Friday, January 28, 2011

In Between

I’m still here. Thank you if you are still here, too.

I am living in these bizarre in-between worlds right now.

There is the in-between world of having so much to say but no way to express it. It is times like these when I wish I had far greater command of metaphor, because literal expression has been failing me lately. I think of this verse from Sarah MacLachlan’s I Will Remember You (see? I have to use someone else’s words just to be able to adequately describe how I don’t have the right words):

I’m so tired, but I can’t sleep
Standing on the edge of something much too deep
It’s funny how we feel so much but we cannot say a word
We are screaming inside but we can’t be heard

There is the in-between world of being a mother but having no child in my arms. I will always be Hudson’s mother and she will always be my child, but all I have left to care for and nurture is her memory and her spirit (a huge and important task, to be sure, but so very different from changing diapers and giving baths and reading stories and snuzzling). I am already Jackson’s mother, but as long as he is in my belly, my mother-role is in an odd state of limbo. I am caring for him and nurturing him and yet he is still so remote and unreal, in some ways still just a possibility, not a definite.

There is the in-between world of living every day with my sorrow and grief and yet trying desperately to begin preparing for a time, very soon, where that sorrow and grief will join hands with new hope and joy. I still have no sense of what such a life looks like. All I can do is hope that when it is upon me, I will know how to live it.

And more than anything, there is the in-between world of complete disbelief and slowly dawning acceptance. Every day, sometimes several times during a day, I fluctuate between these two states of being. On Tuesday, I turned 35. Hudson will never even turn 2. I still can’t comprehend how that can be. That day, I wrote the following in an email to Jessica:

I’ve been having a renewed wave of utter disbelief that this happened and that Hudson is really goneagain, I look at her pictures and remember our life with her and it just seems totally impossible that it is all over, never to return again. How can she just have vanished off the face of the earth? . . . It’s so hard for me to imagine that we have really lived without her for eight and a half months already. It really still seems like it was yesterday that we were busting into her room first thing in the morning with Bess, and she’d lift her head up off the mattress, see us and grin, and we’d start our day together. I picture her in so many different places around the house and in the car and its still just so hard to fathom that she will never be in those places again.

I try to imagine our lives in 30 years, sitting around with our grown children, having a glass of wine. I try to imagine how Hudson fits into that picture, that life. I try to imagine my adult children thinking about their older sister who will never be older than a toddler. And I just can’t believe that this is my life now, this is my family’s life. Living forever with one missing.

And yet, on Wednesday, that feeling of disbelief had subsided some. I found myself thinking (as I do occasionally), “OK. This is real. She is gone. And I just have to move forward.” Whenever this happens, I am reminded of a passage from C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed:

There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to assure me that I don’t really mind so much, not so very much, after all. Love is not the whole of a man’s life. I was happy before I ever met H. I’ve plenty of what are called “resources.” People get over these things. Come, I shan’t do so badly. One is ashamed to listen to this voice but it seems for a little to be making out a good case. Then comes a sudden jab of red-hot memory and all this “commonsense” vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace. . .

And then I’m right back to the disbelief.

I’m still here. Just living in between.


  1. I think the in-between is right where you belong right now. And you're feeling it all, facing everything with all of your many memories in tow - the happy and the sad. One day at a time. You've grown so much; that's evident from reading all of your posts, which so many of us do on a daily basis. You're seeing and feeling and doing and believing in ways and about things that you never thought you would have to deal with. And though your smile might feel a little different when it finds it way to your face, it's still yours and you wear it well (I'm certain even though I haven't seen you in so long).

    Thank you for sharing the journey. Although my heart aches and breaks time and again when I read certain posts or think about you and Ed and your Hudson, I am excited for what's to come for you guys.

  2. Dear Mandy,

    I think of this quote often when I read your posts...

    “When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take the step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for us to stand on or we will be taught to fly.” Patrick Overton

    You are walking the unknown. And, you, amazing woman, are both finding (and creating) solid things to stand on AND learning to fly.

    In between is so hard. Just continuing to acknowledge and own the pain and the challenge is part of the journey.

    And, when other's words speak to you... you are finding the 'right' words. They can become yours and help you navigate and sense-make...

    Thinking of you, as always,

  3. Still here, Mandy. Still thinking of you all the time. I wish I had known that the auction was last night. . . somehow it slipped under my radar. I would have loved to have seen you. I hope you are having a good trip, and safe travels home.

  4. We're still here, Mandy. For you; for Hudson; for Ed, Jackson, and future children; for all that is coming in the weeks, months, and years ahead. The joy, the sorrow, the remembering, the grief, the confusion, the questioning. No matter where you are in your journey, we'll be here.

    Sending you lots of love.

  5. You know, just the other day on FB, I had two friends post a picture of their brother's tombstone and wish him a happy birthday. I grew up with these girls, and I never even knew they had a brother, but it turns out he was their parent's first child and he was stillborn. It was very poignant to me that almost 34 years later, these adult children were remembering a brother they never knew, and mourning him and celebrating him but also validating the fact that he did EXIST. I feel like that is the biggest fear of a parent who loses a child, that others will move on as they are apt to do and forget that child ever existed. I know that will not happen with Hudson. It's not hard for me to picture your family, 30 years from now, going through her pictures and videos and remembering her for the funny and spunky little girl she was, and even though Jackson and any other siblings never got to meet her, they will feel like they did, just as all of us feel like we know Hudson. And I know it's not the same as having her here with you, ohhhhh not even close, but at the same time it's a powerful thing to know that she is a part of your family forever. Thinking of you today, hoping you had a good birthday. xoxox

  6. Still here, too, Mandy. I've been having a "renewed wave of utter disbelief" myself lately. I just don't think I'll ever understand it. You do a beautiful job of keeping her spirit alive for all of us. Thank you.

