Friday, November 1, 2019

celebrating loss, celebrating love

for awhile now, it's been guaranteed that i'll at least post here twice a year: around Mother's Day, and on October 15th, National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, also known in our home as Tummymuffin Day.  this year... October 15th came and went.  no post.  what happened?
what happened, i am astounded to admit to you, is that i... forgot.  yeah. i forgot Tummymuffin Day.  the feeling in my body when i realized this was first a hollow feeling of disbelief, and then a wash of hot shame and regret, like i'd somehow betrayed my family and all of you.  i questioned my priorities, my time management, my authenticity.  as i calmed down, and forced myself to mindfully consider, i had an insight: i'd forgotten the date. i had NOT forgotten the Day -- in other words, i had not forgotten what makes October 15th usually so important, simply because i cannot.  the loss of my other children is always there, and it makes itself known in wildly different ways.  
recently, i was asked in front of a group of people that well-meaning, but ultimately complex question, "So is he your only one?"  i gave my usual response, "Yes, and i didn't think i would even have one; i lost three before and one after him!" i've said this many times, but for some reason, as the questioner said "Oh, I'm so sorry!", i felt a glow of compassion and freedom for my four other Tummymuffins; there was a joy in knowing that will always be mine right alongside the sadness that i will never know them as i do my living son.  my heart felt peaceful.
however, only a few days before the 15th, i overheard a woman mention a long road of infertility, and when i looked over, i saw her face was frozen in an all-too-familiar rictus mask of 'being strong' -- the too-wide smile, the too-bright eyes.  the other person said "Well, at least you and your husband are having fun trying!" and it suddenly felt like the world around me went into horrible slow motion; i literally had to put my head between my knees to clear the roaring in my ears. i quietly sobbed into my jeans, bewildered by the absolute tidal wave of emotion.  i felt like i was leaking for at least another hour; every time i thought i'd "gotten over it" i would cry again.  the inner turmoil didn't subside until i recognized that the cracks in my heart are actually shared ravines with so many other women, and that maybe by tumbling in, i was sharing in a communal experience of that pain.

i live in a city that enthusiastically celebrates today and tomorrow as Dia de los Muertos, otherwise known as the Day of the Dead.  (for a long time, most people outside of Mexico or communities with a Mexican-American population had never heard of it, but then Pixar gave us the beautiful film Coco.) yes, the whole point of the two-day event is death, but it is an exuberant explosion of joy, love, respect, and community.  families remember loved ones who have died not with sorrowful mourning, but with grateful happiness that their lives intersected.  in fact, it is customary when sharing memories of the deceased, to purposefully pick the funniest, most entertaining memories possible.  there is singing, dancing, and of course eating...it's a party, and the spirits/memories/souls (you pick) of the departed join.  it is not twisted glorification of darkness or spookiness, nor is it a romanticized view of death.  it is the acknowledgment of the human cycle of experience, and it is an honoring of who we are as humans who love and who lose those we love.

so even though i did not light my candles for each Tummymuffin on the 15th, i will light them tonight, celebrating the existence of their little brief lives with joy even as i honor the cracks in my heart that need no mending, for they are forever part of me.

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