Friday, October 31, 2008

Blogoversary!

One year ago tonight, I took my first tentative steps into the blogosphere -- encouraged by the Stirrup Queen herself. I was intrigued by the whole idea of blogging, & had been lurking on a handful of infertility & loss blogs for more than a year. I was also looking for an outlet to record some of my memories & explore my feelings as I approached the 10-year "anniversary" of my daughter's stillbirth -- but I was a little afraid of putting myself "out there" -- just as I had been the very first time I had posted on an Internet bulletin board. (And I was dying to add my $.02 to Mel's online book club!)

So here I am, one year and 179 posts later, and very glad that I did. Blogging has been the release & record I sought -- and more. It has been a blessing in my life. I did not know who, if anyone, would care to read my blog, and I didn't start out with the intention of writing for an audience. The blog is, first and foremost, for me. But it's been gratifying to read your comments, to feel your support, to know you're out there struggling with the same issues and feelings too -- that you understand. I even managed to reconnect with a longtime online friend I hadn't been in touch with in some time.

I'm especially grateful to those of you who are also living childless/free/(whatever term you prefer) after infertility & loss in a world seemingly gone mad for pregnant women & babies -- Pamela Jeanne, Irish Girl, Alacrity, Dianne, Me and others. I knew you had to be out there, & there is definitely strength and comfort in numbers, even if none of us ever thought we'd wind up here, or came to this life travelling exactly the same road.

Thank you!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Anne of Green Gables -- & her author -- were stillbirth mothers

I was in a bookstore during my lunch hour today, & snatched up a fresh-off-the-press copy of "L.M. Montgomery: The Gift of Wings" by Mary Henley Rubio who, over the past 20 years with Elizabeth Waterston, edited five volumes of Montgomery's lifelong journals. (When I actually get to read the thing is the question... so many great books, so little time...!!)

Like so many other girls in Canada -- and around the world -- I read "Anne of Green Gables" when I was in Grade 3 -- and found a "kindred spirit." I quickly devoured all the sequels, as well as the other books Montgomery wrote, and books about her and her writing. I've seen the musical (although, sadly, never in Charlottetown, where it plays every summer) and the movies based on the books, as well as TV shows like "Road to Avonlea" & "Emily of New Moon." My favourite Montgomery books are "Rilla of Ingleside" (about Anne's daughter during World War One) and "The Blue Castle." And "Pat of Silver Bush" and its sequel, "Mistress Pat." And "Jane of Lantern Hill." : )

I read biographies of Montgomery that talked about her lonely childhood... but it wasn't until her journals were released that people began to realize what a double life she led: the fantasy world of her books, with high-spirited heroines and happy endings (although, in retrospect, one can see the dark currents that run through many of her books) versus her constricted life as an upstanding minister's wife, hiding the deep, dark secret of her husband's severe mental illness from his parishoners.

The Globe & Mail recently published an article by her granddaughter, Kate Macdonald Butler, posing the theory that her death in 1942 at age 67 was a suicide. (In a followup article, Rubio was interviewed in a followup article, saying she doesn't necessarily believe suicide was the cause of Montgomery's death.)

I don't think I realized, until her journals were published, that the second of her three sons, a boy named Hugh Alexander, was stillborn in August 1914, when she was almost 40. And not until years later, after my own stillbirth, did I realize that she relived this experience through Anne -- whose first child, a girl named Joyce, dies at or shortly after birth, in "Anne's House of Dreams."

Another book I can't wait to get into...!

Have you read any Montgomery books? Which one(s) are your favourites?

Infertility, according to Peanuts

I feel a little like Mel, doing her Friday Blog Roundup -- but, with the impending arrival of Halloween this Friday, I've noticed a couple of bloggers making reference to the classic Peanuts cartoon special "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" -- and I couldn't resist bringing them to your attention:

Bronwyn at Spiraling Into Control:

"I can't help but identify with Charlie Brown's recurring lament, "I got a rock." In my case, this sentiment has less to do with Halloween candy and more to do with motherhood. When everyone else seems to be bringing home the Hershey bars and Reese's cups and Kit Kats in the form of gurgling little pink and blue bundles, I get the rocks. And I didn't even think that my costume was that bad…"

WordGirl (Pam) at Blood Signs:

"Some days I feel like I've put my life on hold for this one thing that may not arrive -- like Linus and the Great Pumpkin."
The infertility/Peanuts analogy that pops into my mind is good ol' Charlie Brown, always game for one more try, always optimistic that this year things will be different… and always getting the football yanked away at the very last minute.

Or his little sister Sally, in "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (my all-time favourite Peanuts & Christmas special -- never ends without me bawling into my Kleenex as they sing "Hark the Herald Angels") in bewilderment saying, "All I want is what's coming to me. All I want is my fair share."

Smart man, that Charles Schultz. ; )

Friday, October 24, 2008

When October goes...

Contrary to what I wrote in the post above, I don't totally dislike October. (November and February, now, that's a different story... as I wrote in one of my very first posts last year.) The weather can still be pretty decent in October, the fall colours are at their peak (& Ontario has some of the most beautiful fall scenery in the world), and there is Canadian Thanksgiving to look forward to (which at the very least means a long weekend, if not turkey -- as it often does not for dh & me, who are often at loose ends on holidays, with my family far away & FIL often with stepMIL's relatives & BIL with his inlaws).

But there is a definite feeling of melancholy. Memories of all the deaths in my family that occurred in October aside, it's a time of year when things generally begin dying, as the weather turns colder, the days get shorter, and winter sets in.

Halloween? Well, that's a mixed bag. As a kid, of course, I loved it & looked forward to it all month long (who didn't??). Dh & I have always carved & set out a jack o'lantern & I've always enjoyed handing out candy to the kids who arrive on our doorstep. (We've never had fewer than 65 trick or treaters, and some years as many as 130.) At least, I did enjoy it. I still do, to some extent -- but these days, I also feel a lot of sadness -- for our own little pumpkin who never got to dress up or go for trick or treating, and for us, knowing we'll never have the experience of taking a child out for trick or treating -- Katie, or another child. (We've always lived just a little too far away to be able to go out with our nephews -- if we were ever even asked, which we weren't. And now they're too old for it.)

Oct. 31st is also year end at my workplace. Our results are generally reported in late November or early December, with our annual meeting in March. So October marks the beginning of the busiest time of year for me, extending right through the end of March. 10 years ago, I found myself thrust back into the workplace, pregnant no longer and babyless, right after Thanksgiving & caught up in the year-end rush I had gleefully been looking forward to skipping (for once!) -- at exactly the time I was supposed to be starting maternity leave. And every year, as Thanksgiving rolls around, I'm reminded of that.

