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Zeph is asleep on my chest, lightly stirring and breathing and sighing as my heart melts within.
I have to stop and read that again a million times.
But he doesn’t last in that position long. If I’m not standing up swaying and lightly bouncing, I’m not doing it right. Too quickly he’s fussing and I have to hand him back to Lu. She’s on 24 hour feeding patrol. And he’s a thirsty guy, just like his dad.
His dad. Me. Finally. We did it and it’s the first thing I can believe in so many years. Silas is my son, but I never got to be his dad, no matter what people say. And feeling that way for so long, as something I couldn’t be and didn’t have and wasn’t able to do, it feels shocking to apply that label to myself right now. Shocking but perfect. Shocking but right. For the first time in my life the chaos and correctness and beautiful, brilliant danger exactly matches what I want.
The first time we were home together, the three of us, it was like a vortex swirling out from Zephyr rearranging my mind, my soul, the physical reality around us. Immediately I had to start pushing furniture around and go through boxes of clothes and gifts and random objects of babynessas as Lu lay on the couch with our son at her breast directing my efforts. It was fucking glorious.
This is his house too, now.
12 days into our new lives together and the grandparents are freaking out. Our friends are suddenly lighter and elated. We are wrapped up in his quiet, alert gaze when he feels like being chill and amazed by the lungs and breath and voice as he screams into the night as all babies do when they are alive and want everyone to know it.
Orion from both sides of the Earth.
Someday I would love to see it on a warm summer night from a beach in Australia.
Ok, I have a great story to tell, it is a long one, but its really good. So sit back, relax and enjoy.
It starts with Chris and I and our love for the band Wilco. We started listening to them at the beginning of our relationship about 7 yrs ago, and they had a huge impact on us. We saw their shows every chance we got, all over the country! Jeff Tweedy (the lead singer) also did some of his own solo shows which were always incredible. He is a one of a kind singer/songwriter who loves to banter with his audience. He is hilarious as much as he is soulful and his music has helped us through this incredibly awful time.
A month ago tickets went on sale for his solo show at the Calvin Theatre in Northhamton, MA. Chris managed to get us 2 single tickets in the orchestra, not together. I then had a brilliant idea- I will write to Jeff through his management company, and tell him our story.
I wrote an email, telling him a bit about us, the music, and about Silas. Silas even got to be at a Wilco show at Tanglewood this summer. I requested the song Jesus, Etc. to be played for us and for Silas, because it is just so perfect and we love it.
I received an email back immediately, telling us the the letter was being forwarded to Jeff and that he may or may not play it, but that they really appreciate hearing from their fans and were sorry for our loss. It was very sweet of them and we appreciated it so much. We then began thinking that he actually may play that song for us! Why not? If he read the letter, then he might do it. It was hard to not get my heart set on it, but I also had to be realistic, this guy is a rock star who gets tons of mail, he cannot possibly acquiesce to every request.
We got to the theatre and met our friends Andrea & Chris. They love Wilco, too, and once I told them about the letter, they had to be in there. Luckily, the first person they asked had 2 extras! We got in, had a drink and then found our seats. Now Chris and I did not have seats together but the one next to me was a open so Chris sat there for the moment. We kept waiting for that person to show up and take their seat. I was so nervous. I had no clue how this was going to go, was he going to sing the song? Mention us or Silas? Not play it at all? Ugh, it was all so nerve-racking. On top of that, I kept waiting for someone to kick Chris out of his seat.
The show started, Jeff played about 4 songs, said hi to the crowd, but didn’t really banter. The next song he played was our song, the one we requested. I’ve never heard it played with so much soul, and so much love. We felt it. We held hands and we took it all in. It was beautiful. You could not even hear a pin drop in that room, the energy was incredible. I knew he was thinking about Silas and playing it for us and for our beautiful son. Immediately he goes into another song- called One by One. I LOVE this song and almost requested this to be the one he played for us. How did he know?!!! Next up were 2 new songs and then after that he stopped and started talking to the crowd.
He leaned into the microphone and said, “Some of those songs, actually most of those songs, they are dedicated to Silas.”
