Thursday, June 30, 2011

Doctor’s Office

On Monday, we took Jackson to the pediatrician for his one-month appointment. This was the third time we’d taken him there, all for well visits—once at a few days old, once at almost 2 weeks old, and then Monday. We are taking him back to the same doctor Hudson had. We always loved the office and both doctors there and really never considered going anywhere else this time around.

But it is still hard. I went to see one of the doctors in the office back in March, under the guise that I had questions that I wanted to ask about Jackson, sort of like a prenatal visit. This was true, but I really wanted to go just so that I would be alone during the first time back in that office since that fateful morning when we took Hudson in after a frightening early morning fever. I didn’t want the first time to be with Jackson in my arms. Because I knew it would be bad, and I was right. I cried practically the entire time, from the minute I stepped into the waiting room and off and on through the entire meeting with the doctor, which lasted about 45 minutes. But I was glad to have gotten that first visit out of the way.

I managed fairly well for the first two visits with Jackson. This time, not so much. Maybe it’s because we had to wait longer in the waiting room to be seen (usually we get put into an exam room right away). Maybe it’s because the waiting room was totally empty. Maybe it’s because we were put into the same exam room where we were the last time with Hudson, with its little blue dinosaur coin collector. As I sat in the waiting room, I heard a little baby crying, hard. Probably getting some shots. But as I sat there, all I could think about was that Monday morning last May, how after I cried in the exam room when the doctor said we should go home and keep giving Hudson Tylenol, after I insisted that they do some more tests, Hudson didn’t even flinch when they put a catheter in her to check her urine for a UTI or bladder infection. She should have cried. She should have screamed. But she was limp. She was my child—I knew her better than anyone else—I should have known that something really terrible was wrong and that we should have been at the hospital and not the doctor’s office. How did I not know?

And when we left this past Monday morning, we had to pass by the long frosted glass windows that separate the lab area from the office building’s corridor. And again, all I could think about was how Hudson didn’t even flinch when they stuck her to draw her blood. Why didn’t I march right back upstairs right then and get them to send us to the hospital? Or better yet, why didn’t I just go on to the hospital myself? It was just across the parking lot from where we were. How did I not know?

And whenever we park on the second level there, I can only remember leaving the office last May 10, after waiting forever to get her blood drawn and a chest x-ray. I remember almost exactly where we were parked. I remember opening the van door and putting her into her car seat and saying to Ed, “I bet somebody is going to go right to sleep,” all the while laboring under the impression that Hudson’s lethargy, her limpness, was just pure exhaustion from fighting a fever and being up several times for the past two nights. How did I not know?

And I’ll probably never stand at the checkout window there again without remembering telling Hudson to say bye-bye to the nurses when we left that day. She obliged, looking miserable as she did, waving listlessly and saying, “Bye-bye.” Little did I know that those would be the last words I’d hear her say, with the exception of her telling me “No” whenever I asked her if she would drink something later that day.

It is still hard. It will probably never not be hard on some level. It remains so difficult to let go of the idea that if we’d just caught it sooner, she would be alive today—my brain still wants so desperately to create a new ending. I suppose it is possible that one of the reasons I wanted to go back there with Jackson is because I take some bizarre comfort in the fact that even the doctors had no idea how very sick Hudson was, like we all share some blame for not taking more immediate action first thing that morning, so I don’t have to carry it all myself. But it doesn’t change the fact that she was MY child—if anyone should have known that something was terribly wrong with her, it was me.

As you can see, I still wrestle with this nasty monster. It is much quieter than before. It doesn’t beat its steady beat inside my head all day every day anymore. But it is stealthy. All it takes is the right trigger, like hearing that little baby cry at the pediatrician’s office, and I am locked in a grudge match with it again. I don’t know that I’ll ever be fully rid of it.