All day today, as I thought of these things, I've had the melody of an old Barry Manilow song from one of my sister's albums running through my head (! -- yes, I used to like Barry Manilow -- still do, actually...!). I couldn't remember all the words, but I remembered the phrase "When October comes" or "When October goes" -- so I typed "Barry Manilow lyrics October" into Google & came up with this.

As I said -- I don't necessarily hate to see October go -- if I do, it's because I know November lies ahead...! But I can relate to the wistfulness of the lyrics (as well as the melody, as I remember it), the feeling of time passing, and the remembrance of happier days.

And when October goes
The snow begins to fly
Above the smokey roofs
I watch the planes go by
The children running home
Beneath a twilight sky
Oh, for the fun of them
When I was one of them
And when October goes
The same old dream appears
And you are in my arms
To share the happy years
I turn my head away
To hide the helpless tears
Oh how I hate to see October go
I should be over it now I know
It doesn't matter much
How old I grow
I hate to see October go

Thursday, October 23, 2008

September/October 1998: Home alone (warning: another long one...)

September 1998 found me home alone and still trying to make sense of what had just happened to me. My parents had gone back home, & dh had gone back to work after three weeks off. His boss told him they'd give him a week as bereavement leave -- the maximum in the policy is three days -- but the two weeks we had originally booked off as vacation would still count as vacation. Some "vacation," huh??

As for me, I had a telephone chat with my office administrator about my leave. ("It's been hard, Elaine," I said. "It's a tragedy, Lori," she said firmly.) She told me that, because my baby was past 19 weeks gestation, I was entitled to the same 17-week leave funded by Employment Insurance (which, at that time, I believe was around half of your regular salary, but capped at a certain level -- around $400 a week, I think??) -- the same maternity leave benefits that any new mother in Canada got at the time. (However, I would not be eligible for the period of unpaid leave that usually followed. At the time the combined leave amounted to about nine months; since then, it's been extended to a full year. Fathers can share part of the leave.)

I told her that a handout in the hospital package had mentioned the EI benefits, and had also mentioned that I might be entitled to disability benefits. "Oh yes," she said, "and because of your long service with the company, I think you'd be entitled to up to 26 weeks on short-term disability at full salary."

26 weeks!! I told her I didn't think I'd need 26 weeks, but it was nice to know that I could take the time I needed and not have to worry about money. I told her that I would be seeing Dr. Ob-gyn for my post-partum checkup on Friday, Sept. 25th, and dh could pick up any forms that the dr needed to sign.

As the date of my post-partum checkup drew closer, & no forms had materialized, I gave her a call. "I'm going next week, and I can bring along any forms you need signed," I said.

"Oh Lori," she said. "I've been discussing your case with HR, and they won't let you take disability leave. You HAVE to take the 17-week maternity leave with EI benefits. There was a grey area in the policy... they're going to clarify it now, but they won't give you the benefit of the doubt."

She started explaining that this would mean taking me off the payroll, & backtracking for the time that I'd already been off work. Which would mean that I would return to work & still only be getting EI benefits to make up for the time I'd already been off work on full salary.

My head swam. I knew that, had I had the baby, I would have been on EI benefits by November -- but this was September, and I didn't HAVE my baby -- we had a funeral to pay for (plus, unexpectedly, a new furnace) -- & to suddenly have my income yanked out from underneath me, along with everything else I was dealing with, was profoundly upsetting.

I didn't want to go back to work right away. But -- if I took the full 17 weeks, dating back from the date of my loss, I'd have to return to work... right around my late November due date, and just in time for Christmas. Greeeeaaaat. I started crying.

"Leave it with me, I'll get back to you," she finally said.

A few days later, she called me back. "How long were you thinking of staying off work?" she asked. I said I wasn't prepared to return to work until I had clearance from Dr. Ob-gyn at my post-partum checkup on Sept. 25. Maybe after (Canadian) Thanksgiving in mid-October?

She told me the VP had a proposal for me: he was willing to keep me on the payroll at full salary -- call it a "special leave of absence" -- so long as I was willing to return to work after Thanksgiving (conveniently for the office, the beginning of our busy year-end season). If I felt I needed longer than that, we'd have to work something else out -- i.e., back to the EI maternity leave.

I thought it over & agreed, contingent on my ob-gyn's approval (he would have to provide me with a note explaining my absence). My leave now had a firm end date. I wasn't anxious to return to work, but I realized it WAS generous of the VP to give me this option.

At the same time, I was more than a little ticked off (& still am, when I think about it). I work for a federally regulated company, one of the largest in Canada, considered one of the country's top employers. Maternity leave laws have been around in Canada since at least the early-mid 1980s. And more than 70% of my company's employees are women, many of them in their prime childbearing years. You CANNOT tell me that mine was the first stillbirth they had ever had to deal with!!!

One day in September, my doorbell rang & a delivery man handed me a bulky package that clearly came from my office. "They're sending me WORK??!" I thought in disbelief. Actually, no. Inside was a sympathy card and a selection of current books they thought I might enjoy reading while I was off (in lieu of flowers). I was touched -- they knew me well!

I was, however, just a tad mystified/annoyed that the card was simply signed with the name of my department. When co-workers' parents had passed away, we'd always circulated a card for everyone to sign (along with an envelope for contributions). It seemed like just another example of the silence and avoidance surrounding the whole subject of pregnancy loss that I was beginning to experience.

Some time later, my co-worker/office best friend was away on vacation, & I was asked to find a document on her computer. In looking for the right file, I stumbled onto the note that was sent around, informing everyone of "the sad loss of the baby Lori & her husband Sam were expecting" and asking for donations to cover the cost of the books. There was a circulation list attached. I printed off the note and the list, so that I'd at least have a record of who my co-workers were at that time, & put it with the rest of Katie's things.

*** *** *** *** ***

People asked me what I was did to pass the time while I was at home (like I was on some kind of holiday). I find I never lack for things to do on the rare days when I'm home by myself. I don't drive, & although I could have taken a bus to the local mall, I preferred to stay close to home. I did try to get out of the house for a walk every day that the weather allowed. We have a strip plaza a short walk away, with a supermarket where I could pick up groceries, & I would take the long way around to get some extra exercise.

I started writing thank you notes to everyone who had sent us flowers & cards. I read. I cleaned. I picked plums from our loaded-down plum tree (fruitful in a way it had never been before, and never would be again -- unlike me...) and baked plum crisp and plum cake, and (non-plum) cookies and muffins.

I supervised the installation of a new bathroom ventilating fan, a new furnace, and had the carpets steam cleaned. I surfed the Internet, looking for reasons why this might have happened. I ordered some books about pregnancy loss from Amazon, including the classics "Empty Cradle, Broken Heart" and "A Silent Sorrow," and began devouring them as soon as the box landed on my doorstep.