I freaked out. I started crying and hyperventilating and couldn’t believe it. We were shocked, stunned, floored, just blown away. He took the time to sing not just the song we requested, but other songs, and picked them out special for us and for him. He was so serious up until this point, just completely into the music and nothing else. But once he declared this dedication to our baby, he relaxed, he let go and the show took a new turn. He began to banter with the crowd, telling anecdotes, taking requests, and really enjoying himself.
He gave everything to us and Silas for those first 8 songs. Yes, 8 songs!!! It was magic. That is the only way to describe it. In my letter, I also told him that our wedding song was California Stars. Later on in the show, he played that, too! He also played a cover of one of our favorite Radiohead songs. We didn’t even know he knew it!
The final piece of amazing-ness happened just before the first encore. The guy in front of us turned around and said “you two seem like big fans, and my brother is recording this so if you want, I can send you a copy.” We were stunned and so excited we would have a copy of this incredibly personal performance. Later on, at the end of the show Chris told him that the Silas dedication was for us. He couldn’t believe it. We received the link to the show today and listened to it on our drive back from the city. If you would like to hear it, you can download a zipped copy of the show here. (that link will break after a certain # of downloads, so if you miss it, drop a note in the comments or in an email and we will make sure you get it.)
We are so thankful that Jeff Tweedy took the time to think of us, to think of our son, and to play his gorgeous music for him and for us. We will never forget that night.
We can feel how much everyone wanted this trip to heal us and we appreciate the sentiment. We needed sun and silence and a chance to relax and recharge. The problem is, even though we packed light, we can’t help but carry a lot of baggage with us.
Silas wasn’t with us and the weight of his absence meant we had to work hard to appreciate the beauty around us. It was an effort to let go enough to face the challenges and turn them into adventures. Wind and rain, high seas and flooding rivers, downed cellphone towers and powerlines snaking across old mountain roads all required a certain amount of good-humor and resilience to achieve a state of calm happiness.
That used to be easy for us. No more.
But on the other hand, none of those things are as tough as facing every day without our son, so we got it done.
I’m proud of us for putting ourselves out there in uncertain circumstances, for going with the flow, for standing up in the wind, leaning forward and taking every next step.
I think a lot of people would have sought out a much more chill vacation in our circumstances. A resort where every whim was anticipated might seem like the right way to go. Hours by the pool just reading, luxurious dinners under dim candles and three spa treatments every afternoon could be how some go about things.
Not us. We push it every time. In fact, the time spent doing nothing but kicking-it beside the pool or laid out in the hammock were actually far tougher than they would seem. Too much quietness gave my brain the space to think about how wrong it was to be where we were, even though I was so glad we were there.
But that wrongness is ever-present. It doesn’t vanish no matter where we stand on the planet. Whether I’m laid out on the couch watching our big, new TV or swinging inches above the ground atop a mountain in the sea it remains a struggle to feel confident and safe and beautiful and free.
So let’s call it like it is, with no bullshit or illusions.
Yes, the mountains of Boquete, Panama were impressive and the coffee farm we visited was amazing and educational. We hiked in the wind and rain to see coffee trees sprouting from the steep hillsides and loved every second of it.
Indeed, Panama City was gorgeous and the hospitality of our friend Mat was beyond impeccable. From the Old City in the center of town to the stunning marvel that is the Panama Canal to the many delicious meals we enjoyed, the urban aspects of this trip were tons of fun.
Without a doubt, our friends Andrea & Christian were incredible travel-companions: hilarious, compassionate, patient and attentive. They listened when we needed ears and laughed when we need lightness and held us when we needed hugs.
And finally, even though the three hour boat-ride through wind-tossed seas had me fearing for our lives and safety, when we finally reached that tiny Isle of the Pelicans in the San Blas islands, I experienced a powerful sense of pride to go along with the majestic beauty of that tiny dot of land. No matter where you stood on the island, you could see its sandy edge and the ocean beyond through a grove of palm trees and simple thatch huts where we slept.
But don’t be jealous of us. You don’t want our lives. You don’t want to feel the cold ache within that we live with even as our skin browns (burns!) in the hot tropical sun.
Be proud of us. Be happy that we can do something like this so soon after our terrible loss. Don’t think for a second that this was all we needed to make everything better or that we ever stopped thinking about what it was we should have been doing all cozy in the New England cold with our swaddled son and his infant cries. That never stops no matter where we are, and we simply cannot help it.
