Every year, 26,000 babies are stillborn in America. In 2003, one of them was my son.

Friday, June 5, 2009

What Will Matter in the End

I was at a women's retreat a few months ago, enjoying a lovely weekend close to home (no overnight, unfortunately, but that's ok) with good people, doing fun and insightful things. One of the retreat leaders recommended a book by Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow.

Now, I've been through some difficult times, so I was intrigued by what this woman might have to say to a deadbabymama like me. Could she really have any insight into what life's truly shitty stuff does to a person? Could she have any clue how to go on living your life after you've lost the best thing in the world? (Do you detect cynicism on my part? Hmm.)

I was a bit afraid the book would be very touchy-feely, New Age flaky. Not so. After reserving the book from the library and enduring a long wait for it, I brought it home, read it, and went out and bought a copy. I want to read it again, and I also want to share pieces of it with you. I know this book isn't for everyone, and it's certainly not geared to deadbabymamas, it's simply geared to anyone who has lost and wants to go on after, to learn what they can and maybe even (and I hesitate to write this, but I can't think of another way to phrase it) be better for it.

In one passage, she writes about Sept. 11, and gathering with friends for a dinner shortly after. Everyone at the table was full of different emotions and thoughts about America, war, and terrorism, arguing about then-President Bush and politics. Trying to find compassion for the world, no matter politics or religion, Elizabeth sits at the table crying, as their waitress comes over to tell them that she worked in the World Trade Center, and lost 50 friends that day. "The only thing you should be talking about tonight is how precious your life is," she tells them. "How lucky you are to be alive."

Later, driving home, Elizabeth writes, "I found my thoughts returning to the people on the airplanes, and to that moment when they realized they were speeding through space toward their death. I let my grip on life loosen, until I was with those people, sharing the awe, finally understanding the secret--the same secret we will all know when death is just a breath away: In the end, what will matter is how much we loved--our children, our mates, our families, our friends, everyone we know, everyone who traveled with us during our brief visit to this unbearably lovely place. What will matter is the good we did, not the good we expected others to do."

I'm trying to absorb those words in my days of fear: fear of my own death, fear of my children or husband dying, fear of some catastrophe. I fear so much, and at times it keeps me from truly living my life. And life is too short to let it be ruled by fear. So today, right now, I will love what I have, love this life.

And every day, I will keep waking up, opening up my arms to embrace whatever lies before me, and love.


Monica H said...

i often wonder what we could/would do if we didn't fear.

Rebekah said...

I often wonder how I'm supposed to grow & live & love after the loss of my son but I do want to grow and use my pain for good in some way. I've become bolder in discussing my faith (though I try not to be pushy) and I try to be better about reaching out to others in pain. I'm seeing that the greatest of these truly is love. Thanks for the book recommendation!

Katey Coffing, Ph.D. said...

This was beautiful, Ginny. Thank you for the post and the amazing food for thought.

Debbie said...

Thank you for posting this, Virginia. I've not read the book, but this post is just what I needed tonight. <3

Debbie said...

I tagged you in a meme, friend. <3

Laura said...

Ah- so well said- I stumbled upon your blog- one of the stillbirths in 2003 was also my son, Andrew. Thank you for the food for thought!