I looked at a few message boards, but was hesitant to put myself "out there" on the Internet, which was still relatively new to me. One day, I found a site for a private e-mail list for women pregnant after loss, or planning or contemplating another pregnancy after a loss. This sounded right up my alley, & the closed nature of the list appealed to my worries about privacy. Long before blogs, the list became my daily lifeline.

I called the (real life) support group whose pamphlet had been in the hospital package. They explained that they had a monthly drop in night for newly bereaved parents, but they needed to fill a quota before they could start an actual weekly group. Once they had enough people, we would go through an intense few weeks together, talking & learning. And then that would be it. But first, they wanted me to come to their office for an interview. (!) Their office was in midtown in the city, which would mean a 40-minute train ride into the city, a 20-30 minute subway ride and a bus ride. I thanked them for the information and said I'd get back to them.

Then I called the social worker who had been so kind to us following our loss, to ask about another group mentioned in the literature, one that met weekly at the hospital. "Unfortunately, that group has been discontinued," she said (then why include the pamphlet in the package??), but then she added, "but I do know of one other group -- I'm on their board of directors." She gave me a number to call.

That's how I found our support group. I attended my first meeting on Thursday, Sept. 17th, at a church a few miles away from where we lived Dh had to study for an exam he was writing on the Saturday (at least, that was his excuse, lol), but drove me there & picked me up again. He did come with me to the next meeting, Thursday, Oct. 1st. And we've been there ever since...!

We returned to the cemetery office, and ordered a plaque for our daughter's niche. It was up when we went to visit on Sunday, Oct. 4th.

*** *** *** *** ***

Sometimes days would pass before I talked to another adult besides dh. One of dh's cousins dropped by one day with flowers. She didn't stay very long, using her sulky toddler as an excuse to leave quickly.

A few days later, on the Labour Day weekend, we went to a local waterpark with her, another cousin, dh's brother & their families. It was a hot, humid day, and we sat on the cement by the pool, watching as the kids splashed around & had a ball. I was still wearing maternity clothes at this point, since not much else fit me, & I have a photo of myself, all dressed in black, as if in mourning. We rode in his cousin's van, and drove past the cemetery where our daughter's ashes were interred. I pointed this out -- I think someone may have emitted a polite "Oh?" & that was that.

The next day, we went to another aunt's house for lunch. She handed me some towels she had bought for me (!), hugged me & said, "We won't talk about it anymore." (And she never has.) She's the soul of generosity, but her response is typical of dh's family, particularly those in the older generation.

Her younger daughter, newly pregnant with her second baby (born in April 1999, six months after Katie's November due date), hugged me & simply said, "I don't know what to say." "There's not much you CAN say," I remember saying. I talked a little bit about what had happened over coffee, as she & her sister listened with sad expressions on their faces.

I didn't see much of cousin/neighbour's wife -- a stay-at-home mom to two young girls, who had been so excited about our baby's impending arrival & had assured me she would be over "every day" to help me out. She invited me over for lunch, & I wound up spending most of the day with her on Wednesday, Sept. 16th. Another day, I walked over there with some plums from our tree. That was about it, between our Labour Day excursion to the waterpark and Thanksgiving. It was the beginning of a gradual disengagement between us, although we didn't realize it at the time...

I started getting calls. A former co-worker, now living in Cleveland, who had received the mass e-mail I had sent out (& had had a miscarriage herself) surprised me with a call. My (older, childless) best friend/coworker from the office left me a message one day. She started out brightly, saying she just wanted to see how I was doing. But her voice began to break as she added, "I was absolutely devastated when I came back from vacation & they told me what had happened." She came out to visit me, bearing (more) flowers. We sat on my front porch with iced tea & I told her the story of what had happened, as she wiped tears from her eyes. (She's always been there to listen & even though she has been retired for nearly two years now, I still miss her every day!)

Another friend & former coworker called one day. "Hey, I tried calling you at work. What are you doing at home?" "Well...I lost the baby," I said flatly. "Oh!" she said. I briefly outlined what had happened. And then she began to babble. I realize I caught her totally off guard... but one of the things she said has forever stuck in my mind as one of the dumber things anyone said to me, post-loss:

"Well, you know, Lori," she said, "you've had a pretty easy life up until now." I know I recognized right off the bat that this was a pretty odd thing to say, and I found it harder & harder to keep up my end of the conversation. After we hung up, I mulled the conversation over & over in my head. This friend hadn't had a very easy time of it in recent years -- her husband had left her, she was having difficulty dealing with a high-spirited teenaged daughter. I'd always been there to listen & encourage her. Basically, I felt like I'd been told that I'd had a pretty cushy life (in comparison to hers), so suck it up. And was I imagining it, or did I perhaps detect a faint note of glee, that I was finally sharing some of her pain -- perhaps even gotten what I deserved?

We have stayed in touch -- but needless to say, we have drifted apart & only speak to each other a handful of times during the year.

*** *** *** *** ***

Friday, September 25th -- my post-partum checkup. It was originally scheduled for 1:15 p.m. (I knew he saw all his pregnant patients in the morning), but the day before, his assistant called to ask if I could come at 11:30 instead. I also had a 10:30 a.m. appointment with my family doctor to have my postpartum thyroid levels checked.

I took the bus to the train station in time for the 9 a.m. train. As the bus pulled up, I noticed there were hordes and hordes of schoolchildren lining the platforms. What the heck was going on?? Then I remembered: this was the day Nelson Mandela was making a special appearance at the SkyDome (now called the Rogers Centre) in Toronto, to be attended by some 50,000 area schoolchildren. Needless to say, I did not relish the thought of sharing a train loaded with rambunctious grade schoolers, particularly this day of all days. Fortunately, they had actually commissioned special trains for the kids, so the regular train was blessedly quiet.

There were still a few pregnant women in the hallway when I arrived. Dr. Ob-gyn examined me , answered my questions, agreed I could return to work anytime I wanted, and provided me with the required note. Then I went to the social worker's office to say hello and thanks to her. After that, I went to a Kinko's shop across the street. I had found & devoured Toni Weschler's "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" & tore the page with the prototype chart out of the back to be enlarged & copied. Dr. Ob-gyn recommended we wait three full cycles, but after that, I intended to waste no time. It had taken us 2.5 years to get pregnant, doing absolutely nothing special. I figured I could cut that time considerably with a little targeted effort on our part. (Oh, such innocence!)

*** *** *** *** ***

That Sunday, Sept. 27th, dh & I went to church at the Anglican parish we had joined, in anticipation of starting a family. Our minister was a huge proponent of the Alpha program, and our special guest speaker was a young British pastor & his wife, who had helped to found the Alpha program for youth. They were en route to attend an Alpha conference elsewhere in Canada. His wife had brought a guitar with her & sang a few of her own compositions, in a beautiful, soaring voice.