All I can do is hope that it will continue to grow weaker with each passing day.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Always With Us

Yesterday, we took advantage of the beautiful and unseasonably dry weather to take Jackson on his first full-fledged adventure. Ed suggested we take him down to the National Mall and wander over to Constitution Gardens, a pond with an island that memorializes the signing of the Declaration of Independence. We only discovered this place last fall, after Hudson died, when we were wandering around the monuments with my niece. It is rather hidden from view by raised ground all around it, so we’d never stumbled upon it before. The first time we saw it last September, we were full of regret that we’d never taken Hudson there. It was full of geese and ducks, both swimming in the water and wandering around the sidewalks and grounds around the pond—she would have loved the place instantly. It is an incredibly beautiful spot, now probably one of my favorites in DC, and we determined to go back often.
So we took some lunch down to the Mall, sat in a shady, grassy spot next to the Museum of American History, and ate lunch. Then we meandered down to Constitution Gardens. As soon as we crested the small hill where you can catch your first glimpse of the pond and its surroundings, I was just overwhelmed with longing for my girl. There were loads of ducks in the pond, and a huge flock of geese meandering along the sidewalk we were headed for, not to mention several other species of birds in the water, including kingfishers and herons. It was a breathtaking sight. I could picture her there so clearly, delightedly repeating, “Kak kak!” and “Duck!” and “Bird!” and grinning as she chased them down only to have them run or fly away.

We walked around the north side of the pond, stopping for a few photos before we got to the small pedestrian bridge out to the island where the signing memorial is located. As we crossed the bridge, what we saw on the bank just opposite us brought me to tears. Two adult ducks and a horde of tiny ducklings, only a few days old, sat waiting on the bank to see if we were any threat (we had Bess with us) before hopping into the water. Again, I could only imagine how enthralled Hudson would have been if she’d been with us—she would have been so fascinated by how small the ducklings were, especially their little feet whirring in the water. She would have giggled at them swimming willy nilly around their parents on what must have been only their second or third trip into the water.

As we walked away, I remarked how strange it is that Hudson would now be two and a half years old, but we can only really think about her as a 17-month-old. No doubt she still would have loved this place as a two-and-a-half-year-old, but her enjoyment of it would be so different than what we knew of her. She would probably know the word “duckling” by now and would be able to understand the concept that the big ducks were the little ducks’ mommy and daddy. She would probably understand by now that there are different kinds of birds, and that the ducks in the water were different than the geese on the land. She would probably even be able to count the ducklings, at least up to ten or so.  Who knows what else she would know and understand now?

Before we got pregnant with Jackson and during the early months of my pregnancy with him, I thought so often about how I wanted nothing more than to move back home to North Carolina, because I just couldn’t fathom taking another baby to all the same places we used to take Hudson. As if we’d just replaced her with another one. “Baby, take two.” In my head, it all seemed tragic and awful. But what I realize now is that she lives in my imagination and my heart even in places we never did take her. And it will be that way forever, regardless of where we live or where we go. And while it is indeed tragic and sad, it is also a gift. To take her brother to the places where we took her keeps her close to us and to him. And to take him to places she’s never been but that she would have loved does the same thing.

Because no matter where we go, she is always with us. And for that, I am very grateful.

March 2010:

June 2011:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Squeeze Tight

Sometimes she is so close it hurts.

Today, I put Jackson up on my left shoulder to burp him. I wrapped his left arm around my neck as if he were hugging me. I do this often because I love the way it feels.

And in a second, it was as if she were right there. As if I could feel her weight on me, her warm little arm wrapped around my neck in a hug. As if I could whisper in her ear like I always did, “Squeeze tight!” As if she could squeeze her little arms together to hug me tighter.

The next second, I was in tears.  And I had to squeeze little Jackson tight and let them flow. 

So close it hurts. And yet so very far away.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Jackson at One Month

It’s nearly impossible to believe that Jackson has been with us for an entire month already. The days had crawled so slowly before he was born, and as tends to happen when you live with children, they have simply flown since then. I promised myself I would try to do a better job of documenting our life with him than I ever did with Hudson, so here I am, documenting.

