Sunday, December 11, 2011

Days of Thanks #18

Today, I am grateful for all the turtle and penguin ornaments covering our tree. Some of them existed before our babies ever did, some have been given to us since Hudson died and since we got pregnant with Jackson, and some I bought impulsively because it is hard for me to pass by a turtle or penguin anything without being at least a little bit tempted to buy it. 

As we finally put up the tree tonight (after a week of wrangling with strands of lights that kept shorting out on us), I hung two ornaments that I purchased in the two years after my mother died. I volunteered at Duke Hospice during that time, and each year, they sold a memorial ornament every year as a fundraiser. As I hung them tonight, I thought about how those should have been the only memorial ornaments I ever had to hang, if I had to hang any at all. 

But here I have a tree full of turtle ornaments, photo ornaments of Hudson, and a letter “H,” all to memorialize our child who should have been here helping us decorate the tree tonight. 

And then alongside these are all the penguin ornaments, the ones that honor our child who is with us still, our child who has brought joy back into our lives and given us hope again. 

I cried half the time we were hanging the ornaments, but I am grateful for yet another symbolic way that my children can be together, another way that Hudson can remain part of our family and our traditions. It is not what is should be, but I have to be grateful for what it is.


  1. Hi Mandy,

    I am a friend of a friend, who has been compelled by your writing to read your blog regularly, for the last year or so. Thank you for your honest and insightful words.

    Last week when I was at my aunt's funeral, I had a very meaningful conversation with the funeral director about talking to children about death (as I wanted to start the conversation with my 5 year-old), and I wanted to relay part of that conversation with you. The funeral director told me that he and his wife lost their first child, Alyssa, at the age of 8 months, to meningitis. Fast forward 30 years, and at the funeral for his father, their 3 remaining children (now in their 20s) called for a family meeting. His children explained that at the funeral for their grandfather, who is buried now with Alyssa, they felt empty inside. They said this is because they saw that Alyssa's tombstone said: "beloved daughter, grand-daughter, and great-grand-daughter," but not beloved sister. The funeral director explained patiently that they were not alive then. And they said that this did not matter a bit -- that their oldest sister had shaped who their parents were as parents, and who they were as a family. And so, he contacted his monument person ASAP, and they had an unveiling of Alyssa's new headstone 3 days later, with beloved sister now included, and with the family all together.

    As he reminded me as I cried for my aunt, and for him and his wife, when a person dies, the "who" of them -- their physical presence -- is gone, but the "what" of them -- what they mean to us, and what we feel in our hearts -- is always there.

    Thinking of you and sending love,

  2. I have both a penguin and turtle ornament on my tree this year and I think of your family of four every time I see them. My heart aches for you.

    Beautiful comment from Meira. So true that what a person means to us never leaves us.

    Abiding, my friend.

  3. I am trying so very hard to be grateful for 'what is'.. and this time of year it is so hard... I think we are all trying.. sending you love and hugs mamma...

  4. And I just cried reading the first comment here... such amazing love. I am still in tears...

  5. Oh Meira, that's beautiful. Thank you for sharing with us all.