At the end of the service, the young pastor stepped forward. In preparation for their trip, he said, his wife had been praying and had been entrusted with "words of knowledge" (something I had never heard of in my Anglican upbringing) -- images, visions, of people who needed prayer. There was a young woman, looking out a window at a field. A young boy with a tall hat.

"And there's a young woman with short dark hair. She's holding her stomach, or her womb. We can't tell if she's pregnant, or wants to be pregnant, but there's a lot of fear and sadness there."

If any of these images "spoke" to you, he added, please come see us after the service.

The choir stood, sang the last hymn, and processed out. People got up and started leaving. While I sat, frozen in my pew, thunderstruck. "What's the matter?" asked dh.

"It's me! I know it's me!" I whispered back to him. "I have to tell them!"

Dh gave me a weird "look" & said he would wait for me in the car.

I made my way to the front and eventually managed to catch the young woman's eye. "I'm your pregnant woman," I said. "I lost my baby seven weeks ago."

The woman told me that she too had lost a pregnancy, a miscarriage. "I'm so glad you came forward -- I could see this woman so clearly and I was so worried about her," she said. She held one of my hands & put her other hand over my now un-pregnant stomach and, as tears poured down both of our faces, she prayed for me, for my baby, for healing, for the knowledge of God's love to ease my pain. While her husband stood beside us, also praying with us, but also clearly uncomfortable, to my amusement. Even ministers could be typical men, I thought.

She gave me a hug & I went out to the car where dh was waiting. I've never been a huge believer in spirits and such... and in recent years, I've sometimes wondered whether someone from the parish (the minister, perhaps) had put them up to it, thinking I needed prayer. Whatever. Someone -- or "Someone" -- obviously felt that I needed some comfort, and sent it to me in a very unforgettable way. I have no idea whatever happened to that couple, but I hope she eventually got pregnant again and had a healthy baby.

*** *** *** *** ***

(Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend: my last weekend before heading back to work. My mom & sister went to Minnesota to visit my grandparents, & I talked to them there. BIL & his family came over on Saturday and we took a drive in the country, northeast of where we live. Cousin/neighbour had us over for dinner (cornish hen, instead of turkey) on the Sunday, Oct. 11th. The weather was clear, sunny and gorgeous, and the fall colours were at their peak.

Tuesday, Oct. 13th: 5 a.m. sure comes early when you've been used to sleeping in for the past 10 weeks or so. The closer I got to my office, the more dread I felt. The thought of walking in through the main door of my department gave me pause. I knew I couldn't do it. There was, however, another, less well used entrance, right outside the space I shared with my coworker/office best friend, so I decided to go in through that.

I'm normally one of the first people in the office, but today, she was already there. "Welcome back," she said, rising out of her chair.

I put down my briefcase and burst into tears. She hugged me. As the day went on, people dropped by my office to say hello. Some of the women asked questions about what had happened. Most of the guys, looking uncomfortable, just said, "Glad to have you back" & left as quickly as they could, lol.

I was prepared for my coworkers. They all knew what had happened. What I wasn't really prepared for was everyone else. I had worked for this company for 12 years, and in this building for 10. I knew a lot of people from other departments, including the one just down the hall from us. I saw a lot of the same people day in & day out -- the girls at the Second Cup outlet where I got tea every morning, the food court places I went to eat, the clerks at the newsstand where I'd buy magazines and candy. These people knew I'd been pregnant, saw my expanding belly. Then I was gone, & now I was back again, not pregnant. They just assumed I'd had the baby and now I was back. "What did you have, a boy or girl?" they'd ask with a huge grin on their face. And then I'd have to tell them, and watch the grin turn to an expression of disbelief and horror. I could only handle so many of those encounters in a day, & would go out of my to avoid people if I could sense one in the making.

Everyone told me to take it easy. Of course, it didn't take long for them to start filling my inbox as though I'd never been gone. Back to work, for the most part equals "back to normal" in most people's minds.

*** *** *** *** ***

Thursday, October 15th, my third day back at work. I was feeling crampy and PMS-y.

My telephone rang at the office.

It was my mother.

My grandfather was dead. Had slipped away peacefully while napping, as my grandmother read beside him, oblivious. He was 86 years old. I was 37. How many 37 year olds do you know who still have a complete set of grandparents?? I knew he wasn't going to live forever -- but why now???

I had always dreamed that my children would know my grandparents. As both my grandparents & I got older, I modified the dream. My kids might not remember my grandparents, but I could at least have the thrill of bringing great-grandchildren to see them. (Not their first great-grandchildren -- by the time my grandfather died, my two cousins each had a boy & a girl, & my one cousin was also a stepfather.) Now that dream, too, was shattered.

I called dh & he came up to my office & held me as I sobbed. First a coworker came upon us, & then my boss. "Her grandfather died," my coworker said, with a "poor kid, what next??" look on her face.

I went home. And started packing, & calling to find out about flights. I booked myself on a flight leaving the next morning. My dad & sister met me and together, we drove down to the small northwestern Minnesota town where my grandparents had lived, & where my mother already was. The cost (on top of the funeral, the new furnace, etc.) was horrendous, even with the special bereavement fare, but I didn't care. I wanted to be with my family. While my loss was not the particular focus (although many people gave me their condolences), it just felt good to be with family and in a place where I could wallow freely & feel buoyed by the mutual grief and the love & care of family & friends.

My grandmother, 84, who had mild dementia, was bewildered by this turn of events. She kept asking where my grandfather was and, when reminded that he had died, would ask how long they'd been married. My mother brought her back to the apartment from the nursing home to stay while we were there, & I got to share a bed with her. We crawled into bed & looked at each other & she chuckled and said, "How many years has it been since we did this?" Too long, Grandma, too long.

I did not get to see my grandfather again. They sent his body to be cremated, as he had wished. My mother, grandmother, uncle & his wife saw him, though. My mom told me she'd had him dressed in one of his plaid shirts, suspenders and the comfortable old grey cardigan sweater he wore constantly. "He looked good," my uncle told me. "He looked at peace."

While we were there, my mother's cousin (my godmother) got the shocking news that her best friend from growing up had also just passed away. Her funeral was held a few days after my grandfather's. Why is it these things happen all at once??

The ashes weren't back in time for the funeral on Oct. 19th, at the beautiful little Episcopal church my grandfather had attended faithfully for most of his life. Afterwards, people started drifting back to their homes and work. I stayed with my mother. Grandpa's ashes arrived on Wednesday -- in the mail, no less!! "Here's Grandpa, home for the last time," my mother said as she came into the apartment from the post office, carrying the box and wiping her eyes.