This was good for us, undoubtedly. This trip absolutely helped us take a few more steps forward through our grief, it reminded us that we are still capable and competent even though we are deeply wounded. Our friends held us up and pushed us forward. We laughed, we feasted, we worshiped the stunning full moon above and cheered the diving pelicans just off the shore and shouted with glee when the Rummy cards fell our way. Our noses were buried in books. Our flip-flopping feet were covered in sand.
I guess we can make anything look easy, but don’t be fooled by the tan. It will peel away in a few days and underneath we’re still Silas’ lost parents and that hurts with a burn that nothing can block and no salve can soothe.
We are truly grateful, though, for the good wishes and love you have all sent our way. We are very very thankful to have friends that could tolerate our melancholy and help us see the beauty around us and even as we struggled to reconcile our internal darkness with bright sun above.
We wrestle with these contradictions every day and somehow, sometimes for a moment we even manage to win. This week was a victory. This week was awesome, even though we missed our son.
Tonight I felt the most joy I have experienced in many days. It is wonderful to see our country take this incredible step in a brand new direction.
The problem, of course, is that I wished for every moment of Obama’s speech that Silas was in my arms all brand new listening to words I would tell him about many years down the road.
This is good, though. This is proof of good. We need this stunning beauty in our lives and it gives us hope that sadness can be beaten if we all try hard enough.
That’s what did it. People tried so damn hard for so many days in a row. Their effort was contagious and it swept us all into a whole new realm of possibility.
This was an intense weekend. It was our first time away from home since Silas was born and passed away, and it wasn’t easy. The only way it was at all enjoyable was that we were with our siblings in my brother’s wonderfully comfortable house up in the mountains of New Hampshire. The weather was beautiful, the trees brilliant, the stars endless and the chilly evenings were warmed by firelight. There was a coldness within, though, that was almost untouchable.
This weekend I put a shovel into the ground and I opened up the Earth. I dug a hole. Every stroke and crunch and and scrape chilled me. There was no mistaking exactly what else I was doing besides planting a tree in my brother’s back yard. For a day the hole sat there unfilled, the tiny sapling peach tree firmly encased in a plastic pot off to the side.
In the early afternoon on Sunday we gathered in the back yard, I read the Hopi Prayer of the Soul’s Graduation, scattered my son’s ashes into the open Earth and then Lu and I placed the tree. Together we filled the space left with loam that Mark trundled in with wheelbarrow and then we all found rocks in the yard to represent each of us and all the others who loved Silas so much. There weren’t enough rocks for everyone, so we let the few we gathered represent many.
On some level I wanted to feel better coming home from this. I don’t. I’m pleased that we have this wonderful memorial to Silas, and that we had a chance to perform this deeply human ritual, but it’s not enough. If anything I feel worse that I don’t have my little nephew Oren around to shower with love.
As brutal as it was to have to perform that action, to create a memorial to my dead son, it felt right. I’m so glad that my brother and his wife picked out a tree for us. For some reason, making decisions right now can be challenging and I don’t think either of us would have thought of a peach tree, but it was the perfect call. All summer Lu has been demanding peaches from the various farmers’ markets I worked and all summer the “Peaches” song by The Presidents of the United States has been going through our brains.
Now Silas’ tree will generate millions of peaches, peaches for us. Nothing can soothe the empty ache that lives in our hearts, but sharing the pain with our family in a gorgeous setting does help. We will savor the fruit from his tree for many years, and I hope to someday see Oren climbing in those branches. I wish that vision had both Silas and Oren in a tree together, playing like brothers do, like me and my brothers still do, but that’s just not how this Universe rolls. Ours is a far more steep and treacherous path than we ever imagined and we have no map or compass.
The stars are covered by clouds. The reserve jugs of sustenance are sorely depleted and all we have is the little spark of our love for each other to keep us warm. We can hear the voices of friends and family in the distance and dawn is somewhere in the future, but right now we are huddled next to a tiny peach tree on a cold and terrible night high in the mountains and we are both too exhausted push on.
The thing is, it’s not so much that we are lost as it is that we are hiding from the Universe itself. We’ll trudge out of this shitstorm eventually, somehow. It’s going to be an ugly path.
After all, just look at that vision of hope I have. I want to see Oren climbing the tree we planted as a memorial to a cousin he won’t ever know, at all. That is so fucked up and sad it’s impossible to comprehend. But that is my life now, our life.