After spending his first two weeks sleeping most of the time (to the point we’d started to worry about him), he realized (like his big sister) that being awake is way more interesting than being asleep, and settled into a groove of eating, hanging out, and sleeping, but the sleeping part got way harder. I had nearly forgotten the endless cycle of trying to rock, sing, bounce, nurse, or otherwise coax very obviously sleepy baby to sleep, only to have them wake up as soon as you try to put them down. Jackson is not nearly so sensitive as Hudson was, though, and is somewhat easier to transfer than she was, although he is equally stubborn about falling asleep. I can almost see that same determination in his eyes that Hudson used to have when it came to napping. We have one photo that her first day care gave us once of her at about 8 months old, asleep in her crib but sitting completely upright—she was exhausted but so determined not to lay down and miss anything. Her little brother appears to be the same way. I’ve had the most success by swaddling him and putting him in the vibrating bouncy seat until he dozes off—then he sleeps pretty soundly for a few hours in a row.

Sadly, we haven’t been able to keep him in our room at night. I worked so hard to get his co-sleeper ready, and jerry-rigged it just right to make it easy to nurse him at night, but we haven’t been able to use it. He sleeps in it just fine, but after his first nighttime feeding, usually around 11PM, he starts this crazy cycle of grunting and straining in his sleep, almost like he’s constipated, which he can’t possibly be. He cycles in and out of this with his REM and quiet sleep, but when he’s cranked up, it is incredibly loud and neither of us could sleep through it, so we had to move him into his crib in his second week. It’s so bizarre, because he appears to be totally asleep. I’m going to talk to the pediatrician about it at his one-month visit on Monday, but we can only guess that it has to do with his daytime gastrointestinal issues—he gulps a lot of air when nursing, spits up a lot, and has a lot of gas bubbles in his tummy. No lie—the kid can let out a man-sized burp. It makes me sad not to have him in our room, though. Hudson slept with us for four months, and I always loved waking up in the middle of the night and watching her tummy rise and fall with each breath. Not to mention it helps me get a lot more sleep when I don’t have to get out of bed for the middle of the night feedings. More than anything, I miss the morning snuggle time I had with Hudson—she would eat between 5 and 6 AM, and then we’d just sleep in the bed until she woke up for good around 9. Poor little Jackson spends those hours grunting and wriggling, which makes snuggling a little difficult. We’re going to keep trying different things to see if we can get it to settle down. I feel a little nuts—I think most parents at this stage are hoping to get their kids to sleep in their cribs (and indeed, the transition from co-sleeper to crib with Hudson was a multi-day process for us)—but it brings me so much comfort to have him in the room with us. And whenever I put him down in his crib, he just looks so small and lonely. Hopefully we’ll find a solution that will let him sleep in the room with us until he’s sleeping through the night.

Despite what appears to be some minor GI trouble, the kid is packing on the pounds. After the first week, when he gained about an ounce a day (this was the point when he was mostly sleeping), he’s gained about a pound a week. Last Friday, he weighed 10 pounds and 9 ounces (up from 8 pounds and 8 ounces at the pediatrician two weeks before). Looking at him, I can barely believe he’s only a month old.