"Oh, & we don't even have his chair for him!" I said. We'd taken his easy chair up to the nursing home for my grandmother the day before.

In the afternoon, Mom & I took Grandpa's ashes with us, and drove, in a caravan with my uncle & his wife, my grandmother and a few of my mother's cousins, up to the site of the farm where my grandfather had been raised, a mile or two south of the Canadian border (and also close to the town, on the Canadian side, where I had been born, & where my dad's family had lived). It was a beautiful clear, sunny, autumn day. I stood there and looked around me, at the land my ancestors had come to in the late 1870s. In a lifetime of moving around from one place to another, this area was always the place I had returned to. More than anywhere else on earth, this was HOME.

My mother had brought Grandpa's mother's Book of Common Prayer, & we stood in a circle, near the site where the house had been, and read the prayers from it. Then we each took a handful of the ashes and scattered them to the winds. "I love you, Grandpa," I said as I released mine. Then we went to the cemetery, a short distance away, & scattered some more ashes on the graves of Grandpa's parents & grandparents. Mom took the rest back to the funeral home, and when my grandmother died on October 7th, 1999 -- almost a year to the day later -- they were placed inside her casket and buried along with her. Together forever.

At my grandmother's funeral on Oct. 11th, 1999 -- Thanksgiving Monday -- my dad's older sister, my other godmother, told me her husband was not well. He'd been mysteriously losing weight. Four days later, on Friday the 15th, I was at my parents' home and answered the phone when her oldest son, my cousin -- a big, tough city cop less than a year older than me -- called, his voice choked with tears. His dad had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

I returned home the next day, Saturday. On Sunday morning, my dad called, disbelief in his voice. My uncle had died that morning in bed, just two days after his diagnosis. He was 65 years old and had only just retired within the past year. His funeral was held October 20th -- his wife's birthday (!!), AND the same day my mother went into the hospital for a long-planned hysterectomy. Dad took her in, then went to the funeral while my sister stayed with her.

Do you see why October is a month that tends to fill me with dread & melancholy??

Back to 1998: I flew back home on Thursday, and went back to work the following Monday, Oct. 26th. Technically, I knew I was only "entitled" to three bereavement days. I had taken six. I overheard one of the administrative assistants asking my boss how she should "count" my absence. "Just let it go," my boss said. And I never heard about it again. Small mercies.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Article: "A Planet of Pain"

(Although my loss was a stillbirth & not a miscarriage, this rings very, very true. -- L.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/21/health/views/21case.html?ref=health

October 21, 2008
Cases
A Planet of Pain, Where No Words Are Quite Right
By N. WEST MOSS

There are no pink ribbons to wear if you’ve had a miscarriage, no walkathons or T-shirts to encourage awareness and prevention. And to the extent that we have a language to talk about miscarriage, it’s full of airy platitudes: “Don’t worry, I had one once, too,” or “I had two, and then — poof — Davey was born, and he’s graduating from college this week.”

But until you belong to the imaginary club of Mothers Without Children, it is a secret planet of pain, all but invisible to the outside world.

I recently had my third miscarriage in a year. It happened early in the pregnancy, and it was dismissed as no big deal — “chemical pregnancy” seems to be the term of art. Let’s not overreact, no need for hysterics, keep moving. “We’ll treat it as though you’re just getting your period,” as my doctor put it.

But honestly, it is not just like getting your period. Psychologically, of course, it is nothing like it, but physically it is different, too. I had cramps for hours that left my ribs feeling bruised, and then four days later I was back at work and exhausted because I was still bleeding a lot — not an alarming amount, but enough to make me schedule meetings in rooms near bathrooms, and to send me home in the afternoon for a two-hour nap. I wonder how men would cope. All of the pain, mess, furtive tidying-up, shame and soldiering-on seem so fundamentally female to me.

People act as if a miscarriage were a locatable event on a calendar, with a beginning, a middle and an end. But in fact it starts when you feel that first unmistakable twinge that something is totally wrong. It continues through the rough days of sorrow and deep cramps, and then it meanders through every single day of the rest of your whole stupid life. I will probably mourn about this miscarriage in some outwardly unremarkable way until I either have a healthy baby or die.

Talking about miscarriages is so loaded and pitiful and hushed and fraught with meaning about age and usefulness. It feels as though having three miscarriages in a year means I did something wrong, when the reality is that most miscarriages take place for chromosomal reasons out of our control.

Yet a woman who has had a miscarriage has likely asked herself why. “God must not want me to have a kid,” she might think, or “I am too old.” There are moments when you can feel that the miscarriage and the calamities of the world are your own doing and you should have somehow known better.

Maybe we don’t talk about our miscarriages because we don’t want women with children looking at us with pity, or teenagers in their immortality-flushed way thinking, “That’ll never happen to me.” We do not want happy families to whisper, “Thank God that’s not us.” We don’t want to wonder if men are thinking, “If they can’t have kids, then why are they here, anyway?”

I cannot tell you, though, what you should say to women who have had miscarriages. While it can be touching to hear other women’s stories, it can also be irritating: it makes our moment of extraordinary sadness feel ordinary and unremarkable. Why would I want to hear about your miscarriage when I am lying on the floor trying to lift 500 pounds of failure, disappointment and crashing hormones off my chest?

I can tell you that I want people to know. I don’t want it to be a secret or a shadow or something that is endured only alone. I want people to know that I have been through something, that I am tired but optimistic, that I’ve been knocked down but don’t help me up because I can get up myself.

It’s fair, I think, to want witnesses for our suffering. But with the sorrow also comes hope. And after all, we are resilient creatures. A friend of mine said it well in an e-mail message after she heard my news. “I hope you don’t give up,” she wrote. “I want to take a picture of your child one day against the tallest sunflower.”

N. West Moss is a writer in New Jersey.

I got the music in me...

OK, I know I just did a meme, but I found this one at Mrs. X's blog, The Young & the Infertile, and thought it was so cool. Give it a try & let me know if you did -- I would love to see your lists!

Here's what you do:

A.) Go to musicoutfitters.com

B.) Enter the year you graduated from high school in the search function box at the top of the page. The first thing on the list should be a link to the list of the 100 most popular songs of that year.

C.) Cut & paste the list into your blog. Bold the songs you like, strike through the ones you REALLY hate.

Please tell me there's someone out there who graduated before I did. ; ) I graduated in 1979 (yes, I know, I am TOTALLY dating myself here -- I am actually older than Barack Obama, although not by much...!).

