Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dreaded Questions

This morning before my sculling class began, the other students and I were talking about how hard it was to get up and exercise at 6:15AM. One of the women in my class asked if I just go straight to work afterwards. I have thought a lot about Hudson-related questions I don’t know how to answer, but I had not thought about this question. I was not prepared to answer that I am on a leave of absence from my job because my daughter died six weeks ago and I am barely keeping my head above water. So I fumbled. And then I lied. I just said, “Yes,” even though the truth is that I go straight home and, at least a few days this week, spend half the day crying and the other half having no idea what to do.

The question I have been dreading is “Do you have children?” In the last several weeks, Ed and I have had occasion to chat with several strangers, on Ocracoke, at Tilghman Island, at yoga, and now in my rowing class. Each time, I have spent entire conversations hoping no one will ask and trying to figure out what the hell I will say if they do.

I have a daughter. Her name is Hudson. She was beautiful, smart, funny, loving, mischievous, adventuresome, and precious in every way. And she died. When she was only 17 months old. To deny any of that in any way seems like a betrayal, of both her and myself.

But I know there will be moments when I won’t be able to, or won’t want to, deal with my own emotions after telling a perfect stranger this incredibly intimate fact. And times when I don’t want to deal with that stranger’s reaction to it, either.

And I also have no idea what I would want to tell a stranger about Hudson even if I decide, in an instant, that I want to say anything at all. I don’t know where she “is” now, if she “is” anywhere other than just in all of our hearts. And I can’t say that I have two children, one living (or some other combination of this), because I have no other children. And I can’t just say, “I have a daughter,” because that will inevitably provoke a number of follow-up questions that I don’t want to answer, either.  Part of me will want to tell the person every single cherished detail about my girl, and part of me won't want to say anything at all. 

So I will keep anxiously anticipating these questions, at least until the first time someone actually asks, and I have to decide on the spot what to say. This is only the beginning of a lifelong process of figuring out how to keep Hudson in our lives without being haunted by her death. It is not a process I welcome, but it is one I face nonetheless. And with no small amount of dread.


  1. I Love You! Renee

  2. I'm sorry you have having a rough string of days Mandy. I wish there was something I could do to take away this pain :( I cannot imagine facing those dreaded questions, but one day, you will be able to answer those questions with Hudson in your heart, giving you the strength to do so.

  3. One Good Thing we've all seen after Hudson's death is that there's a lot of compassion in the world. Sharing can help, but you should only share what you feel comfortable sharing. Ms. Barbara asked after you and Ed yesterday. She's thinking about you a lot, as are Kate and me.

  4. Dearest Mandy, My heart continues to break with each of your posts. you are so eloquent, and so honest. We love you.
    I have a neighbor who lost a child. I wasn't aware of that when I stupidly asked the question, "how many children do you have?" She answered, so perfectly, "we have three, two on earth, one in heaven." Enough said.

  5. Thank you, Lillian, for sharing that experience. Tough, tough stuff, Mandy. Your writing is so well-thought and therapeutic, for me as well. Sending you hugs and love.

  6. Hi Mandy, I am a friend of Andrea's. She shared your blog with me. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost a daughter, too. I don't have many memories with her because she died at birth, but I definitely understand and know the pain you're feeling. Blogging has been my greatest therapy and I have met a lot of other wonderful women who have lost young children. You write beautifully. What a wonderful way to honor Hudson. Big hugs to you.

  7. Be blessed in your healing Mandy (and family).

    Mandy, you do NOT have to answer any questions for anyone.

    Sometimes it's okay (and necessary) to smile and nod, smile and keep walking, or any other thing that makes YOU feel okay about getting through the next second/minute/hour/day.

    Sending love and positive energy your way!

  8. Hello Mandy--I came to your blog through a link on a mutual friend's FB page. My heart absolutely breaks for you and your family. I really don't know what words I can possibly say to bring you any comfort. But I'm reading your powerful story, and, although we don't know each other, you're in my thoughts. Hope and healing to you from a stranger far away. (And I love that you would tell Hudson not to go to Dook. That's awesome.)

