Thursday, December 24, 2009

The day after

Holidays mark milestones. One cannot help but remember what happened last year, the year before that one, and imagine the upcoming year. We remember the good years, and the bad ones. It seems unbelievably cruel, these days of living through holidays without our children. I have the unfortunate whammy of remembering my daughter the same week as Christmas. But perhaps it helps to get the milestones out in one go. I don't know any other way than to grieve my child now. And though I have lived through only one Christmas without Lucy, entering into my second, it could be one hundred. I would believe whatever you told me. It feels like an eternity without her.

That is why your compassion, love, support and words of comfort have truly humbled me and my husband. We are all suffering right now. We are all grieving. We are all being heartlessly reminded of our losses by commercial after commercial, songs in the background of our daily interactions, and Santa and his band of merry elves littering the streets for the children. I love Christmas, but it is cruel to us all. Simply, thank you. Thank you for giving me love. Thank you for your compassion. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for remembering my daughter and speaking her name. Thank you for giving me the strength to move through her day.

We had a quiet family day. Sam took the day off to spend together, and we shopped for Christmas Eve dinner, and had a long nap. We ate sushi at our favorite restaurant. It is interesting, because this time last year, I had the mental checklist of places that had seen me pregnant that I would never step foot into again. Our local and renowned sushi place was one. It is consistently ranked the best sushi in the city, though it is in our little town. It is family-friendly. Casual. Absolutely the freshest most perfect sushi. Sam and I have been going there for years, and the waitresses know us and our daughter, who we have been taking there since she was, well, born. I always joke that Beatrice only eats once a month when we go for sushi, because she will eat and try anything if served on chopsticks. I like to joke that Sam enjoys going there because the ceilings are maybe 6'4" and he is 6'3". The first time we ate there together, it was a slow night. The band of Japanese waitresses were gathered at our table asking about Beatrice and us. And we paid our bill and stood up, and all of them gasped. "Ah, you are so big." "You so tall." I know it is crass, but I do think that having a group of beautiful Japanese women say that to my husband at the same time made him fall madly in love with our sushi joint.  *sigh* Men.

At any rate, we had gone there while I was pregnant with Lucy. A lot. I feared going back there: belly empty, no newborn. I tutted about it. I rued our favorite restaurant, until one day we just decided we were strong enough to go and answer any awkward questions. The food is that good. And they were glad to see us, but no one mentioned the baby. Either they forgot or they ignored it, which was more than fine with us. I admit we go for Japanese when we are feeling down, when we have had bad days, or when we want to celebrate. Anything. We stopped even trying other restaurants which leave us regretting spending money on something other than sushi. As we ate Lucy's meal, our favorite waitress came over. Her older daughter is the same age as Beatrice. She noticed my belly last time, and riddled me with questions. She told us last visit she was newly pregnant too. This time, as we left, she asked me how it is the second time around. And I told her that this was actually our third child. I told her we were here today celebrating our second daughter's birthday, though she died. "Oh, a miscarriage?" And I explained calmly, "No, actually I was 38 weeks. She was stillborn." And I looked at my husband crying. She began tearing up. I explained without crying, "We always come here to celebrate our birthdays, and we wanted to celebrate Lucy's birthday here too, even though we are very sad." And she nodded. Then I said, "But yes, it is different, this time around. I'm scared that something will go wrong again. But also I feel different. Maybe because it is a boy this time." And we talked about her pregnancy. It transitioned easily. But I spoke of my daughter that night. I told someone about her. About us. As we paid our bill, I said to her, "We always come here for sushi to remind ourselves of the joy in simplicity. This last year as we grieved our baby, your restaurant calmed us and made us thankful. We always come here to be a little happy." We walked into the cold night, and the moon shone above us. This night is a little shorter than yesterday's. That also makes me a little happy.


I try desperately not to believe in ghosts, to not see omens and signs in every corner. As I gave Beatrice a bath on Lucy's birthday, she said that her best friend was her cousin. Oh, and her dog Jack. Oh, and the Other Beatrice. The Other Beatrice was her best friend.
"The Other Beatrice?" I asked.
"Yes, the Other Beatrice."
"Who is the Other Beatrice?"
"She looks like me. Only little. We play tea party."

Why did she invent an imaginary friend who looks just like her, only little, today? 

We talked of the Other Beatrice, and she said the Other Beatrice was standing by me. And I kissed the air. Far from being creeped out, in the end, I began to find comfort in imagining the girls having a relationship, even if it is imaginary.


By the end of Lucy's birthday, I began growing impatient and grouchy at the familial calls of "Sooooooo, how are you doing?" Everyone sounded so somber and morbid. I am still the person I was yesterday. And I wanted to say unfair things. "How the fuck do you think we are doing? Our baby is dead. We have a lit candle and a jar of ashes instead." But I called on my better self and thanked people for calling. I said appropriate things. I know they are grieving too. Sometimes I don't think I will ever be happy with the way some people talk to me about Lucy, and others can say horribly inappropriate things, and it is fine. Why is that? Oh, because I am a psychopath. Apparently.