While he has his share of fussy time (we’ve debated about whether he’s more or less fussy than Hudson—Ed thought maybe more, but I reminded him about all the hours we spent trying to soothe her, carrying her around in the sling, pushing her in the stroller around the kitchen table, bouncing her up and down on the exercise ball, doing the 5 Ss, but she turned a corner right at 6 weeks, which is when crying generally peaks), he has a lot of happy, contented time, too, although like with Hudson, the pacifier has become more of our friend than we would like. He loves baths and music (but Ed insists that he hates Neil Young) and staring at faces. He loves being outside—anytime we are having difficulty calming him down, we can walk him out the door into the soupy heat and he settles immediately. I suppose it’s almost like recreating the conditions of the womb. He loves to be sung to, especially the silly songs his dad makes up and his big sister’s favorites “The Wheels on the Bus” and pattycake. I swear that he almost smiles every time I grab his little hands and clap them together for pattycake (pattycake was the first interactive game Hudson played with us—I remember she did it for the first time when we were at the beach when she was nine months hold). His mouth makes the funniest little “O” shape whenever he’s peeing. He loves lying on the changing table staring at himself (or whatever else he sees) in the mirror near his face.  Despite the fact that he’s still a little floppy holding his head up, he is unbelievably strong—he can push himself up on his arms momentarily when on his tummy and can already support his weight on his legs when he’s leaning on us.  I imagine that he will be like his sister and will always want to be standing from a very early age. 

He’s already had a number of adventures in his first few weeks. He’s been to North Carolina to meet his friends and family there, visited Hudson’s bench at the Arboretum twice, and taken a picnic and short hike in Rock Creek Park. Unfortunately, the weather here has remained really hot and humid, so we haven’t been able to be outside as much as I would like. Instead, we stay inside and watch episodes of  “Lost” (which I had never seen) in rapid succession on Netflix. Well, I watch. He sleeps in my lap.

It has been a wondrous month. He has brought so much joy and light back into our lives, and I am so grateful for that. I am grateful for the number of times I smile every day and for the chance to be a mommy again. Even so, I am still so heartbroken for him and for us that he is not sharing these days with his big sister, who would have loved him like crazy and would have insisted on “helping” us with him all the time, I’m sure. It will never be right, but we will do our best to help him know her as much as is possible under these impossible circumstances. It will never be enough, but hopefully one day he will feel her presence and her love and her laughter and her joy as much as we do. And to it, he will add his own amazing presence and love and laughter and joy.

We are so lucky to have him.

Happy one-month birthday, my sweet boy. We all love you so much.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Photo Shoot

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get these posted. These photos were taken in the hospital when Jackson was a day old and later at home when he was five days old. The amazing photographer is Emily Large, who is in the process of launching her own family photography business. Her website is If you live in the DC metro area, you should definitely check her out.  She has a real gift for story telling with photos. We’re so grateful to her for taking such stunning photos of our boy and our family during those precious early days. It is one of the only regrets I have (and thankfully, it is a small one) of our time with Hudson that we never had these kind of photos taken with her.

Enjoy. He’s grown and changed so much already in the past three weeks. I’ll try to keep up with more photos as we go.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Jackson’s Time

I knew that learning how to mother Hudson and Jackson at the same time would be hard. I anticipated that it would be difficult to try to live in the moment with my living child while I simultaneously continue to grieve and mourn and remember my child who died. But I didn’t know how difficult it would be.

I look at my writing here for the past few days and I see myself doing exactly what I have been doing in the many months leading up to Jackson’s birth—clinging to the grief, pushing the grief buttons over and over, picking the scabs until they bleed again. I do this because I am still having such a hard time learning how to sit back and just let my joy over Jackson and my grief over Hudson coexist. The joy and the grief are living and breathing inside me simultaneously, regardless of any effort I make. It’s just my attitude toward this change of circumstances that I am struggling with. I am so very desperate not to let Hudson be replaced or forgotten (even though I know she could never be) that I am having a hard time just letting Jackson take his place in our family and our lives. Each time he does something that reminds me of her, I make a point to say so. I find myself struggling so much at times with this newborn period, remembering so fondly how nice it was to have a toddler on a routine, a toddler who went to bed at 7PM and slept until 7AM and laughed at my jokes and hugged my neck and could entertain herself and did not need constant attention. I look at him and so often see her—I often screw up and refer to him as “her” because for so long, it was just her.