  9. You're one brave woman. Thanks for sharing your endless love for Hudson, Ed, and anyone that surrounds you.

  10. There are no words to say and there are many. I lost my son recently and I want all to know what a great person he was. You never heal but sharing helps to endure. I want all to know how my heart bleeds for him. Only the mothers can know the heighth, the depth, the pain, the joy of having and extreme love and loss. Much Love to You, I Hold You Near.


  11. Jennifer Daniels sent me a link to your blog. Please keep writing. I hope this is working as an outlet/therapy/whatever you need. Your writing is clear and poignant. My heart breaks for you, and I wish I could do more than read your words and offer my own. If I can ever do anything for you, please let me know. I think about Hudson (and you and Ed)a lot. I keep the progam from her memorial service on my desk - a reminder of everything dear and fragile. Know that people are reading and remembering your amazing girl.

    If you can stand to read about other mamas grieving, and all the places life takes you, Katie Granju at is an excellent writer who just lost her 18-year old son, and welcomed a new daughter.

    Cry. Grieve. Love. Take care.

  12. Ive cried for hours this evening reading your last two posts. I convinced myself briefly that if I cried enough, you and Ed would have a reprieve. If only all of us could ease your pain this way, I know we would.

    Your dreaded questions post reminded me of a secret that I've never shared. I share it with you now in the h...opes that it will ease your fears of the right answer to future dreaded questions. For years, when people would ask me what my dad did for a living or where he was, I would lie. I couldn't then and still often cant say he had died without crying. I couldn't stand how uncomfortable it made others. I couldn't stand saying he was gone.

    This I know, there is no right answer, there's only your answer at that moment. And you will answer these questions the best you can and that will be enough.

    I love you so much.

  13. We are Seven by William Wordsworth:

    -A Simple Child,
    That lightly draws its breath,
    And feels its life in every limb,
    What should it know of death?

    I met a little cottage Girl:
    She was eight years old, she said;
    Her hair was thick with many a curl
    That clustered round her head.

    She had a rustic, woodland air,
    And she was wildly clad:
    Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
    --Her beauty made me glad.

    "Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
    How many may you be?"
    "How many? Seven in all," she said
    And wondering looked at me.

    "And where are they? I pray you tell."
    She answered, "Seven are we;
    And two of us at Conway dwell,
    And two are gone to sea.

    "Two of us in the church-yard lie,
    My sister and my brother;
    And, in the church-yard cottage, I
    Dwell near them with my mother."

    "You say that two at Conway dwell,
    And two are gone to sea,
    Yet ye are seven!--I pray you tell,
    Sweet Maid, how this may be."

    Then did the little Maid reply,
    "Seven boys and girls are we;
    Two of us in the church-yard lie,
    Beneath the church-yard tree."

    "You run above, my little Maid,
    Your limbs they are alive;
    If two are in the church-yard laid,
    Then ye are only five."

    "Their graves are green, they may be seen,"
    The little Maid replied,
    "Twelve steps or more from my mother's door,
    And they are side by side.

    "My stockings there I often knit,
    My kerchief there I hem;
    And there upon the ground I sit,
    And sing a song to them.

    "And often after sun-set, Sir,
    When it is light and fair,
    I take my little porringer,
    And eat my supper there.

    "The first that died was sister Jane;
    In bed she moaning lay,
    Till God released her of her pain;
    And then she went away.

    "So in the church-yard she was laid;
    And, when the grass was dry,
    Together round her grave we played,
    My brother John and I.

    "And when the ground was white with snow,
    And I could run and slide,
    My brother John was forced to go,
    And he lies by her side."

    "How many are you, then," said I,
    "If they two are in heaven?"
    Quick was the little Maid's reply,
    "O Master! we are seven."

    "But they are dead; those two are dead!
    Their spirits are in heaven!"
    'Twas throwing words away; for still
    The little Maid would have her will,
    And said, "Nay, we are seven!"