No matter where we go right now, it is always a cold and terrible night, high in the mountains of despair and we are digging a bitter hole to plant a tree we hate on a beautiful day we despise with our family who we love and a missing impossibility named Silas Orion who is our son.
The peaches that we eat from his tree will make me sick to my soul forever, but I will enjoy every single bite of that sweet flesh. It will be like having a taste of the memory of my soul’s joy as a snack. I look forward to the harvest. It will mean Time has passed.
I want Silas to be my superhero. If I can’t be with him to see everything he does, I have to find his acts in the actions of the world.
Tomorrow morning our dear friends are going to the hospital. Their gorgeous little daughter Carly is scheduled for surgery to remove a tumor from her small, strong brain. It is a situation we have known about for a little while but it is something we have struggled to understand. It was incomprehensible to us before the birth of Silas, and we continue to be stunned by the unfairness of it all.
Carly has the best surgeons in the world preparing to heal her tiny mind. And we are sending them so much love and support in this time of their profound need. Your love is helping us heal and there is always enough to spread around.
Please think healing thoughts for Carly tomorrow as soon as you wake in the dawn. We will be thinking of her perfect healthy brain here, and Silas will be fighting for her where ever he is, however he can, and your love and thoughts and energy will make a difference in this beautiful girl’s ordeal.
Christa, Brad and Carly, we love you. Be strong and heal fast.
It is a beautiful day out there this morning. The sunlight is almost offensive, like it doesn’t know how terrible we feel and how inappropriate it is for the day to rise up gorgeous and warm. The rain and gloom of the last few days has fit our mood perfectly. But then I go outside and the rays warm my skin and fill my eyes and it makes me remember that we need beauty and light and love in our lives if we are going to heal.
The sunflower out front has bloomed. Its big yellow face of petals is shockingly bright in our front yard. Although this house is where people are sad and grieving, the sunflower is a living testament that life does keep moving forward, beauty still blooms in the world and that darkness is just a piece of the whole. We are trying to become whole again but we know it will take a great deal of time for that to happen.
We’re not just moping around here, though. My brothers are a freakin’ comedy team so they manage to make us laugh even when it seems like laughter is as far away as our little baby boy Silas. We miss him terribly, and I touch and kiss the photo of him every time I walk into our bedroom. We have a candle burning next to the image and even though it hurts to look, I need to often, to remind myself of what we should have but do not.
The paradox of all of this is in the normality of the world. But that apparent normality is utterly wrong. We should be on a completely different path right now and instead we have been spun back around to the start. The only problem is that this new start is at the end of a marathon that has drained us of all our resources and reserves. Before we can move forward one iota we have to regroup and recharge and your love and support are the only things that will help us do that.
Family is filling the house again, and we have our little nephew Oren here with us, too. We weren’t sure how well we would be able to handle that, but the energy and laughter and beauty and love from this little boy, my brother’s son, is most definitely helping us to heal.
One other thing I should mention here is about food. We know that people immediately go to food when they want to offer comfort and help and we truly appreciate it. However, if you are coming by anytime soon, just know that we have enough bagels. And by ‘enough’ I mean we are considering opening up shop and selling bagels off the front porch! There are bags of bagels in every nook and cranny and enough cream cheese to cover the block four times over. Love yes! Bagels no!
The sunflower in the front yard has not bloomed. I’m very surprised. The stalk is tall and thick, the almost-flowering green starburst is quite large and looks healthy. But no petals have been revealed and the center is still dark green.
The season is getting late, the nights cool and the sun less direct, so I’m beginning to think that the flower might not bloom at all. That would be a bummer. We have both been so excited to see this flower standing bright and proud in our front yard.
Or maybe, just like Lu, it is waiting for the exact right day to reveal its beauty to the world.
Off to the midwives in a few minutes. Could be our last trip out to Madison. They have been amazing and I feel truly confident that we are in the best possible hands.
These women are experts at delivering babies. And I absolutely love their whole approach and style. They know this is a normal, natural experience and that it is not automatically an emergency.
Vicki, Amy and Allison are knowledgeable, patient, have attended thousands of births, and I can tell that they see this experience as something that should be beautiful and transformative for everyone involved.
I can’t wait to see them in action!