My friend Sara gave me some good advice in her comment on the blog the other day (and Sara, I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to email you and thank you for this)—she said that she is learning to make the grief wait, to let her living children have their own moments and try not to let those moments be about her grief over her precious son who died before they were born. I have taken this to heart. It will be a long time before I’m any good at it, but I am working on it. I wrote the other day that Hudson’s place is her place and hers alone, but the same is true for my sweet little boy. His place is his, too. It’s not his fault that he was born into a family that has suffered such a devastating loss and I owe it to him to somehow make his life even better because of it.

So I’m trying harder now to let myself enjoy this time with him. You would certainly think this is a lesson I have already learned the hard way. But this is so very different than taking my life and the goodness in it for granted. This is about missing all the goodness that should be. And this is where my sweet little girl comes in—this is where she becomes an angel for all of us, despite my ambivalence about the existence of such things as angels. Because the gift she gave me, the gift she gave her little brother and our entire family, is the lesson that no matter how hard things are, no matter how dark they seem, no matter how much we want things to be different no matter how different things should be, we have to cherish what is.

From my perch in my glider, where I nurse Jackson most frequently, I can look to my left and see one of my favorite pictures of Hudson, this one of her from our last trip to the Arboretum.

My dad said it’s one of his favorites because he feels like she is looking at him and just saying, “I know, Poppy, but it’s going to be OK.” I couldn’t agree more. Her wise eyes are such a focal point. So these days when I’m sitting here with my son in my arms, and I look over his head and see his sister’s picture, when my eyes meet hers and I inevitably start to cry, I look down and kiss Jackson on the top of his sweet head, tears and all. I remind myself that this is his time and my job is to just be in it with him. I remind myself that it’s OK to be happy and sad at the same time, that it’s OK to marvel at my living child while still missing my dead child. I hug him a little tighter and remind myself how lucky I still am in spite of it all. That is his sister’s gift to him. And to me. And I am so grateful.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father’s Day

Last Father’s Day was a dark one for us—Ed’s second Father’s Day turned out to be the first one he would have to live through without his precious child. For the rest of our lives, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day will be bittersweet, for one of our children will always be missing.

But last Father’s Day, I gave Ed a painting, a symbol not only of how fortunate we had been, but also of hope that we would one day be happy again.

This year, I am grateful that my husband has a child in his arms again, a beautiful son with whom he can share the vast love and wisdom in his heart and the joy of seeing the world through a child’s eyes.

Happy Father’s Day to my sweet Ed, who is doing the hardest kind of fathering there is—fathering both living and deceased children—and doing it with incredible grace and love. I wish Hudson were here to make you breakfast in bed and make chalk drawings for you on the sidewalk.  But I am so glad that Jackson is here to make you smile and let you be Daddy again.  Our children are so very lucky to have you as their father, and I am so very lucky to have you as a partner through both our darkest and brightest days. Here’s to our precious memories with our precious Hudson, and to many more adventures to come. I love you.

*Final three photos by Emily Large at  I will post more photos from our sessions with her soon.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

In Another's Words

There are so many moments when I have wished for more words to be able to describe this grief. Many times I have wished for greater command of metaphor and simile and other figurative tools to try and describe the indescribable. Perhaps my hope is that by being able to better label it, I might somehow better master it. Silly me. But I never stop wishing for better words.

So when I come upon other writings that seem to describe so well a particular aspect of this grief, this process, this life, I am grateful. I am grateful for the words I can never seem to find.

