Monday, November 24, 2014

Do One Good Thing For Hudson’s Sixth Birthday



Somehow, impossibly, it is almost time for Hudson’s birthday again. Next Monday, December 1, will mark her sixth birthday. The fifth one that we have endured without her. So many years have now cycled past that for the first time, her birthday falls on the very day she was actually born, the Monday after Thanksgiving.

And like last year, as the days and weeks have passed, as we have crept closer and closer to her birthday (and Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the other lovely goodness that comes at this time of year), her absence is as palpable as ever. And like last year, this makes me feel closer to her than usual. That grief can be such a foe and such a friend all at one time is one of its many confounding mysteries.

For reasons that I am still trying to understand, this sixth birthday feels different to me. I have spent much of this past year thinking hard about all the ways in which my life has been made so very easy. I was born white. I was born into an upper-middle class family. I was the youngest in my family, so I got the full benefit of my parents’ upward mobility. I was sent to private school. I wanted for nothing as a child, not clothes, not food, not the latest fad. I am college-educated. I have an advanced degree. I am married to a man who not only loves his work but is also well-employed enough that he can support our family while I pursue a career writing full-time. Although I will certainly experience the fear that every mother does when her children leave her presence, worried that she might not see them again, I will never have to fear that my child may be killed as a result of structural racism that is so ingrained in this countrys psyche that it is difficult to see how it will ever be destroyed. These things are only the tip of the iceberg of all of the ways in which my life has been made easy for me as a white, upper-middle class woman. Although we’ve certainly worked hard to get where we are, I know many, many others who have worked far harder than we have and have never even managed to get half as far. And that’s due to the sheer fortune of our birth. My life has been easy in so many ways.

And it has also been hard in one of the hardest ways. Losing my daughter ended my life as I knew it then. A new life began the day she died, and while much of it is very familiar, it is so fundamentally different that it is still sometimes unrecognizable to me. Just this morning, as I was driving my regular route to work, making a left on Weaver Street, I caught a glimpse of a woman walking down the sidewalk past me. I never made eye contact with her, but when I saw her, I felt as if I’d been struck in the face. She looked so normal, so ordinary, so very much like she belonged to this world, like she belonged on that sidewalk. And I suddenly felt so very much the opposite. Did my child really die? Do I really have a dead child? Did that really happen? What planet am I on? 

But even living with the death of my child was made easier for me. We had such excellent health insurance that we paid only a tiny fraction of the enormous charges incurred for Hudson’s stay in the intensive care unit. Our friends gave us money to help cover all our expenses after she died and then some. Friends gave us money just to enjoy pizza and a movie. My colleagues at the Federal Public Defender donated sick days to me so that I could have paid leave while I decided whether or not I could return to work. When I finally decided that I couldn’t go back to work, we were financially able to handle the drop in our income. We had the resources to get grief counseling.

My life has been so easy. And so hard.

But I find more and more that the only thing that brings me any comfort whatsoever anymore is looking for ways to make others’ lives easier, the way others tried to make mine easier when it was at its hardest.

My friend Sarah is a social worker in Raleigh. She put out a call last week for people interested in adopting families for Christmas. I wanted to do it, but I also wasn’t sure how much we should commit right now—we have had a lot of unexpected large expenses coming at us, right before the holidays, and right before I’m about to quit my job. Sarah told me that they usually ask people to get an outfit, a warm coat, and a few fun items for each child, a coat and shoes for the parents, and toilet paper, paper towels, and non-perishable food items for the house.

Toilet paper. I have never in my life had to struggle to buy toilet paper. I have never been without a warm coat when I needed one. Or shoes. I am about to quit my reliable, good-paying, flexible job on purpose to pursue work that may never generate one penny of income, and I am worried about whether we can afford to help this family buy toilet paper.

So we’re going to buy them some toilet paper. And paper towels. And food. And clothes and toys for their kids. And a coat and shoes for the single mom who somehow holds this family together.

And we’re going to do these things while we remember Hudson on her birthday. I haven’t done a very good job explaining how these things are somehow inexplicably entwined for me, but they are. To honor Hudson by trying to care for others like I have been cared for all of my life, like I was cared for when she died, seems to me the only way it makes any sense to honor her. Honoring this hard life without her by trying to make others’ lives easier seems to be the only thing that makes any sense to do.

As we do every year, we invite you to do One Good Thing sometime this next week to remember Hudson’s life. Any good thing, no matter how big or small. It won’t fill the hole that was left behind when she died, but it will make the hole more beautiful. And if you are so inclined, please invite others to join us, too. 


We can’t stop it from coming. We can’t bring Hudson back. But in the spirit of the lesson she taught us, we can continue to help her light shine in the world by finding the One Good Thing, and this week, that means doing One Good Thing. Thank you all so much.

26 comments:

  1. Mandy, In Hudson's memory, I am adopting a family of four children who have asked for plates, warm coats, underwear, and socks. There was a time in my life when that was my kids' Christmas-they were thrilled to open packages of underwear with the days of the week on them! They got a pack of 64 crayons to share and a large packet of construction paper, and they felt rich. So I'm paying it forward in Hudson's name. And I wish I could change it all for you.

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  2. God bless you and your family each and every day you have to miss Hudson. We just donated to St. Ann's in her honor as our One Good Thing for today. Sending you prayers and love.

