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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Incarnation of Grief

Today would have been my daughter's birthday.

She died on December 2, 2004.

Too soon. Too young. Her life just really beginning to come into full bloom, cut short by an early frost.

This is strange, hard, tedious work, this business of grieving. I have found, in the three years I've been doing it, that it's not the anniversary of her death that is the difficult day to get through.

It is her birthday.

Perhaps that is because I've found that it is my body that misses her most on this day.

I tried all day to keep myself busy - my mind active - so I wouldn't have time to "think" too much about her. That worked fairly well, but my body would not let me forget the significance of the day.

My body missed her in that place in every woman's body where she first knows she's pregnant. Knows before the lab test. Before the trip to the doctor. Before the phone call. The days before post modern at-home-pregnancy tests rendered all of that a quaint old fashioned ritual of the modern heralding of new life.

In the moment it happened, my mind was not engaged in any particular thought, but out of nowhere, my body remembered the sensation like an old, long-lost friend.

I felt it again as if for the first time today and I embraced it fully. My heart remembered, too, and it leapt for joy just as it did when I first knew I was pregnant with her. Knew she was to be a girl-child. Knew her to be perfect and beautiful and amazing - even before she was.

And then I remembered where I was and where she was not and a sadness washed over me even as I offered a silent prayer for the gift of her life, and the absolute, unadulterated nine months of the joy of having had her tiny form molded and shaped within me.

My body missed her in the places a woman feels the first wave of the hard work of labor begin in her body - a tight twinge in the tippidy top of my now long barren uterus, and a deep ache in the place where the deepest part of the groin meets the lowest part of the tailbone.

And then my heart twinged and ached in the same way, and a wave of a few blessed tears washed over me which helped to soften the hard lump of grief that had settled itself in the back of my throat.

My arms missed holding her. Cradling her. Cuddling her. My fingers missed tickling her toddler belly. That spot under her infant double chin.

My breasts missed feeding her, missed being filled to discomfort with that which provided her both nourishment and solace.

My ears missed the sound of her laughter. All day, I kept thinking I had heard it just round the corner. There! Is Jaime here? Where? Oh, no. Of course not. Sorry.

I'm sorry she wasn't here today to enjoy the beautiful autumn day. She loved to walk. God, I think she walked every inch of every street in Boston - but especially in the South End where she lived. She loved to walk when most other people don't.

In the rain. In the cold. After midnight.

Today would have been my daughter's birthday. So, I did what every mother does on the anniversary of her child's birth. I lit a candle and sang "Happy Birthday to you." Softly. All by myself. Just the two pups, CoCo and Lenny, listening with sweet attentiveness, the way they do when they know something Very Important is happening.

I sang it as memory. I sang it as hymn. I sang it as lullaby. I sang it as hope.

Happy birthday to you, Jaime.

I miss you.

You will always be with me until we are together again.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry that you have this pain and loss to live with. How beautiful a tribute. Happy Birthday Jaime.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Elizabeth...

I am so sorry. Thank you for sharing your memory with us and your beautiful words. What an eloquent and moving statement of grief.


Jake said...

Happy birthday, Jaime.

David said...

Dear Elizabeth+
What an extraordinarily blessed being Jamie was to have had such an articulate, passionate gifted being has her monther.
Reading your post I ached for you,but even in that ache I laid claim to Christ's promise of His Father's house with man mansions.
In French we have an expression of our grief being only the proof of a life well lived- so I hope that your great store of your shared memories will be some blessing in your deepest ache.
Loss is never anything but loss, but in the meantime Life picks us up in its radiant stream- and just look what an essential witness you've become in this tough transformation the Communion is going through.
Maybe not on Jaime's birthday, but the rest of the time, I hope this helps keep you going- you living blessing.

Grace said...


Our Lord hold you close, today, and always.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you for your words. Another perfect day has dawned. God is good.

Jim said...

I pray the Comforter will hold you close this day and always. Jamie has a loving mother, now and always.

Did you know that my grandaughter is named Jamie? Jamie is a sometimes nickname for James and is my use name among the other folk of the wagons. You touched a deep fear only a parent or grandparent could know with your wonderful words. I shall be praying for both our Jamies this day.

Luck in the shadows! (A Rom blessing)


Bill said...

I think that sometimes, we get so caught up in our own troubles that we forget that other people suffer and grieve. Being able to look past our own little world and being able to feel the pain, suffering, sorrow and even joy of others is what makes us part of the human family. In trying to feel your loss I became more acutely aware of my own and in sharing, it became somewhat less, somewhat more bearable.
Thank You Elizabeth.

Pisco Sours said...

Elizabeth+, I am so sorry for your loss, and was in tears at this tribute.

Happy birthday, Jaime, in your place with the multitudes of saints.

KJ said...

When we befriend the dark, we can become who we are supposed to be, but I don't think that that is ever an easy process, and usually leaves a "mark" or two.

Rest in peace, Jaime.

DanFarrell said...

You are in Christ and she is in Christ, and so she is absolutely as close to you now as ever.

johnieb said...

Happy birthday, Jaime; you have a wonderful Mom, who helps others as she has been helped.

That's all I need to know.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Elizabeth--This was so beautiful and I am so sorry for your loss. I will light a candle for you both tonight.

May God give you peace, and may your memories of Jaime bring you comfort until you are reunited with her.


BabyBlue said...

God bless you, Elizabeth on this day, through the tears that show just how deeply you loved Jamie.


Psalm 119:76

stumpjumper said...

Sister Dear,

Words fail. I remember this all too well.
I love you and send love, hugs, and prayers.
That is, until I can deliver them in person.
Happy Birthday to Jaime.
Blessed peace to Elizabeth.

SometimesWise said...

Mother Elizabeth,

Lovely tribute to your beautiful child, and I grieve with you. No mother should bury a child. God be with you.
Happy Birthday, Jamie.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Elizabeth, what a beautiful memory of Jaime on her birthday. I'm here one day late, to say, "Happy Birthday, Jaime".

I understand your missing her in your body. I remember feeling the first flutter of life, like the movement of a tiny feather inside my body.

Oh, yes. When your child dies, I can believe that you feel it in your body, as well as in your soul and in your mind and in your heart.

I love your celebration of her birth - the candle, the soft song, and these lovely words.

As my then five year old grandson said of my mother in speaking of her death, "If you love them, they live in your heart."

Sorry to be late, my friend.

Suzer said...


I am not a mother, though I long to be. I can only imagine the loss, and even imagining, it's too much to bear. May God's Grace and Peace help ease the sorrow and pain of the loss of Jaime, who left this world too soon.

Jarred said...

This was a truly beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing your grief and the love behind it with us.

Frair John said...

Dear Ama Elizabeth,
You are in our thoughts and prayers down here in cold, wet Maryland.

Hiram said...

I sat by the bedside of a man of 52, dying of cancer, on Wednesday night. His mother and father were there, and several of his brothers. The sorrow in the eyes of the family was immeasurable, and the sadness of the mother was indescribable.

But you know what it is, and I am sure that it never ends, even if one learns to live with it.

fs said...

I'm sorry, Elizabeth. Your total body, mind, and soul love for Jaime comes through so thoroughly in your grief, that I can only give thanks for daughters like Jaime, mothers like you, and love like that.