Last night, I picked up my copy of this week’s New Yorker, which has been lying around the house for several days, completely ignored. I opened to the table of contents and saw at the top a personal essay by Aleksandar Hemon entitled “The Aquarium” with a subtitle of “A Tale of Two Daughters.” Intrigued by both “aquarium” and “daughters,” I turned to the essay, and there saw yet a different subtitle, “A Child’s Isolating Illness.” What exactly was this essay about? I wondered. It took only a few sentences before I recognized the foreboding beginnings of a tale of a child’s life gone horribly wrong, beginning with what should have been a routine well visit to the pediatrician at the age of nine months. What follows is Hemon’s harrowing and haunting recounting of his younger daughter’s diagnosis and treatment for an incredibly aggressive brain tumor that would take her life in less than four months, when she had just passed her first birthday. I read several paragraphs and then skipped to the end, wanting to know how this would turn out before I kept reading. Once I saw the ending, I put the magazine back down, not sure that I could stand it. But this morning, I picked it back up, unable to resist the draw of reading another parent’s account of what it was like to watch their child die. I was looking for more of the terrible companionship that I have found in so many sad and often unexpected places since Hudson died.

I’m glad I read the essay and grateful for the words it gave me. Our experiences were very different in many ways (a prolonged illness, aggressive treatments, a much younger baby, an older sibling) but very similar in many ways (the moments suspended in time when terrifying news is delivered, a horrific ICU vigil, an unimaginable goodbye). And no matter what, there are some things about living through the death of a child that are universal.

I hope that Mr. Hemon won’t mind if I share the two passages that spoke to me most.

On relating to the rest of the world:

One early morning, driving to the hospital, I saw a number of able-bodied, energetic runners progressing along Fullerton Avenue toward the sunny lakefront, and I had a strong physical sensation of being in an aquarium: I could see out, the people outside could see me (if they chose to pay attention), but we were living and breathing in entirely different environments.

What a perfectly apt description. One needs a snorkel, or gills, to live in this world with me. No matter how much time goes by, a pane of glass will always separate me from the rest of the world. No matter how much time goes by, I will always feel like a creature alien to others, something others will often recoil from when they hear my story, unwilling or unable to imagine the horror of it. And no matter how much time goes by, communicating with those outside the aquarium will remain somewhat garbled.

On grieving the death of one’s child:

One of the most despicable religious fallacies is that suffering is ennobling—that it is a step on the path to some kind of enlightenment or salvation. Isabel’s suffering and death did nothing for her, or us, or the world. We learned no lessons worth learning; we acquired no experience that could benefit anyone. And Isabel most certainly did not earn ascension to a better place, as there was no place better for her than at home with her family. Without Isabel, Teri and I were left with oceans of love we could no longer dispense; we found ourselves with an excess of time that we used to devote to her; we had to live in a void that could be filled only by Isabel. Her indelible absence is now an organ in our bodies, whose sole function is a continuous secretion of sorrow.

I know. Before you say it, I know. I know that many of you will read this and say, “But Hudson’s death DID do something for the world,” or “Your experience DID benefit others,” or “There ARE lessons worth learning.”

I know. I know all of these things. You don’t have to tell me. Maybe Mr. Hemon knows them, too, or maybe he will come to feel differently in time (his daughter only died in November 2010). But it doesn’t change the fact that those words, stark as they are, describe precisely how I feel. Because none of it, not one single bit, could ever be worth the price we had to pay.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Over and Over

We are starting to introduce Jackson to bottle-feeding breast milk so that Ed can feed him once a day and so that I have a tiny bit more mobility than a two-hour window of time that I can be away from him.

In the process, I had to decide what to do with all of Hudson’s old bottles and sippy cups. Given my general wariness about plastic (I would use glass bottles all the time if I could, but day care doesn’t allow them), I decided it would be best not to reuse them.

In order to get them ready to recycle, I had to collect them from all the various places we’d stuck them last spring. We were in the process of trying to wean her from the bottle to a cup, and while she’d mostly made the transition, she still much preferred her milk in a bottle. So we kept a few out in case she just refused to drink her milk from a cup on occasion. Those were still in our kitchen cabinet, along with all the sippy cups, the take-and-toss food containers we sent her lunch in, and the colorful pocket bibs we used every night at dinner. For the past year, every time I opened the cabinet for a plate or a bowl, I would see all of these Hudson things on the shelf right above the dishes.

