You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2008.
Chris and I had our first kiss 6 years ago this week. We are going to Panama for a week in Feb on the 4 yr anniversary of our city hall wedding. Christmas day was exactly 13 weeks since Silas was born and died and it was also a Thursday like that horrible day. This crappy year comes to an end in a few days and I’ve come to the realization that no matter where I am that night, I’ll be sad. Loads of dates, anniversaries and markers to place on all this going on in our life right now.
Oh yeah, and then there is Jan 5, the day that we conceived Silas. That day is looming in the corner of my mind, making me crazy. And then, how can I not be calculating constantly when I’m ovulating and of course how that would play out in terms of due dates? Is it better to have a baby before Silas was born? After the anniversary of his birth and death? That last part is not up to me. I know it will happen again when the time is right, just like the first time.
Seriously, Jan 1 last year Chris was like “let’s do this thing, lets get pregnant!” and bam, it happened. Not to say we hadn’t been trying before that, but it was at this point when the timing was right for us, we were settled in our new apt in New Haven and we were ready.
So how about that new 32″ tv we just bought with our Christmas money. Yeah that was a necessary purchase. I guess we needed something to take the place of what was supposed to be a baby this winter. I know we aren’t the only babylost parents out there to buy themselves a brand new tv amongst other fun toys to replace the shittiness that has occurred in our lives right now. I spent the entire day yesterday on the couch just enjoying my new HDTV and I was happy. I was cozy and warm in my apt and had no where to go, no place to be, no one to talk to, nothing to do. I really liked it. When Chumby or Bandha would come and lay on my chest or nuzzle my neck, I pictured it to be Silas. But I wasn’t sad yesterday. I mean, I’m always sad, but I wasn’t like crying my eyes out sad like I was 4 days ago.
The 3 cats we have running around tearing up our apt day after day is definitely providing some much needed entertainment. We are trying to figure out how to not give Einshtein back but I’m sure his mommy would miss him terribly. So for now, we get to parent our cats, cozy up with a new tv and hope for the best with 2009 just around the corner.
I don’t hate God because my son died. That might be surprising to some and others probably don’t understand that at all, but that’s how it is for me.
I do believe that there is a loving, creative force at the center of this Universe. Life tends to flourish here. Lichens and mosses sprout on rocks. Bacteria thrives in the most harsh conditions. Stars ignite into brilliance at the farthest reaches of this and countless other galaxies.
The way a seed grips the soil around it and sips water with tiny roots, that is God. The way objects in motion tend to stay in motion unless another force acts on that object, that is God. That love can blaze into existence with a shared moment or secret touch, that, of course, is God, too.
But if there is a God, how could something like this happen to people like us? That’s the question, right? Not for me. I don’t ask that question. I don’t think God had anything to do with what happened to Silas. We are creatures of this World, this Earth. Laws of Nature dictate the way things operate. Gravity pulls us to the planet and whirls us around the sun. Food has taste, eyes can see. I am confident that tomorrow is ahead of me and that the past slides into memory with every second that goes by.
In this world there is death. For everyone I know, someday, there is death. It is a constant effort to remain alive. We must eat and breathe, we must drink lots of water to keep our systems and organs functioning. Our minds need art and words and interaction to stay healthy and whole. Our souls need love and truth, beauty, grace, dreams and hopes to stay alive.
God is the fountain from which all of those things flow. But I do not believe in a Tinker God. I do not see a tiny precise hand rearranging the World for maximum benefit and correctness. Bad shit happens. Unintended consequences are par for this enormous course. Perhaps there are magic and miracles happening out there. If so, they are rare and special. So was Silas, but unfortunately that just doesn’t matter. Every child is rare and special. The sad, brutal truth is that no species on the planet has 100% reproductive success.
This all sounds so clinical, I know. But that’s not at all how I feel about this, about Silas dying, about our life denied. It is raw and visceral and impossibly immediate. The extreme absence of my son is brutally palpable.
The fact is, I know this was not supposed to happen. It never is, for any parent. It is a flaw in the way the World operates, but there are so many flaws, so many errors in the way people treat one another. Injustice, terror, fear, poverty, destruction, disease, these are all errors in this World and when I compare the sadness to the joy the only conclusion I can come to is that God can’t be happy about any of this, either.
I do not believe that we are being taught a lesson by God. I do not believe that Silas died for ‘a reason’. Everything would always be better if he had lived and if he was with us today.