Looking over the song list brought back a LOT of memories. A few observations:
  • Really, not a great year musically (!) -- I can see that disco was still huge (& yes, I will admit I loved disco -- remind me to tell you sometime about trying to sneak in to see "Saturday Night Fever" when I was still underage...) -- but from what I remember, the edgier, punk/new wave influence was starting to be felt, not to mention classic rock still ruled in some quarters. I remember loving The Cars' first & second albums around that time, as well as Elvis Costello's first, "My Aim is True," but perhaps that was 1978 or 1980??
  • My musical tastes are all over the board. There's not a whole lot of music I really can't stand (I've even learned to like country), although a lot of the rap/hiphop cr@p that passes for music these days can drive me nuts pretty quickly, and I've never been very big on opera.
  • Not too many songs here that I don't remember hearing -- most of them are pretty familiar.
  • Not a lot of songs that I really love or really hate. There were some that I liked or loved at the time that I've gotten tired of, or don't really think about much anymore. Some of them are almost like wallpaper, if you know what I mean. (I can't remember the last wedding I was at where "YMCA" WASN'T played.) You've heard them so many times, you don't really pay much attention when they come on the radio anymore. But you still sometimes find yourself singing along anyway.
Anyway -- here's my list -- with comments added on some.

1. My Sharona, The Knack -- loved it then, still love it now. It was a such a refreshing blast of power pop, after a decade of mostly easy listening, California rock & then disco. Plus, I am a sucker for anything with a catchy guitar hook & harmonies!

2. Bad Girls, Donna Summer
3. Le Freak, Chic

4. Da Ya Think I'm Sexy, Rod Stewart -- didn't like it then, makes me want to gag now. Especially the video, with Rod in leopard skin tights!!

5. Reunited, Peaches and Herb yawn...

6. I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor -- probably my favourite disco song. It's gotten to be totally ubiquitous, but great message!

7. Hot Stuff, Donna Summer -- whenever I hear this now, I see the guys in "The Full Monty," standing in line for their unemployment cheques, lol.

8. Y.M.C.A., Village People -- I can't say I absolutely HATE it, but the thrill is totally gone, lol.

9. Ring My Bell, Anita Ward
10. Sad Eyes, Robert John -- used to dance to this one at our high school dances.
11. Too Much Heaven, Bee Gees I love a lot of BeeGees songs, but this is not one of them...

12. MacArthur Park, Donna Summer
13. When You're In Love With A Beautiful Woman, Dr. Hook
14. Makin' It, David Naughton

15. Fire, Pointer Sisters -- I got totally sick of this one. Love Bruce's version, though.

16. Tragedy, Bee Gees
17. A Little More Love, Olivia Newton-John

18. Heart Of Glass, Blondie -- it's gotten kind of like wallpaper over the years, but it was pretty cool when it came out. I still have the album.

19. What A Fool Believes, Doobie Brothers -- yawn...

20. Good Times, Chic -- I'd probably take "Le Freak" over this one...

21. You Don't Bring Me Flowers, Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond
22. Knock On Wood, Amii Stewart

23. Stumblin' In, Suzi Quatro and Chris Norman -- got a little sick of this one too, but their raspy voices were a great match. Whatever happened to Suzi Quatro?? (aka "Leather Tuscadero," lol)

24. Lead Me On, Maxine Nightingale
25. Shake Your Body, Jacksons

26. Don't Cry Out Loud, Melissa Manchester -- not one I loved, but I heard it recently as we were driving to the cemetery, & I almost started bawling over the lyrics: "Don't cry out loud... just keep it inside and learn how to hide your feelings... Fly high and proud, And if you should fall, remember you almost had it all." A little too close to home...

27. The Logical Song, Supertramp -- another one that's gotten to be like wallpaper, but I loved Supertramp, & I loved this album. It was HUGE just as I was graduating in May/June 1979.

28. My Life, Billy Joel -- not one of my favourite songs of his, but I was & still am a fan.

29. Just When I Needed You Most, Randy Vanwarmer
30. You Can't Change That, Raydio
31. Shake Your Groove Thing, Peaches and Herb
32. I'll Never Love This Way Again, Dionne Warwick
33. Love You Inside Out, Bee Gees

34. I Want You To Want Me, Cheap Trick -- loved the guitars in this. I had several of their albums & saw them several times in concert. Always a lot of fun.

35. The Main Event (Fight), Barbra Streisand
36. Mama Can't Buy You Love, Elton John
37. I Was Made For Dancin', Leif Garrett
38. After The Love Has Gone, Earth, Wind and Fire
39. Heaven Knows, Donna Summer and Brooklyn Dreams
40. The Gambler, Kenny Rogers
41. Lotta Love, Nicolette Larson
42. Lady, Little River Band
43. Heaven Must Have Sent You, Bonnie Pointer

44. Hold The Line, Toto -- another one that's almost too familiar, but this was a huge album at the time (& yes, I have it in my collection)

45. He's The Greatest Dancer, Sister Sledge
46. Sharing The Night Together, Dr. Hook
47. She Believes In Me, Kenny Rogers
48. In The Navy, Village People

49. Music Box Dancer, Frank Mills -- way, way, way overplayed! Plus my mother liked him & used to play a tape of his over & over &...

50. The Devil Went Down To Georgia, Charlie Daniels Band
51. Gold, John Stewart
52. Goodnight Tonight, Wings

53. We Are Family, Sister Sledge -- another one that's become like wallpaper over the years, but still kinda catchy, & I always liked the sisterhood thing. : )

54. Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy, Bad Company
55. Every 1's A Winner, Hot Chocolate
56. Take Me Home, Cher
57. Boogie Wonderland, Earth, Wind and Fire

58. (Our Love) Don't Throw It All Away, Andy Gibb -- ah, Andy! This is not one of my favourite songs of his, but my friends & I were huge fans. One of my girlfriends went to a concert he played (he was the opening act for, get this, Neil Sedaka!!) & then chased him down at his hotel. I still have a photo of her with him beside the pool. What a tragic waste of talent. :(

59. What You Won't Do For Love, Bobby Caldwell
60. New York Groove, Ace Frehley

61. Sultans Of Swing, Dire Straits -- love the guitars in this. I'm told that stereo salespeople used to play this song when demonstrating the sound on their stereos, because it just sounded so damned good.

62. I Want Your Love, Chic
63. Chuck E's In Love, Rickie Lee Jones
64. I Love The Night Life, Alicia Bridges
65. Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now, McFadden and Whitehead
66. Lonesome Loser, Little River Band

67. Renegade, Styx -- not a favourite Styx song, but I always loved their harmonies. Dh & I stayed up late one night a couple of years ago watching a Styx reunion concert on PBS. I was amazed that I could still sing along with all the songs.

68. Love Is The Answer, England Dan and John Ford Coley
69. Got To Be Real, Cheryl Lynn

70. Born To Be Alive, Patrick Hernandez -- one I got thoroughly sick of

71. Shine A Little Love, Electric Light Orchestra
72. I Just Fall In Love Again, Anne Murray
73. Shake It, Ian Matthews
74. I Was Made For Lovin' You, Kiss

75. I Just Wanna Stop, Gino Vannelli -- another one that's been overplayed (especially here in Canada), but I do love how he sings that opening line: "When I think about those nights in Montreal..."