Today, I pulled everything out of the cabinet. I tossed the bibs, as they had been getting ratty anyway. I pulled all the rest of the bottles out of the storage closet, along with a bag full of pacifiers, teething rings, and plastic baby spoons, which I also threw away.

In order to recycle all the bottles and dishes and sippy cups, I had to remove, one by one, the little adhesive labels with her name on them, marking them as hers. The labels were old and shot from having been washed many times, and there was nothing to do with them but throw them in the trash. One by one, I peeled them off and threw them away.

Hudson Chaney.

Hudson Chaney.

Hudson Chaney.

I know there will never come a day when she is not physically represented in our house—we will always have her pictures and her books and her toys and many other things to remind us of her. But at some point, all of these reminders of our everyday life with her will be gone.

Why must I keep having to say goodbye, over and over again? Every time is another terribly painful reminder of how our life should be, how it will never be. It is just so wrong.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Special Encounter

My dearest Jess is in town, having flown here all the way from Montana for a four-day visit with us and our Jackson. As with so much of these days in this newly transformed world, her visit is so bittersweet. The first time she came to visit us here in DC was when Hudson was six weeks old—Jess came and spent a week with us in January of 2009, when we took Hudson on her first trip on the metro down to the National Mall for the star-studded concert on the day before Barack Obama’s inauguration. It was a magical time for all of us. The next time she came to visit was last May—as soon as it became clear that Hudson would likely not survive the meningitis infection, Jessica was on the next plane out of Helena and arrived in DC about 12 hours later. She again stayed with us for a week, basically taking over the coordination of all of our visitors and the planning of Hudson’s memorial service, and helping me somehow begin to deal with the absolutely unimaginable, all the while handling her own grief, both over Hudson’s death and her mother’s almost exactly three years before under shockingly similar circumstances. So to have her here with us now, as we all welcome a two-week-old Jackson and continue to mourn our precious Hudson, is wonderful and beautiful and sad and surreal all at the same time. 

There was no doubt that we would make a visit to Hudson’s bench while she was here. Until today, the weather had remained mostly hot and humid, too much so for a little one who is still not three weeks old. Yesterday, Jessica suggested that we go to the Arboretum today and I agreed, because the weather was supposed to turn gorgeous today, with much lower temperatures and humidity. She gently said, “And you know, it’s the thirteenth.” And indeed, I had completely forgotten that it was. I told her that I had been thinking about that a lot lately and that at some point, I was going to need to let go of the significance of that day each month. (Not to mention the fact that I have no way to follow the pattern of memories I’ve been sharing here, because of course, all of our memories with Hudson ended in May 2010. I have no more photos or stories to tell after that.) She agreed, but said it would still be a good day to visit Hudson’s bench. And indeed it was.

We decided to head out there before lunch—even though the day was supposed to be much cooler, we figured it would be better to visit in the morning before it warmed up. We got there around 11:30 and as we headed into the Dogwood Collection, we ran into a friend from the neighborhood who had been unable to join us for the memorial on May 13 and was stopping by with her one-year-old daughter to see Hudson’s bench for the first time. She seemed overwhelmed to see us and then she quickly explained why. As soon as she told us what was waiting for us at Hudson’s bench, we had to get down there to see it for ourselves.

This is what she had seen. And when we saw it for ourselves, we, too, were overwhelmed.

It was a huge turtle, sitting in the sun almost exactly halfway between Hudson’s bench and the gnarled dogwood tree under which we sprinkled some of Hudson’s ashes on her birthday (in the background of the photo above). Ed took several pictures as we all tried to take in how incredible it was. We have never seen a turtle at the Arboretum before, in all our many trips.

And then, it turned around and started walking directly toward Jackson, who was napping in his carrier on Hudson’s bench.

As I sit here now, many hours later, I still don’t know what to make of that encounter.  But it’s hard not to imagine we received a very special visit today.