I believe God thinks so, too. I believe that God is old and deep and the source of love, light and all the planes of reality in this Universe, but I do not believe that God is perfect. I think the Universe itself yearns for an existence where such things did not happen, ever.
Perhaps that is why we are here. Maybe our role in this Universe is to imagine it such that mothers always give birth to perfect, healthy children; that Death appears only at the far end of long, beautiful lives and is welcomed as a respite from pain; that illness is always overcome; that love always triumphs over hate; that peace and grace and joy and laughter always soothes, always quiets our volatile souls.
Missing Silas makes me ache even more for all the lost children, all the death and horror in this world. I’m not mad at God for what happened to my son, but I am so terribly sad about it.
I think God is, too.
So, today its officially 3 months since Silas was born and died. Everywhere I go, with everything I do, I picture doing it with Silas. I think about him in his car seat while I’m driving around, going to work and shopping. I think about bringing him from school to school and leaving him in the infant rooms while I teach my yoga classes. I picture him in his sling around me as I clean the apt and do errands in the neighborhood. I think about him laying across my chest while I’m relaxing and watching tv. It never ends. I do have those moments where I don’t think about what happened to us at all. Is that a defense mechanism? I don’t know. But then reality hits and he’s there again. Those moments where I don’t think about Silas are so fleeting. I assume they’ll get more frequent and for longer periods of time, but I can’t imagine that happening anytime soon. I mean c’mon people, its only been 3 months.
I hate this feeling. Not having a baby, not being pregnant, still carrying around these last few pounds of baby weight, everyone assuming I’m having a hard time because of the holidays. Luckily we really don’t celebrate them so it being Christmas & Hanukkah really doesn’t matter much to me. What affects me most is that I should have a 3 month old baby with me, regardless of the time of year. New Years is a bit tougher to swallow though. We planned on having a quiet night with friends, making dinner and throwing dishes against the wall to get out all this pent up anger. But both couples we were planning to be with are pregnant and I don’t think I can handle it. I want to, they are great friends of mine who I love dearly, but I can’t. I know I can’t and I don’t want to spend new years eve sad. So we’re back to square one.
I’d love to be on an island with hot sun beating down on my skin, but try making plans this close to new years without spending a fortune. Its just not happening and it pisses me off. I was watching some stupid pseudo reality show the other day and this couple was staying in this beautiful hotel in Mexico that looked like exactly like where I would want to be. I was so mad because I knew that we could never feasibly go somewhere like that and thought how much we deserved that right now and how much they didn’t because they are really such assholes. It made me furious. So right now, nothing sounds appealing for new years but I’m sure we’ll figure something out. Last year we saw some fun music and had a blast – it was the type of new years we’ve had for many many years now. I assumed it would be our last crazy one for a long time. I wasn’t even pregnant yet when I thought that, but I knew. So now that we are baby-less, it pains me to even think about it. The only importance I’m placing on this day is that its the last of 2008, the shittiest year collectively for many people in our lives. I have hopes for 2009 but I’m not going to hold my breath.
The one bright spot in our lives right now is this awesome kitten we are watching for the next 3 weeks. We already have 2 old cats of our own, so this sweet little guy Einstein (pronounced Einshtein and named by our german friend Birke) is all over the place. He runs around trying to get Chumby and Bandha to play with him. They are old and grumpy and think he’s crazy. Its been a hiss-fest these last few days, but slowly but surely, they are getting used to each other. He is fun and new and cute and cuddly and he seems to love Chris. He just runs away from me which I’m so not used to because our 2 kitties just adore me. Regardless, its really nice and refreshing having this lovable creature breathe some new life in our apt in these dark dark days.
Tonight is the Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting that is held every year on the 2nd Sunday in December at 7:00pm for one hour local time around the globe. We will be lighting a candle for Silas and for all the other babies and children out there who have died.
Please join us if you can.
It was a strange feeling, driving home from the tattoo shop with my friend (and amazing artist) Cindy. I was thrilled and proud of what she had just put on my arm. I felt more correct and complete with this transformation revealed. But I was sad, too. Sad that this was what I had to do. That this is all I get.
I could create an endless list of all the moments I will not have with Silas. I live them all in my heart every day. His swift passage through our lives has changed us irrevocably. But that is not something you can see just by looking at us. We appear as though we’re just regular ole people strolling through the world.
