blue sky shining over

Category: loss

progression | part 5

december 16

to finish our days of mourning rituals, we spent sunday morning writing down things that we missed about sky, and burning them. we first wrote them in the journal in which friends had written thoughts at his memorial service, then on small scraps of paper to burn over a candle.

the intensity of this ritual was heartbreaking, but also heart cleaning. just as sky’s life and body were burned to ashes, our dreams for life with him were also turned to ashes. this gave visual and tangible reality to that loss.

web ready-048 web ready-050 web ready-051 web ready-053 web ready-054 web ready-055 web ready-057 web ready-058 web ready-059

after this, we had no more rituals. sky’s birthday season was over.

Advertisements

progression | part 4

december 14

we released sky’s ashes just as the blue sky peeked through on his dark and rainy birthday, and left them at the foot of the most beautiful waterfall i know.

a few friends had given us a stay at kah-nee-ta resort, a couple hours from our home, for sky’s birthday. the sun set as we drove through hood river, and as the last light of day fell it started to snow.
web ready-040IMG_20121214_164721_936

somehow, hitting 25,000 on the odometer reinforced the fact that we had hit a milestone. we stopped to take this picture and walk in the snow.

IMG_20121214_165235_694
december 15

web ready-045

the next morning, we woke up to a beautiful sunrise.
and sky’s birthday was over.

progression | part 3

december 14

we had to do it alone.

web ready-003

we were alone when we summoned his body from the earth, and now, alone, we return the sum of our bodies to the earth and water and air and elements.

web ready-005

these ashes feel hideously indecent, powdered triune nakedness.

web ready-007

web ready-009

web ready-010i pour into my hand and they slip through my fingers, soft and caressing like a baby’s touch.

web ready-011

web ready-013

fine like baby powder.
fine like powdered baby.

web ready-015

web ready-017

i strew my heart and my passion and my future and my body along this river. spiritual and carnal comingle, cold rain and hot tears. the water and ash make mud in my hand, and this is creation. i hold the stuff of adam.

creation and desolation, beginning and end.

web ready-018 dyptich

alpha omega is here, in this infinite moment.
distilled and destroyed image of god.
breath and dust.

i breathe. i choke hot dusty sorrow. it is finished.

web ready-023

but it is also beginning.

web ready-024

a small seed of rainbow, the root of ash, nestled in the womb, a circular room that circles from beginning to end. sky’s life began and ended here; ash’s life begins … and begins again. old mud is formed into a baby who is not yet powdered, bringing forth order from chaos.

web ready-028

web ready-032

i have two babies: one knit into order, the other flung into chaos. earth and water and breath course through the baby of order. the baby of chaos is in the earth and air and sky. my sky child, and my ash child.

web ready-034

a paradox:
my baby who is ash is not called ash, and my baby who is called ash is not yet ash.

web ready-035the beginning and the end curve together into a circle, and binding them in orbit is love.

progression | part 2

this is the story of the days leading up to ash’s adoption, which began during the season of sky’s birthday. the week of sky’s birthday and the week before ash’s adoption, i journaled the following.

december 11, 2012 | finishing

we have to finish what we started. one year ago, we ventured out on the path of the lost year. we knew the name of the path, but we had no other choice. the lost year was awful, the most awful, painful, heart-wrenching and directionless year of our life. i went to school for no other reason than to keep busy, joel applied to nursing jobs and was turned down for each one, we completed the adoption homestudy and didn’t receive a child, we hid in our room and cried and held each other and whispered “this year is lost. we just have to get through.”

we wandered on the path as it went in circles, through deserts and swamps. there were very few streams or pretty views.

oh sky, if you were only here none of this would have happened. if you were here everything would be beautiful; we would love you, and you would be god’s blessed tiny messenger of hope to us. we would love you and hold you and let you teach us your baby ways of seeing the world. if you were here my direction in life would be clear, your father would have a nursing job, and we would be whole and together as a family of three. you would be happy, because we would love you completely. you would have so many people to love you, spoil you, and dote on you. if you were here we would have a christmas tree, and the children’s books would already be worn and well-loved, there would be a swing in the cherry tree and a fence around the yard.

but you’re not, and you never will be. our happiness will never be complete without you. you will never have the chance to grow up as part of our family. and the longer we live without you, the harder i find it to believe that god can ever make this right.

one year since we last knew for sure that you were alive. i’ll never forget the look of total wonder and joy on your father’s face when he heard your heartbeat. you were so beautiful. i miss you terribly.

december 13

web ready-008

it had been 7 months since we pulled out our precious mementos of sky’s life, and cried at his beauty.

web ready-012

pictures, gifts, handprints, cards … we have so little from the life of our little one.

web ready-014

we lit a candle, and slowly turned each page, handled each object, read each card.

web ready-015

the fear of grief was worse than the grief itself. our hearts, washed clean with tears, softened again.
web ready-031web ready-018web ready-017web ready-044web ready-036 dyptichweb ready-065

our vigil lasted through the night, a shadow memory of that horrible night a year earlier. the candle flickered in the corner, illuminating his angelic face. a face that will never change, never grow, never become lined or weary. frozen in perfection. lifeless.