76. Disco Nights, G.Q.

77. Ooh Baby Baby, Linda Ronstadt -- there are other songs of hers I like better, but this does show off her voice nicely. I always loved Linda Ronstadt, in all of her incarnations (country, rock, standards, Mexican folk songs). At university, I sometimes used to put one of her albums on before I went to bed, & lay listening to it in the dark.

78. September, Earth, Wind and Fire
79. Time Passages, Al Stewart
80. Rise, Herb Alpert
81. Don't Bring Me Down, Electric Light Orchestra
82. Promises, Eric Clapton
83. Get Used To It, Roger Voudouris
84. How Much I Feel, Ambrosia
85. Suspicions, Eddie Rabbitt

86. You Take My Breath Away, Rex Smith -- my sister had this album, & we loved the TV movie he was in, although I forget its name now (anyone??) -- he was the older guitar teacher, with a teenaged pupil who had a crush on him & tried to pass as older than she was. I remember slow dancing with a guy I really liked to this song in first year university. It all seemed incredibly romantic.

87. How You Gonna See Me Now, Alice Cooper
88. Double Vision, Foreigner
89. Every Time I Think Of You, Babys
90. I Got My Mind Made Up, Instant Funk

91. Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough, Michael Jackson -- I remember seeing Robin Cousins skating to this in an exhibition after the 1980 Olympics. Skating was still pretty stodgy back then & I don't think I'd ever seen anyone skate to anything so contemporary. I was wowed. This was Michael Jackson at his best, I think.

92. Bad Case Of Lovin' You, Robert Palmer
93. Somewhere In The Night, Barry Manilow
94. We've Got Tonite, Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band

95. Dance The Night Away, Van Halen -- again, love the guitars & harmonies. I saw Van Halen in the early 1980s when I was in university. Eddie was a sight to behold back then. Oh yeah, & he played pretty good guitar too. ; )

96. Dancing Shoes, Nigel Olsson
97. The Boss, Diana Ross
98. Sail On, Commodores
99. I Do Love You, G.Q.
100. Strange Way, Firefall

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tagged!


By AMS of Our Own Creation (thank you!).
The way this works: I answer the following questions with single word responses, and pass the award on to 7 (yikes! -- this won't take long to get around the blogosphere...!) other bloggers.

1. Where is your cell phone? Purse
2. Where is your significant other? Downstairs
3. Your hair color? Brown
4. Your mother? Whirlwind
5. Your father? Steady
6. Your favorite thing? Dh : )
7. Your dream last night? Bizarre
8. Your dream/goal? Retirement! : )
9. The room you’re in? Office
10. Your hobby? scrapbooking
11. Your fear? loss
12. Where do you want to be in six years? home
13. Where were you last night? yogalates
14. What you’re not? workaholic ; )
15. One of your wish list items? travel
16. Where you grew up? Manitoba
17. The last thing you did? dinner
18. What are you wearing? nightgown
19. Your T.V.? comedies
20. Your pet? none
21. Your computer? friend : )
22. Your mood? tired
23. Missing someone? daughter
24. Your car? Toyota
25. Something you’re not wearing? underwear (!) (I AM in my nightgown!)
26. Favorite store? Chapters
27. Your Summer? rainy
28. Love someone? muchly : )
29. Your favorite color? blue
30. When is the last time you laughed? tonight
31. Last time you cried? Saturday

And now I'm tagging (and hoping they haven't already been tagged):
Deathstar at A Woman My Age
EllenK at Miss E's Musings (so long as she's not busy having the twins...!)
Irish Girl at Plan B: Family of Two
Have fun!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Show & Tell: My celluloid guilty pleasure


This is going to totally date me, & I realize I sound like my own grandmother in this first paragraph...) I spent three years in the mid to late 1960s, kindergarten through the end of Grade 2, living in a small town in northern Saskatchewan. Back then, my sister & I got 50 cents a week in allowance money. We would often spend it at the local movie theatre, at the Saturday matinee. Admission was 35 cents and a bag of popcorn was 10 cents. We would often walk there & back by ourselves (as did all of our friends -- it was a different time & place…). We saw just about every Disney movie made during that time (animated & non), umpteen Elvis movies (such as "Speedway" with Nancy Sinatra and "Change of Habit" with Mary Tyler Moore), and…


...just about all of the Beach Party movies, with Frankie Avalon & Annette Funicello.

I watched the original "Beach Party" a few Sunday afternoons ago, for the umpteenth time, which got me thinking about this post. Viewed today, I realize the movies are low-budget, formulaic, dated and sexist, with inspid jokes and silly songs.

And yet -- I still love them (much to dh's bemusement) -- perhaps because they remind me of those more innocent childhood days. Eric Von Zipper, the Brando wannabe & his inept gang of sidekicks… Annette's well-covered belly button… Frankie & Deedee (Annette), fighting and making up and fighting and making up again… dear dumb Deadhead, falling in love with a mermaid in "Beach Blanket Bingo"... Frankie not only playing Frankie, but the dual role of British pop star "The Potato Bug" (!!) in "Bikini Beach" (around the time the Beatles were hitting the bigtime)... Linda Evans, pre-"Dynasty," as the vapid pop singer Sugar Kane (!!)... music by Dick Dale & The DelTones, and a very young Stevie Wonder... and of course, go-go dancer Candy Johnston, shaking her groove thang, in bare feet and a fringed dress, over the closing credits. What's not to remember fondly?

I asked for -- and got -- a boxed set of all the Frankie & Annette movies for Christmas last year.

What is your own guilty screen pleasure(s)?
For a list of other bloggers taking part in Show & Tell this week, click here.

P.S. Bathroom reno pics still to come... would you believe the towel bar pulled out the wall before I could take the "after" photos? StepBIL has promised to come over to fix it this week...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I'm baaaaccckkkk....

... and madly trying to catch up on the almost 600 (!) posts on my Google Reader that have accumulated over the past week-plus. Between the renovation, work and my mother's visit, I feel like I'm quite of sync with the blogosphere these past several weeks. I've missed blogging about Canadian Thanksgiving, Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day, the anniversaries of my grandparents' deaths, politics & elections (Canadian & American). Sigh.