Now there is proof.
To reflect the change within, to honor our son, to remind us with both pain and beauty, to capture the raw and terrible truth of this time in our lives, for all of these reasons we have decided to have permanent marks placed on our skin.
Everyone else gets birthdays and love and laughter and first words. We got tattoos. It totally and completely fucking sucks but at least we have this. It’s not nearly as much as we want or deserve, but it’s more than we had before that inky needle pierced our skin, and that, at least, is something.
These tattoos are not lousy. They are beautiful and heartbreaking and perfectly correct. We are thrilled that our dear friend Cindy created these designs for us and then took the many careful hours to place them in our skin.
They will be with us forever, just like Silas.
Rain at night is good.
It means I don’t have to cry.
Outside, tears puddle.
Devastated, anxious and excited. Those were the 3 words I used to describe how I was feeling while sitting in a circle surrounded by 16 strangers. Andrea and I were taking a program called Savoring Life’s Lesson’s: Grief, Loss & Renewal at Kripalu which is a center for yoga & health up in the Berkshires. Kripalu was where I fell in love with yoga almost 15 years ago. I have not been back since. I received the Kripalu catalog in the mail this summer and looked through it at least a dozen times, thinking about whether I’d even be able to get there again in my near future. I figured that once I had the baby, that wouldn’t happen for a long time, but it was nice to dream.
So, when Silas died, I thought that I’d give myself a gift and find a weekend to help myself heal. It seemed obvious to me that I’d be able to find the perfect program to do – if anything I’d just go there for their relax & renewal weekend. When I stumbled upon this program about grief, and read how we’d be using yoga, meditation, art, journaling, breathing & discussion as tools to deal with our grief, I thought it had been put there just for me at just the perfect time. After the intensity of Thanksgiving, a 4 day retreat to do yoga and cry with strangers was just what I needed. I thought Andrea could use this weekend after all that she was dealing with between Silas and other family losses so I invited her to join me.
I was excited for this time away. I needed it, god knows I needed it. I also needed to be able to sit with others dealing with loss and learn how to be with my grief. Our group was a melting pot of loss. There were people dealing with loss of adult children, loss of parents & significant others, divorce & the loss of relationships. We learned to identify and not compare. We are all going through a loss and in getting to know each person, I felt their losses deeply.
We met a few hours every morning and every afternoon. In between, we were able to take yoga classes, yoga dance, eat amazing meals, use the whirlpool & sauna, take outdoor hikes, enjoy evening concerts with amazing women drummers and just have time to be with ourselves. Its a really special place. A lot of the yoga rock stars do programs there. Some were even there this weekend as well as a famous actress that I was psyched to recognize.
The first evening when we all arrived and we sat and told our stories, everyone was hard and sad and angry. By the second day, you could feel the room softening up as we opened up our hearts and souls to each other. We were able to breathe & relax together, we shared, felt & observed each other and ourselves. Our leader Aruni was amazing. She allowed us to feel every emotion that makes up the grieving process and we were able to draw and write about it.
Andrea and I also enjoyed our time together. She was part of a beautiful & horrible moment in our lives. I feel blessed to have her in my life and that we were able to share such an important weekend of healing together. I wished Chris would have wanted to join me there as well, but I do understand him not wanting to. I spend a lot of my time in the yoga community doing workshops, retreats & conferences- it is a familiar and safe place for me but so very foreign to him. I know he spent his weekend doing exactly what he wanted to do for himself.
As much as I needed to be there, I also missed being home with Chris & the kitties. I’m still needing the safe haven of my apt to comfort me. Sleeping with 7 others in a room, listening to snores, the flush of toilets and voices in the hallway definitely made me long for my comfy bed surrounded by those who love me best.
Woke up to the first snowfall off the season. It had started the night before and I knew it was going to be out there waiting for me in the morning, but it still stung. It was a shoulda-been moment that was instead another of life’s little boobytraps.
I got my stuff together and then dashed out to the car. As soon as the cold, snow-scented air hit my lungs I noticed a couple walking down our block and in my head I suddenly said to myself “Reset! Reset!”
I wanted a button I could push that would wipe this last year away and start it over, back to the first snowfall of last year. Back before Lu was pregnant. Back before Silas blazed into our lives and transformed us forever. Back before this terrible wisdom had entered my soul. I have no idea who those two people were. They were just walking down the block, no kid or stroller with them as is so common, and they looked happy.
