is not only an infant that is lost, but a toddler, a child, a teenager and an adult. An entire life, an entire future, disappears. There will be no first birthdays, no first steps, no first report cards,no first loves…instead there is an intense, impossible, few moments to say hello and goodbye.

Capturing A Short Life is not a film about death, it is a film about how critical it is to remember and celebrate the beautiful babies who are only with us for a moment, and how impossible it is to forget them.

This is a must-see film about a subject that we, as a society, need to learn to talk about.

Capturing a Short Life will have its premiere broadcast on CBC Newsworld's series "The Lens" on Tuesday December 9, 2008.

For more information click here.

It looks like they're be releasing it on DVD at some point, so if you miss the broadcast or just want to have your own copy, check the site for updates.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


If this doesn't make you smile, I don't know what will.


Monday, November 10, 2008

The rules of cake

Last night I got to thinking about the way people recognize the birthdays of the children they have lost.

I do it. Most of us do, in some way.

For me, it begins with cake. Every year on Thomas' birthday I make a small cake for My Beloved and I to share, complete with candles which we both blow out together.

We take the day off, do a special annual good deed in remembrance of our boy, have lunch together then come home for cake. There's a great deal of comfort in the repetition of this now annual rite; In wrapping ourselves in the warmth of shared love and collective sorrow as we take the same familiar steps every March 9th.

Some people release balloons, some make donations, some light candles, others take flowers to the place their child is buried or to the spot where their son or daughter's ashes caught the wind and swirled up to the heavens.

But more interesting than what we do, is the fact that we do something at all. I don't celebrate the birthdays of any other dead people. Well, except maybe Jesus - but his is kind of hard to avoid. And somewhat mandated if you're Christian.

I think about my Grandmother on her birthday, but I don't stop to ruminate on how old she'd be, what she'd be doing, what present I'd get her, how excited she'd be - or any of the other things I think about when Thomas' birthday rolls around.

Dead baby birthdays are a whole different animal.

Sometimes I worry that I'm walking the fine line between remembrance and morbidness (a fact that is in itself a hard thing to reconcile - that anything about your child should be even remotely morbid). Is it "off" to make a cake for a dead child? Is it strange to make a point of doing something to mark the day?

Maybe it is. But maybe only to people who've never had to.

The rules are different for the rest of us.

And until the world at large learns to feel more comfortable dealing with and acknowledging our sorrow, we'll have no choice but to continue making the rules up as we go along, teaching them to those who will never have to use them, and gently passing them on to those who will.


Naomi - I'm so sorry. In three and a half years I haven't read a story that is so much like my own either. I just wanted you to know I'm thinking of you.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Out of the fog

As we drove through the fog on our way home from dinner tonight, I told My Beloved that I think my own fog is lifting. In the last few weeks I've been noticing almost imperceptible little hints of "me" coming back - in small glimpses and in tiny moments.

I can feel again in a way I'd forgotten I ever once knew how to.

I think the difference is that I'm living with the sorrow instead of living through it. It's there, but suddenly I'm there too. And I'm almost as imposing as my grief, which is a tremendous shift in the balance. For more than three and a half years it has dominated me body and soul, but we are nearly equal now.

I think we can live together peaceably. I'm almost sure of it. I've figured out its demanding ways and its all-consuming neediness, and I know how to manage it. I know how to feed it so that it stays quietly beside me without screaming in my ear. I know how to soothe it so that it rests softly in my heart instead of pounding inside my brain. I know how to accept it so that it feels like it belongs.

Because of course, it does. It always will.

I'm not naive enough to think that things won't still shake me. Sneak attacks will still catch me off guard and bring me to my knees. I will cry. I will rage. I will curse.

But I can feel again. I can feel more than my sorrow.

At last.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


It feels like a whole new world.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Is it just me...?

Or is Brad Pitt...

...starting to look an awful lot like Burl Ives?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Things you'd think I'd have learned by now...

1. It's not wise to gorge yourself on dried apricots a few hours before going to evening Mass. That's juuuuust enough time for them to make themselves known in a most uncomfortable, cheek clenching sort of way.

2. Perfume will not cover up the stink of just cooked fish clinging to your clothes and hair. Attempting to disguise it in this manner simply renders one smelling like a fisherman's wharf inside a perfume factory.

Yeah, at Mass.

3. People will butt in front of you no matter what kind of line you're in. Even if it's one that has formed in front of a Book of the Dead where people write down names of those who have died so they can be prayed for during the month of November.

Seriously. Butting.

4. The pressure of a long line of people waiting behind you will make you edit your list of names down until you have just one.