  7. Mandy -- My daughter shared this quote with me from C.S. Lewis and I've thought of you when she and I have talked about it: “I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process. It needs not a map but a history…there is something new to be chronicled every day. Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape…not every bend does. Sometimes the surprise is the opposite one; you are presented with exactly the same sort of country you thought you had left behind miles ago. That is when you wonder whether the valley isn’t a circular trench. But it isn’t. There are partial recurrences, but the sequence doesn’t repeat.” My daughter, my sister and I noticed when we were at the cemetary at Robbie's funeral that the gravesite next to my dad and Robbie's was totally decorated for Christmas (Robbie's funeral was a week before Christmas). We were looking at the teddy bears and ornaments and we noticed the date on the gravestone -- the little girl, her name was Gabriella, had died when she was 11 months old in 1960. The three of us were silent and then my sister commented to my daughter that it's obvious that families do not 'get over' the death of their we were 50 years later and family members were making sure that Gabriella's grave was decorated for Christmas. As we walked around the section of this very large cemetary reserved for children, we continued to notice that 50+ years later, the child is remembered with love. (((hugs))) Mariann

  8. Still here Mandy, bearing witness to this burden of grief and memory of joy in Hudson. With this snow fluttering everywhere, I have found myself feeling the raw sadness, wishing so much this existence for you, Ed and all of us, didn't exist at all. Renee P.

  9. So much of our culture highlights the extremes, the definites, and black-and-whites. I've always felt my life was a tableau of the in-betweeens, and for a long time, I felt outside of everything real. Then I realized that maybe I was real and the other wasn't.

    I wonder if your in-betweeness is the most honest: a mother of two independent souls; caretaker and provider but never owning. This element of parenting, being responsible but having to eventually let go of another soul has always seemed the hardest to truly understand from afar.

    What I appreciate about how you describe it is that you don't try to make it what its not. It is heartwrenching; it is the greatest love; it is full commitment and it is ultimate release. And all of it is so very real. It is in-between, all encompassing, and somehow, so not definite as well.

    Thank you for these posts, Mandy. You spark so much learning when you write.

  10. I'm still here too, Mandy. The gift of your friends' and followers' posts above are tremendous. I'm glad you are open to receive them. I am particularly astounded by the wisdom and love of today's responses.

    With love,

  11. Mandy,
    While the death of an elderly parent does not compare in shock and disbelief the way the death of a child must, I can tell you that my beloved father, whom I adored, died 16 years ago next month, and I still am sometimes shocked out of breath when I realize it.

    Your life in between must leave you breathless often. I'm sorry. Thank you for introducing me to Hudson.

  12. I've been reading your blog since this summer, when there was a social media campaign to find your husband's journal. I think of you and Hudson and your family often, always wishing you well. Amongst other things, you are a truly gifted writer. I would imagine your daughter would be proud to be honored in such a beautiful way. Bless.

  13. My father's older sister died in her youth. May I offer you a glimpse of what that looks like now? She is remembered. Sometimes stories are shared about her, especially at holidays and big family gatherings, some by my grandmother and some by her siblings. Her pictures are part of the family photo collections; some are even now on Facebook with pictures from my father's and his other sisters' childhoods. Although none of the cousins in my generation knew her, we all know about her. Recently, I was struck by a growing resemblance between her and my younger cousin, and commented on it to my aunt, who seemed happy to agree. She remains a part of the family. There is a lingering sadness in my grandmother, which I am sure is of no surprise to you, but I do think she would consider herself to have had a very happy life in the years since. I hope you will one day be able to look back and say the same thing.

  14. Mandy, I am still here as well...and continuing to pray for you and Ed everyday. I am so sorry.

  15. Hi Mandy-- If you ever have a chance to listen to the song "unknown brother" by the black keys, do. I thought of putting the lyrics here for you but it is truly not the same without the melody. It is a simple song, but it says a lot. It is spoken from a place that Jackson and your other future children will be, and how they will know Hudson without ever having known her here.
    many blessings to you-
    still listening,

  16. Mandy, still here...
    Thinking of you every day.


  17. I love CS Lewis as well....
    I think you have captured my ever thought with this: And I just can’t believe that this is my life now, this is my family’s life. Living forever with one missing.

    This is what runs through my head every day.. and it is something that is so completely difficult to even begin to explain to someone who has never lived through the death of a child. I never expected to be here.. and now that I am I can't quite figure out what to do now that I am- how to live here, walk, survive, thrive.

  18. mandy, I am here also and will continue to think of you and to read your blog. it must be very surreal to be pregnant while you are dealing with the loss of Hudson. very soon you will be holding Jackson and new feelings and lots of love will pour out of you. it is going to be beautiful and Hudson will be right there with you, showering her love upon your family. hugs, cathy

  19. In some ways I think this in between is more tiring. The constant changing and re-adjusting takes a lot of energy. I think it is the heart and the head trying to synch up after they were ripped apart.

    I still haven't read C.S. Lewis's book yet, but it is on the list. That passage seems to be saying exactly what I have been feeling.

    Hoping you are surviving ok with all the extra winter around.