I want to be like that, I thought.
Obviously I had no knowledge of the true state of their lives but the tableau of ivory snow and moist pavement and a high, cool-blue sky and two people hand in hand just walking down the sidewalk carefree and alone, it struck me.
They looked happy, and they looked innocent. They were Lu and I pre-pregnancy for a moment. For me.
Any last vestiges of innocence have been seared from my soul. I take nothing for granted. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy myself when I can, but I am also always watching out the corner of my eye to see where the next blindside is coming from. I am constantly aware that the Universe is a sharp, hard and treacherous environment that we must tread with caution and find comfort where we can.
Perhaps that is why couches are so popular. That also happens to be where my wife is right now and where I should be, too. Silas should be there with us, instead of just our cats. But the button doesn’t seem to work.
The snow is melted now, the moment passed. The two I saw walked on into whatever future they had down the block. I drove off to deliver coffee and save the day. Lu moved through her motions in the practice of her yoga and the exploration of her grief.
I danced as I drove and cried as I danced. I loved the music I was hearing. I missed Silas so much. I felt the road racing beneath my seated form. I was feeling every aspect of the exact moment that was happening, blasted apart by the fact that Silas would never see or hear or feel any of it and the button still didn’t work.
Reset. Reset. RESET!!
The house is quiet tonight. Lu is away at a yoga retreat and I’m thrilled for her. Our friend Andrea–who was also our dula– is there with her and this is exactly what my beautiful wife and our wonderful friend both need. Lu wanted me to come but even thinking about it kinda makes me chuckle, and I know it would her, too. I would be this weird lumbering dude among a sea of graceful, effortless yogis. I do other things to heal.
I love to read. Finished a book tonight. It was the first novel in many months and it felt good to just devour a book over the course of a few days. My reading has been online everything and the NYTimes hardcopy every day for months now but I can feel a fiction phase coming back into my life. I have four other novels lined up after this and I’m looking forward to all of them. Books are my healing and my escape. So is music.
This past weekend while hanging out, Lu and friends talked a lot about the music they had heard while growing up, that their parents had played. Music was present in our house, but beyond a slightly maniacal focus on The Boss by mom, music wasn’t an overt presence. What I remember most about growing up was cracking open the slightly smaller door of my father’s big dusty closet and rifling through his paperbacks. It was the pantheon of sci-fi in yellowed and flimsy softback and I loved them all. From Pern to Tolkien to Foundation’s Edge those books taught me ways to view the world that I cherish to this day.
I wonder what unknown gift I might have given to my son. I wonder what he would have thought of the weird and wonderful collection of books I have gathered over the years. I’ve moved these books across the country twice. I need to have them with me. Shelves lined with the spines of stories is my favorite way to fill a wall.
Maybe for him, instead, it would have been an old PC, lined with images and songs from when his parents were young and funny looking. It is certain that at some point he would hate our music, and then maybe start to love it someday.
I see Silas in so many ages of life. I wonder about them all. Lu’s focus is on what would have been happening right now, how she would have juggled the shopping and the baby and our schedules and all of that. I feel that sometimes, especially on a night like tonight. But most of the time I see Silas at 10, at 20, at 35 himself wondering about his seventy year old father.
And that is my new pain. The absence of kin. My brothers and my father and uncles and my nephew Oren, we are of a kind. I wanted Silas added to that mix. I wanted him as my son so that I could be as good a father as my father has always been, and I could hide for him little treasures like boxes of books and musty old mp3s that would somehow slowly bring him to place where the beauty of the world was evident and obvious. A view that we could share together as we compared tastes and opinions and taught each other about the world.
I want that beautiful world to still exist somehow, but right now that beauty is hard to find. I don’t trust it much anymore, but a few instants have shown through. Music on Tuesday night was incredible. Tonight, to be lost in the pages of story unfolding between my thumbs was such a relief. I hope that Lu finds joy and peace in her practice this weekend.
The deep silence of the house got to me because I wished so hard for the wailing cry of my newborn son, but first tears and then more of the story helped get me through the quiet.
I’m gonna give this book to dad next. I know he’d like it. I know exactly the type of books he likes.
