Monday, August 13, 2012

forgiveness and remembrance

The shop smells of Japanese incense. There are chakra crystals and handblocked fabric bags made in Tibet by a women's collective. There are angels in resin for a buck, magical rocks, and pyramids, and in the middle of lavender eye pillows, I see a smiling praying jizo statue for their garden. A big jizo. It is reasonably priced, and I imagine the red bib I will sew for him. He looks like one of my paintings. I ask the beautiful woman with long flowing scarves in August, and almost no shoes about the statues around her shop. There are jizos all around this place. I ask her if she has more. I want to see them all, and she leads me around the shop, showing me Buddhas, and jizos, and Hoteis. And the first jizo is the best. He is mine.

As we stop, I reach for him, turning up to heaven, hands in prayer position, smiling. The clerk touches my wrist where her name is written on my body. It is a sensual gesture, one of compassion. The touch of a stranger feels electric. Her finger rests on my pulse. It quickens.

What does that say?


Is that your name?

No, it is my daughter's name.

It's beautiful. How old is she?

Actually, she died.

How old was she when she passed?

At birth. She was just being born.

Our eyes meet. It is kind of true, I am trying to communicate. No, it is true. She didn't have an age. She would have been born soon. She died just before she was born, but she was still a baby. Stillborn sounds like miscarriage to strangers. And miscarriage is also difficult and physical and hard and not to be dismissed, if you don't want it dismissed, but those words, stillbirth, miscarriage, pregnancy loss open dismissal and distance from the fact that I gave birth to my six pound baby. Lucia looked like me, and I had to leave her in the hospital for an autopsy, then cremation. So, I said she died at birth. It's not a lie, really. What I really want to say is that I pushed her out of my vagina. She was limp and gray, and weighed more than my neighbor's living baby. Her eyes were bruised and the skin torn. I kissed her anyway, and had to push her little tongue back in her mouth so she would look more alive, because it was hard to see her dead. After I held her for a few hours, she grew cold. I couldn't bear it. I wanted more blankets to cover her, to warm her.

I'm sorry. 

Thank you.

Do you have other children?

Yes. A two year old and a five year old. But Lucia is why I want the jizo, because jizos protect babies that die, and guide them into the next life. I paint them. Constantly paint them.

Wow, really? 

Yes. I paint them for other people all over the world and for myself. It is a ritual of forgiveness and remembrance.

She stared at me, tears welling. And then she hugged me. The clerk in the metaphysical store in a cluster of other stores held me. She said there was a light in me. And I could feel the darkness bubbling under the light. The dark is so overwhelming, I want to tell her, that all you can do is light stuff or it would consume us all. Even you, even your light, gauzey fabrics.

I kneel in front of the jizo I placed under her tree, next to the stepping stones we made for our two babies.

I'm sorry you died in me,I say.

There is no answer.

I'm sorry you died in me, I say again.

I chose to die like that, Mama. 
You did?
You chose it too.
I'm sorry.
Don't apologize to me, Mama. I had a good life.

I light another stick of incense and jam it into the ground.

I'm sorry your baby died in you, Angie.
It's not okay, Angie. I'm not sure I forgive you.
I know, Angie.
But keep apologizing, Ang, I think it might be working.

I perform a ritual of forgiveness. It involves nothing selfless. It is all about me being forgiven. It is empty and dark and sad, and as I walk through it, I am come out the other side full and light and contented.

I think about the life I made out of her death. It involves writing and painting and going to metaphysical stores and letting go. I let go of friends. I let go of expectation. I let go of the future. I let go of my tears. I let go of naiveté. I let go of my baby. I let go of the darkness to embrace something dark in me. I let go of anger. I let go.


Today, I was over at Glow in the Woods writing about this thing that happened to me a few years ago. It was something I never talked about, or if I did, only privately to Jess or my husband, I think. I was embarrassed about it, actually, which sounds weird considering the emo shit I have owned on this blog, but still, you know, there once was a girl on the train and I loved her for a few minutes.