After a bath and a good cry, I found myself stricken with horrible vertigo. "Is this it?" I thought. "Am I losing this baby on Lucy's birthday?" I curled up in bed closing my eyes. I ordered Sam around, digging out ignored pregnancy books. "Look up 'dizziness'. Look up 'vertigo'.  Look up 'premature labor'. If it is not there, then go google it, Sam. Now." He is so patient and good. Vertigo without heavy bleeding is nothing out of the ordinary. I just closed my eyes, still spinning, hoping for a long sleep. Grief and mourning catches up with you, even if you ignore it with unagi and stories of imaginary friends.

I woke up incredibly emotional the day after her birthday. Surrounded by love from our friends and family the day before, I found my bottom dropped out. I missed my daughter. I missed the person I used to be before I embodied grief. I missed my guitar, which was broken last week by my niece. Instead, I did deviant guerilla art. I read books about winter with Beatrice. I organized things. I listened to Elliot Smith. I took a long nap and dreamed of crying.

I have been reading a book that my friend gave me a few months ago. I hadn't much opened it, even though when I received it, I was so moved and glad to have it. But you know, sometimes you just don't have the energy to read about grief when you live it every breathing minute. It is called In the Midst of Winter: Selections from the Literature of Mourning. It is an anthology of writing on grief and the subtitle thing reads: From Catullus to Camus, from Shakespeare to Virginia Woolf, from Lady Ise to Adrienne Rich, great writers express the inexpressible. Mary Jane Moffat, you had me at Camus.

At any rate, the first poem I opened to many months ago has been the one that has stuck with me. I wanted to share it with all of you. I know this sounds strange, but it is also one of the things that inspired my project still life 365. I just had this compulsion to share this poem, and wanted to read and see other people's expression of grief and mourning. Expressing the inexpressible, indeed.

"Lullaby for my Dead Child"
by Denise Jallais, translated by Maxine Kumin and Judith Kumin

You shouldn't be afraid of the dark
Or of worms
Now you can play with the rain
And see the grass come up

You shouldn't put dirt in your mouth
And sit still waiting for me
We've given you some flowers
To console you for being little
And dead.

taken from the book In the Midst of Winter, Selections from the Literature of Mourning, ed. Mary Jane Moffat (New York: Vintage, 1982)


  1. Oh how I wish things were different and that you'd never known this life.

    So many tears for you Angie. Your words and your beauty never fail to touch me to the core....sending the family so much love.

  2. Angie,sending you love, thank you for sharing the poem.x

  3. i'm so glad you got to talk about your baby on her birthday. and eat good sushi. thinking of you so much this week.

    i also have vertigo attacks induced by grief and anxiety. it sucks and is scary. also, i'm with you: i never feel okay about how other people talk to me about angel mae. psychopath. but we're not - it's just confusing. xo

  4. Lucy's day sounds absolutely perfect. I love your sushi place, and will have to come and visit simply to go there. (Ironically, Bella will eat sushi, but not cooked fish? I'm not sure she totally gets the connection, and I'm happily going along with her ignorance as she requests more of the "pink stuff.")

    For me, the day after actually was much worse. Because I realized exactly a year ago I was just as I was now: bereft, and without a child. Treat yourself kindly today, and this week. She is not forgotten.

  5. Sending you love this holiday season! xx

  6. That poem. Oof.

    We've talked before about impatience with others' responses and you know how I feel but I will say again: yes, a thousand times yes. I'll join you in your psychopathic irrationality!

    Oh Angie, I wish I had something else to say other than 'I'm sorry'. x

  7. Thank you for the poem. It captures something broken in the mother, so finely and uniquely articulated. I feel as though I can relate to the mental space the poet is in.

    But more importantly, thank you for sharing your experience of remembering and celebrating Lucy. Unagi does seem to have a magical quality, I think, and is thus a fitting choice.

  8. kb-cowgirlsdon'tcryDecember 24, 2009 at 2:43 PM

    I am so sorry. What a beautiful poem. peace~ Kristin

  9. "The joy in simplicity". Perfect. Would love to join you at that sushi restaurant some day. Even for Lucy's birthday if I could ever be so lucky. I am glad you survived the day, but I know what you mean when you say the next day was worse. It was for me too. Because everyone else stops remembering then. I know I'll never forget her though.
    And Merry Christmas. At least it is Christmas here now.
    Thinking of you and all three of your beautiful babies today.

  10. angie, i am glad that you found a little bit of happiness in your sushi dinner and that you got to speak of lucy.

    i can relate to other people's comments as well, and the freak outs with this new pregnancy...

    i'm here with you
    and sending love

  11. I'm so sorry. That is eerie what you described about your daughter having an "imaginary friend", the Other Beatrice, but it also makes me wonder. I have no words to console your broken heart, only hope that you find peace.


  12. I thought of Lucy all day on her day. She is missed.

  13. i love that you talked about her at the restaurant. and i love that there's a "little beatrice", who looks just like her.

  14. luv that poem

    what language was it in orignally?

    sending love...

  15. I love that sushi place in your town, although I have only been there once. I am glad you went back and spoke of Lucy. It was fitting that you were able to tell the waitress about her on her birthday.

    I think the same way about the way people talk to me about Hannah. Nothing is ever good enough. I am not sure what I want exactly, so I guess I better get used to it since I can't tell anyone what they should say.

  16. Thank you for sharing Lucy's birthday with us and of Beatrice with the other Beatrice (my younger children talk about playing with their baby brother btw). Thinking of all of you.


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