Although Lu’s turkey was by far the most tender, flavorful and beautiful bird that has ever graced our Thanksgiving table, in the end this holiday mostly sucked. Don’t get me wrong, seeing friends and family was wonderful. The wine and beer, the feasting and laughter, the delicious scents of savory cooking were all excellent, but none of that could mask the feeling of endless emptiness for our missing son Silas.
I thought I had wrangled myself into a good place. I thought I had achieved a modicum of acceptance, had found a bit of grace amidst this sadness, had yanked and twisted my soul into something that resembled the person I was before September 25, 2008. It turns out I was way ahead of myself.
I’m still damaged. My capacities and tolerances are no where near what they were (and they were never that impressive to begin with). We tried to rock this Thanksgiving much like every other in the past and it was just too much. Luckily we have amazingly understanding and forgiving families who are perfectly cognizant of our fragile state, but are unfortunately just as lost as Lu and I as we stumble through our shattered lives. They are damaged, too, and together our grief was reflected and magnified in their eyes and souls. The pain rebounded and ricocheted as we all tried to navigate through this unfamiliar terrain.
I worked through my actions and reactions, though, and tried to figure out how our grief had changed us. I tried to figure out what would help us stay on a calm and healthy path. Mundane pressure and life’s minor decisions made me agitated and then all my disaster alarms started to fire. Things quickly became complicated for me and for no good reason. It really had nothing to do with whether dinner was an hour later or earlier and it had everything to do with the complete lack of control I felt after three days ‘on’ trying to put the best face forward.
That used to be natural. ‘On’ was the default setting for me. It’s not anymore. Now ‘on’ takes an effort but it is one I like to make because it reminds me of how good it can feel to be alive. For two months now we have been living fairly controlled lives. We’ve stayed close to home, we’ve been sleeping, reading, and watching TV. I’ve been back to work, but it is work that I am in charge of which is wonderful. I make my own schedule. I can be flexible and ready, but each week coffee needs to be roasted and delivered, the roast of each batch delicious and correct every time. I control all of that.
I know our families didn’t need for us to be ‘on’. It was just something each of us felt happening because it was how we needed to be for ourselves. For Silas, I thought. We did okay for a while, but in the end it was a meltdown and those are never pretty.
There were certain things we needed to do that we didn’t even realize. We should have taken more time to talk about and honor Silas directly. It wasn’t as though his name was avoided or the reality of the situation denied, but we could have been more present and clear about missing him. Now we know, though, and can prepare a little better for our next family gathering. That is where his absence is especially painful, because he is part of these two amazing families, and he is apart from them forever.
I was reminded this weekend that communication and clear expectations are essential. Patience and understanding for the worlds and worries of others is also key. I remembered that too late this time–after I was kneedeep in an agitated soup of sadness and adrenaline–but I will keep it mind for next time.
There are going to be so many next times.
I should have been clear about what I needed and less affected by minor inconveniences of everyday life. More than anything, we needed to remember that we are still very, very early in this healing process and that we must have time to turn ‘off’ and sit on the couch and be sad and alone and slowly recharge for our next foray out into the surprisingly brutal Universe we happen to inhabit.
The problem is, we have been co-opted by Death. We are part of this group of people that have been touched directly by this elemental force and it doesn’t feel good. We didn’t ask for this. We don’t want it to be part of our lives, but in order to touch Silas we have to somehow reach through Death itself. Crossing that threshold is sickening but it is the only path we have. So now when we walk into a room it is not just “Oh good here’s Lu she’s so sweet and beautiful and funny and there’s Chris, too! So alive, so happy, you never quite know what those two might do.” It’s not just that anymore. There’s more now. We carry sadness with us when we walk through the world, and the death of our son Silas sometimes turns us down, down, down to ‘off’ where we can only breathe and think and sit and listen.
We have a long ways to go. It is raining. The roads are slick. There are wrecks and traffic around every corner and beyond every hill. But the heat is on in our car and I drive with steady precision. This American Life tells us stories of others in their layered lives. I remember that everyone has tragedies, and that Death touches all of us at some point or another. I can see through my tears like I can see through the rain, but the world is soaked in my sadness now. Our hands are intertwined and the wipers are on and soon, somewhere down the road our safe, cozy, warm home awaits. We cannot wait to get there. We cannot wait to heal. It must be happening with every mile down this road even if it feels like that same cold fall day where a chill settled on my soul.
It must be happening. It must.