web ready-069and then the sun rose, and it was his birthday.

progression | part 1

i feel it is important to clarify that this will be my story of ashal emmanuel’s adoption, not his.

we have almost no information on ashal’s 38 weeks and 5 days in utero, and not much more on his first 12 days of life. his story starts in a place that is unreachable to me, and it will emerge as he finds the words to tell it. the story that follows is my story of motherhood, an evolving story of loss and confusion and unexpected joy. of finding myself and god and a world of mystery in the complexities of mothering children who are both living and dead.

it is a picture story, because photography is an essential part of how i make sense of life. sometimes it’s awkward. it’s awkward to pull out a big fancy camera in moments of great emotion, awkward to focus my lens when my eyes are full of tears, awkward to punctuate the music of crying with clicks, awkward to ask a stranger if i can take her picture. but i do it anyway, because, well, it’s what i do.

my refrain, starting last january, was “i can’t get through another christmas with no children, no family.” over and over throughout the year; i can’t get through our 9th christmas with just the two of us. can’t is such a cruel word. each time i have said i can’t over the past year, that which i could not do came and went. i didn’t explode or disappear, but each time the tyranny of my self-professed inability chipped away at hope. i can’t is not a statement of fact, but of despair. i knew i would live through another childless christmas as i had each one before that, but … i can’t.

in november, our first adoption opportunity arrived. a baby would be born at the end of november, and we were one of two families considered to be his parents. it was a protracted affair, with certainty pushed off more times than i could count. each time we heard “no word today. hopefully tomorrow.” my heart said i can’t. after 10 days of this, i wrote the following journal entry:

i really should be doing a better job of journaling this adoption process. so many emotions and memories and thoughts – tidbits of learning that fall like the parable of the seeds on the road, trampled by the stomping of strong emotions and complex experiences.

i feel certain tonight that this mom won’t choose us tomorrow. and i can’t really say i feel peace about it – more of a sad acceptance. we will spend this thanksgiving without the present hope of a child. this whole year, the grief year of losing sky, must be lived out, loose ends must be tied, and ashes must be scattered.

we’ve tried so hard to start the next thing before finishing the first, and i don’t think the universe works this way. maybe it does. one could certainly say that the universe multitasks. but i must bring the silence into my soul before it can be filled with hope again; of this i am sure. joel says that 90% of life is just showing up and bringing what you have, but i think that, to take this next step into present motherhood, i must prepare my broken heart.

this premonition proved to be true, and we set about finding ways to bring some amount of resolve to our mourning hearts, never dreaming that a child would come into our family exactly between sky’s birthday and christmas, the tiny window between finishing that which we had to complete, and spending another christmas alone.

emmanuel

we gave ourselves the entire plane trip to pick out a name for our 12 day old, yet-unnamed baby, forgetting that the plane would have no internet access. how the heck do you name a baby without the internet?!

the process went something like this:
watch an episode of seinfeld.
“what name do you like the best right now?”
“you answer first.”
“let’s watch another seinfeld.”
(lather. rinse. repeat.)

web ready-005

ashal was a name that we had briefly considered before sky was born, but never even reached the “let’s research this name” phase. basically, we wanted to call him ash, but give him a slightly more dignified full name. “asher” had a little too much R action with our last name (asherrrrrroberrrrrts), so ashal was a lovely alternative.

web ready-011

my dad did some research on the name. (cause, you know, he had internet. such a useful invention.) he found that it means “tamarisk tree” in hebrew, and “a flower in the heavens” in arabic.

web ready-017

joel asked why the baby even needed a middle name. i informed him that depriving a child with the ridiculously common last name of “roberts” of the many internet-age options a middle age name provides is not very nice. joel capitulated.

web ready-026

ashal’s birth dad is haitian, so i used our half-hour layover in phoenix to look up popular haitian names for inspiration.

unrelatedly, the phoenix airport carpet is weird. (though i suppose a pdx native can’t really boast in the matter of airport carpets.)

web ready-026-2

and there, right near the top of the list.

emmanuel.
god with us.
christmas.
haiti.

it all came together.
web ready-033

today we’re snuggling our little flower from the heavens, who brought the hope of god-with-us back into our life after a desolate year of pain and grief.

web ready-039i wondered if i would ever say this again.

merry christmas.

one

… year since we drove home without our baby.

one

… year since sky gabriel was born.

memorial candle star sky picture

one

… year since we learned that sky gabriel had died.

at 9:30pm i texted my midwife; i hadn’t felt any movement all day. she told us to meet her at the birth center. we were shaking and cold and nervous, but didn’t really believe that anything could be wrong. that’s the sort of thing that happens to other people. 1 in 100 other people’s babies die, but that number was too small to hold my family.

the shock and sadness on my midwife’s face. she knew. and so did i. but we refused to believe it until the obstetrician at emanuel hospital said, “i’m sorry; your baby has died,” just before midnight on december 13, 2011.

one

… year since the day that sky gabriel probably died.

we cannot know with certainty exactly when he died. his death, like so much of his life, is hidden in mystery.