Thursday, July 30, 2009


A very wise woman also on this journey said that sometimes blogs teach her new ways to be sad. It resonated with me so deeply. Months ago I sat with a friend who had experienced a devastating loss. I was still raw from Lucy's death, but eager to sit and witness. Just be the friend that I had so desperately had wanted. She wept and said, "What if all my happy moments have passed? What if the best day of my life has happened already?"


It hadn't occurred to me before that moment. What if Lucy's death cast a kind of shadow over my life that will prevent any happy experience from being too happy? I couldn't shake it off then. I was too delicate. I have never been one to compare days, but it haunted me. My mortality, the days rolling closer to the end. I began calling myself middle aged. Sometimes the thought of how quickly this all passes overwhelms me, and I am all caught up in the fear and trembling.


I was old enough to be biking on the road, but not old enough to be jaded. My sister, a friend and I. We probably just got finished lying in the summer grass talking about how bored we were, or going to feed the neighbor's goat a can. But something sparked our curiosity in our long lingering searches for four-leaf clovers. A tree in the middle of a Pennsylvania cornfield. One tree. We lived with it everyday on our horizon. A simple silhouette. In the winter, it was just a walk. Not too far. In the summer, it was an adventure. And we decided to go there with a picnic. To the tree surrounded by a deep sea of green.

Running through corn is a scratchy, itchy business. It must have been July, or August, because I remember the corn towering over us. Easily lost and disoriented, we reveled in the adventure of cornfield afternoons collecting wild berries in the hedgerows, and scaring ourselves and each other by trying to get lost. And so, we keep close, afraid of finding a snake, or naturally, a ghost lurking in the next row. We thought maybe gnomes lived at the tree, or fairies. Who really knew? We had to go and investigate. Find the source of the magical tree. It was easy to imagine a universe around a tree. We talked of building our own tree house there, far away from the world, to escape.

The tree was a small piece of breathable real estate, but a welcome knotted place of roots, and rocks to sit and strengthen our courage to go home. Our families lived on top of a hill. A few houses surrounded by hundreds of acres of farm land. Wooded areas separated the fields, and darkened the valleys surrounding the rolling hills. When we got to the tree, sweaty and itchy, we could finally orient ourselves.

I planted myself at the roots, leaning back on my hands. After a few moments, that creepy disconcerting feeling of a bug crawling across skin made me pull my hand back. Covered in bugs.


The entire tree trunk was an undulating, pulsing mass of ladybugs that made us feel like explorers, scientists, and blessed beings all in one sigh.


I thought my moments would never be happy again after Lucy died. The truth is when I spoke of my amazing days before, they have really always been an amazing moment or two enveloped by the mundane. And now, they are amazing moments enveloped by the grief. And they are, in their own way, sometimes happier. Maybe the juxtaposition with grief makes them happier. If someone asked me many years ago to describe how both my best and worst moment could be wrapped up together, I couldn't have imagined what that could possibly be. Then I birthed Lucy, knowing she was dead, both so incredibly tragic and beautiful. Her birth was a peaceful moment of agony.

It took some beautiful alchemy, a congruence of summer, magic, innocence, adventure, and patience, to turn the ladybug colony into my favorite moment. Now it takes a smile and pat from my daughter, the special way the light plays in the afternoon, or a lingering summer laziness with tickles and smooches to make my moment magic. Nothing extraordinary, per se, just the ordinary that captivates me. It isn't that they are better now, but simply that I appreciate, in the deepest, loneliest parts of me, how fleeting they are. And I want to savor them, capture it all on film for when I am old.

At this moment, my daughter rocks on our antique rocking chair, singing a happy little gibberish song in Spanish that I began singing to her when she was first born. The sunlight, filtered through our Japanese maple, casts a pinkish hue over the room. The dog yawns a loud puppy noise and stretches beyond his little legs to wags his spotted tongue at me. Sam smiles. "I love our family, Angie," he says.

"Yeah, me too."


  1. I've been thinking about this for a number of years. Ever since I saw that film "as good as it gets".

    After having birthed my beautiful son and held him in my arms and watched him grow for 7 weeks, I still wonder. Was that as good as it gets? Have I already had my happiest moments???

    It's a very scary thought.


  2. It's funny, I was thinking of this today, how to reconcile happiness with grief. That they coexist and mingle is bizarre, but they do.

  3. What an extraordinary story.

    I feel that same desire to capture those joyful moments, but sometimes I worry that in trying to preserve them I forget to really experience them - like seeing the Grand Canyon through a viewfinder.

    It makes me happy to read about the love your family share. I'm so glad for you - I hope that doesn;t sound trite.

  4. Your story is beautiful. You described it so well I could imagine I could see it and feel it too.

  5. What a magical post. You are so right, in that I appreciate the small, mundane moments in life so much more now. And the line "Her birth was a peaceful moment of agony" is just so spot on.
    Write a book Angie. You are so gifted with your words.

  6. "And now, they are amazing moments enveloped by the grief. And they are, in their own way, sometimes happier. Maybe the juxtaposition with grief makes them happier."

    This is helpful for me, Angie, in reconciling the good and the grief. It gives me hope that I will have amazing moments, and that perhaps they'll taste sweeter because of the bitter. Thank you for this post. xo

  7. beautiful.

    i am at the place where i can experience happiness in the small picture, but not totally in the big picture. Hopefully that is followed by a 'yet'.

    people on FB commented that we looked really happy in that Niagara picture, and it rubbed me the wrong way. i wanted to shout "NO! not really!"

  8. Once again Angie, you painted a beautiful memory with words. It sounds like you grew up with some magic around you.
    I'm still trying to believe for the great joys, but I have hope that I won't be waiting much longer. I can feel my backbone returning ..
    Love you.. Lindsay

  9. What a captivating lesson in impermanence, and gratitude.

  10. ah beautiful. this is something to think about as i head into my friday night.
    and i know the happiest days are not behind me. i have to believe there are more to come. its so hard though.


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