  1. I say the same thing, he died at birth. I know it was almost 1 or 2 AM when we learned his heart stopped beating, and he wasn't moving for a few hours before that, and I birthed him at 4:51pm that day... but I rarely open with "he was stillborn"

    Forgiveness. Letting all things be with no hope that they were to be any different. Truly let go of the hope that it could have been...

    Ah, such a life. I'm trying my damndest to get a grip.

    I took it all in over at Glow. Such a beautiful post.

    I'm up with you tonight. What ever time it is there, it's 11pm here. And I find myself up with it all tonight.

    I enjoy the company.

  2. achingly gorgeous, this one.
    I hope it's working too.

  3. "Don't apologize to me mama, I had a good life."

    Thank you for this. So beautiful and healing to read. I hope my baby girl who left this world too soon feels that way too.

  4. Oh Angie, she hugged!That made me cry.

  5. I know I say it over and over, but I wish I could write half as well as you.

    Your posts always have me in tears, holding my breath until I find out what comes next.

    It's not just still births that people treat the same as miscarriages. My son lived for three days and there are people who still act as though he doesn't matter. I know what you mean about letting go. I'm so sorry that it's a lesson we've had to learn and keep having to learn anew each day.

    Lots of love to you,

  6. Wow, this was just what I needed to read and it has settled right around my heart where I'm going to carry it for a while.

    Thanks for this, Angie. Really.

  7. I could go on and on but I'll keep it short. Thank you for this post. This is the sort of thing I needed to read today.

  8. God this post hit me so hard:

    "What I really want to say is that I pushed her out of my vagina. She was limp and gray, and weighed more than my neighbor's living baby. Her eyes were bruised and the skin torn. I kissed her anyway, and had to push her little tongue back in her mouth so she would look more alive, because it was hard to see her dead. After I held her for a few hours, she grew cold. I couldn't bear it. I wanted more blankets to cover her, to warm her."

    And I'm a sobbing mess. Damn you August, bless you Angie and your warmth and wisdom. Makes for a weepy combination.

    There was more I wanted to say, but I forget now, due to the aforementioned weepiness, so I'll just leave it here.

    Thank you.


  9. That was a beautiful moment. And your writing is always so perfect that I never have anything to say after I read it because you've already said everything right.

  10. beautiful... I say the same thing. Nora died at birth... and yes the reaction is different. I have tried many ways over the past 11 years. When I say stillborn, people dismiss Nora and that enrages me. I gave birth. I almost died giving birth. I was in a coma because I almost died during childbirth.

    Just holding you tight... remembering Lucia.. remembering all of our children.. your writing is so incredible... love to you.

  11. I have started lying about Jordan's disability... depends on the situation... but I got sick of seeing people shrug her loss of as "for the best" as soon as they learn she had a severe brain injury... as though she didn't matter at all. Now I just say she had a cord injury which eventually led to her death. I don't know if I think it's lying really, just perhaps a fudging of the bald truth. I think thats okay.

    I think forgiveness plays such a huge role in healing after grief... and yet I suspect it's like everything else about grief too, it will come and go. Right now I feel like I have forgiven myself... but next year, who knows how I will feel?

    Lucia lived. Inside of you, she lived. And she was loved. xx

  12. Thank you for helping me cry, when sometimes my tears get stuck.

  13. I wish I had the ability to do this forgiveness thing. I wish...the closest I have come is during shavasana (how much more fitting now that this position is called corpse pose).

    I love that you said, Lucy died at birth. I might try that out. I know what you mean when you say people feel like oh, she died before you knew seems like that makes it easier for other people.

    I hope you are able to hang onto your forgiveness.

  14. Oh Angie, thanks for this post. Made me cry when she hugged you. It's Sky's birthday today and I, too, cheat sometimes with the birth-thing. Just because I can't stand it when people say: Well, at least he didn't live yet." and I don't want to end up strangling someone.

    Besides that, I've been on the hunt for a mizuko statue but having a hard time... but I know: one day I'll find it - or it will find me. :)

    Much love! xo


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