I had a pretty good visit with my mom. I always start the week with such high expectations & umpteen plans for things we can do... which somehow never quite get fulfilled. Nevertheless, we spent time together & that's the main thing. And the weather was mostly goregous. : ) We did go to see "Jersey Boys" on (Canadian) Thanksgiving Sunday, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We went to the mall more than once, & strolled along the waterfront here. And we went to the cemetery last Sunday. Mom picked up a plastic Halloween pumpkin at the drugstore for Katie -- her one & only grandchild (guilt, guilt). :( Apparently it will light up, although the batteries weren't working. : )

In the meantime, I was pleasantly surprised to log on here & find a flood of comments from the lovely ladies at SITS. Not quite sure how you found me, but so glad to see pregnancy & infant loss being recognized in the broader blogosphere.

Coming up: return to work on Monday (boo, hiss...), escalating year-end madness, Halloween.... and my blogoversary!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Belated Show & Tell: Walk to Remember

I'm still here... & I have at least half a dozen posts half written, both in my drafts folder and in my head (not to mention 165 posts piled up in my Google Reader from over the weekend…!), but no time to write them. I've been composing this one in snatches from the office when I should be focusing on letters to shareholders.

I feel like my life has been running away on me these last few weeks. Work has been nuts (market turmoil adding to the usual year-end rush for both me & dh); I've been cleaning & reorganizing the bathroom, now that the reno is pretty much complete (future show & tell to come!)… and my mother is coming on Friday night for a week, sending me into a housecleaning panic!!

The support group dh & I volunteer with had its Walk to Remember on Sunday afternoon at Mount Pleasant, one of the city's largest & prettiest old cemeteries -- so large that there is actually a major city street that runs right through the middle of it. When dh & I were first married, we lived in a New York-style brownstone apartment building just around the corner from one of the main entrances to the cemetery. We loved to walk around there, especially in the fall, with the autumn colours at their most magnificent, admiring the beautiful old monuments. Some of Toronto's richest old families -- the Masseys, the Eatons, the Westons -- are buried in huge mausoleums there, some that are as big as some houses.



During these strolls, I was always on the lookout for tombstones that bore my own family names, joking that you never know, they could be relatives. One large white monument in particular captured my attention, & I jotted down the names & dates on it, "just in case." Believe it or not, last year I made contact with a distant cousin, and through her, I learned that the people buried there ARE, in fact, distant relatives. One of them -- a three-year-old girl named Florence, who died during a family trip from Minnesota to Toronto just after the turn of the last century -- was actually my grandfather's first cousin. And here I was, some 80+ years later, unknowingly living right around the corner from where she was buried. I wished my grandfather was still here to be able to tell him.

The memorial for the Empress of Ireland was/is almost directly behind our building. The Empress of Ireland was a ship that collided with another ship in the St. Lawrence River on May 29, 1914, and sank in just 14 minutes. 1,012 people died, including 167 members of the Salvation Army, en route to England for a conference. Each year, the Sally Ann holds a memorial service at the monument on the Sunday closest to May 29th. We would hear the band playing "Abide With Me" through the open window as we lazed guiltily in bed.

But, I digress…!

The Walk to Remember begins at the cemetery office. From there, it's about a 10-minute stroll over to the Children's Garden. The Children's Garden was created in 1990 by a woman named Mary Smith, whose son died shortly after birth some 40+ years ago.





At that time, of course, it was common practice for dead & dying babies to be whisked away, unseen by the parents, & buried together in common, unmarked plots. Mary wanted to know what had happened to her child, and after many years of searching, she determined that he had been buried in such a plot in Mount Pleasant, along the side of one of the roads that winds through the cemetery. My understanding of the story is that she wanted to have him re-buried in a family plot, but learned she would have to locate and get permission from the families of every other child buried there with him (!).

So she did the next best thing, and created the Children's Garden as a memorial to her son & all the other anonymous children buried at Mount Pleasant over the years. The garden has been designed so that something is blooming there year round. There is also a charming bronze statue among the plants called "First Flight," showing a young girl and her brother playing leapfrog. This year, I noticed several small toys and stuffed animals had been placed at its base.



Mary attends the Walk to Remember just about every year, and the sculptor, Juliet Jansco of Dundas, Ontario, was also there this year.

Once everyone has arrived at the Children's Garden, parents are invited to come to the microphone, say their child's name and significant date(s), and read a poem, if they like, original or otherwise. This year, a woman who looked to be in her 60s stepped bravely to the microphone and told her story in a halting voice. She lost her baby 38 years ago (!!), and only just recently found out where her child was buried. She read a poem she had written after visiting the site, and when she ended it "Love, Mommy," everyone around me was in tears (myself included).

Following the brief memorial ceremony, there is a dove release (children -- brothers & sisters of the babies we are remembering -- are generally asked to open the baskets to release the doves), and then refreshments. Everyone receives a takeaway. Some years it's been a small plant, other years we've received seeds. This year, we each received a white carnation. I took mine to the cemetery & left it at Katie's niche.



On the way back to the car, dh & I stopped at a very unique monument, pointed out to us by a cemetery tour guide at one of the first Walks to Remember we attended. (The tour is no longer a part of the annual walk.) It's completely surrounded by tall cedar shrubs and is barely visible from the road. It is a unique monument, a tall, Zen-like pyramid, balanced on top of a base of three orbs, and made of metal, marble/granite? and etched glass.

It was erected by the drummer of a very well-known, Toronto-based Canadian classic rock band, in memory of his 19-year-old daughter, who died tragically in a car accident in 1997, and his wife, who died less than a year later -- ostensibly of cancer but also, he believes, of a broken heart. He wrote about his losses and the year-long cross-continent motorcycle road trip he took afterwards in a book (yet another volume in my huge "to read" pile…). I'm not naming names here, but I believe it should be easy to figure out, if you're curious.

On each of two sides of the monument, the women's names, birth and death dates are inscribed on the metal panel, and their images are etched in the glass above. The third side of the monument is blank, although the drummer's image gazes out above it in etched glass. It is, I assume, reserved for him, although he has since remarried. Under his daughter's name & dates are inscribed some lines from the poem "After the Funeral" by W.H. Auden, memorably recited by the actor John Hannah in the movie "Four Weddings and a Funeral." The last few line of the poem, included on the monument, are:

"The stars are not wanted now, put out every one.
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour out the ocean and sweep up the wood,
For nothing now can ever come to any good."

It is a very private little space -- a sanctuary from the busy world outside the cemetery gates, and a little world unto itself, even in the middle of a vast urban cemetery. I almost feel as though I am intruding when I step through the narrow opening in the tall cedars & gaze on the monument. I once took a photo of it but found myself regretting that I had as soon as I did. (The space is so small that it's almost hard to fit the entire height of the monument into my camera's lens.) And I feel a little funny writing about it here in my blog, even with the names removed. The band's fans are notoriously fanatic, and I have no wish to draw unwelcome attention to the spot -- and yet it is a place that touches me deeply, as a bereaved parent.

I wonder how often he comes to visit.