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    1. Thank you so much. We love and miss our St. Ann's community, and they are so deserving of your support. Thank you for sharing some Hudson joy.

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  3. I found your blog through Momastery and am honoring Hudson Lily and your family with a donation to St. Ann's.

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    1. Thank you so much-- St. Ann's is such a wonderful place, and they still love and remember Hudson every day. Thank you for sharing her spirit today.

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  4. Hi! G sent me over. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn about your sweet daughter and donate money to St. Ann's in her memory. Take care, Mandy!

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing our story and for sharing some Hudson joy today. I am so grateful, and St. Ann's will be, too.

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  5. I also bounced over here from Momastery, and your words resonated with me... I have a 6 year-old daughter. If I'm being honest, said 6 year-old daughter has been driving me NUTS over the past few weeks. I love her so freaking hard, but she also has been trying my patience. Everything you wrote - about how easy life has been - are words I could have written (white, middle class family, youngest child, college-educated, advanced degree, hard-working husband, health insurance, etc. - all me!). Except my daughter is, blessedly, still alive. And I'm taking her for granted; and I could slap myself up one side and down the other for that, because... the alternative to her driving me crazy could be one that I don't even want to fathom.

    My daughter and I went out and purchased an 18" doll with outfits and accessories for another little girl off of our angel tree at church; I would like to dedicate that to the memory of your sweet girl Hudson.

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    1. Thank you so much, Wendy. Believe me, I understand your mom frustration so well, and I'm always grateful for my Hudson "perspectacles" when I need them. Thank you for sharing some Hudson joy today. And do try to be gentle with yourself-- we are all fighting different hard battles: http://hudsonsonegoodthing.blogspot.com/2010/11/on-strength.html

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    2. Thanks for the link. Beautiful. I love your writing and your honestly and authenticity. I won't be too hard on myself; I am a therapist, so I know that frustration is just a normal part of relationships. I wish you all the love and joy and peace (especially peace) that this season offers. I think you've also just won over a new reader. :)

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  6. Found you through Momastery. To honor the sweet, sweet spirit of Hudson, I made a donation to a campaign to help a former student with medical bills to pay for chemo. Alissa is a sweet spirit as well and is preparing for ministry with the Lutheran church. http://godmom.weebly.com/advent-calendar/introduction

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    1. That is wonderful. I'm a cancer survivor, too, and I am so grateful to have been so well cared for and to have had such good insurance during that time. I don't know how others do, having to manage the disease, the treatment, and the expenses on top of it all. Thank you so much for remembering Hudson with us.

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  7. Just sent some books and bubbles (of course!) to the UNC Children's Hospital. Thinking of you, Ed, Jackson, and Ada today and sending love!

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    1. Thank you so much, Allison. Miss you. xo

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  8. My heart goes out to you. I'm here after reading Momastery (whose Together Rising did a good thing for our family). I just set up my website to start fundraising for St. Baldricks, for pediatric cancer research (this will be my 2nd year shaving my head in March).

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    1. Thank you again, Krista. St. Baldrick's really is an amazing organization.

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  9. I am a friend of your friends the Zellers who found this through Facebook. My heart breaks for sweet Hudson but you are so courageous to be doing this in her honor. Our family donated to a girls' school in Jordan where some first grade girls risked losing their education due to lack of funds. We did this to honor Hudson on this special day

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    1. Thank you so much-- what a wonderful way to honor our girl. She loved learning so much. That's very fitting.

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  10. Hi Mandy,
    I found your link through Glennon. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this greatness. Today I've donated to fund 100 hours of quality education through Khan Academy for children in need. Their business partners are currently matching donations $ for $, so One Good Thing really doubled into Two!
    God bless you as you valiantly forge ahead in this earthly life without Hudson. I have no doubt that your Angel Baby is guiding you by the hand. Together you will fill your days with ENDLESS Good Things. What a beautifully heroic tribute to your sweet girl!
    Warrior on, Momma!
    Love,
    Liz

    https://www.khanacademy.org/donate?amount=10&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=All%20Users&utm_campaign=%28A%29%20Donations%20Campaign%3A%20For%20Non-Donors&utm_content=Final

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    1. Thank you so much, Liz. That's a wonderful and fitting cause to honor our little learner-- I like to imagine what she would have been like once she'd learned to read. I'm grateful to you.

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  11. Linked to your blog from Momastery. Thank you for your warm, honest appraisal of your life revealed in your writing. I placed a note by my kitchen sink reading "one good thing." It's a tiny step to take, but I hope to remind myself to have gratitude for the blessing that is my strong willed and caring daughter.

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    1. That's a much bigger step than you give yourself credit for. Thank you for remembering Hudson with us in this way.

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  12. Hi Mandy - I found your blog through Momastery this week and realized that our girls were in daycare together. They weren't in the same class but were together in the drop off room. I've just made a donation to the Prince William Humane Society on behalf of Hudson. Your story is devastating and inspiring all at the same time. Thank you for helping make the world a kinder place.

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    1. Oh, Beth, thank you so much. St. Ann's was such a wonderful place for us when Hudson was there. We still miss it so much. Thank you for your donation to the Humane Society-- our girl loved animals, so that is really fitting.

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