I often catch certain people looking at me.  Their eyes are fixed.  They are watching everything I do.  They are watching every frown and every smile.  I’ve caught my Grandmother Shamamta doing it.  And she finally said to me the other day in her Inshalla voice, wishes for me to have another boy.  One of my uncles has done it as well.  He seems to be wondering how I can smile and laugh as much as I do.  My close friend had tried to tell me once how she was so deeply affected from my loss, and months later, after I had stopped talking about it, she told me that her anxiety level was so high that her doctor gave her anti-anxiety medication and a referral to a therapist.  She was reminded of death and her fear escalated.

And then I remember the people that try NOT to look at me for too long, because they are too afraid to be reminded of something that we can never escape.  And I think to myself, what would happen if these people tried a Buddhist meditation that I have yet to try, where you meditate on your own death.  Where, no matter how hard you try, you are unable to prevent this inevitable death.  What would happen to us if we all did that?  Wouldn’t it help us stop fighting with each other?  Stop bickering?  Stop blabbing about things that simply don’t matter.  Wouldn’t it keep us from spending money on ridiculous things and maybe spend it on others who need food, medicine, or shelter? 

For my friend, I wouldn’t try to do away with the reminder.  I would embrace it and the anxiety will diminish.  I am thankful that I am able to even though I’m just learning how to do that.  And for those that try to forget it, I will always be a reminder for them that death exists.  That’s okay by me.  When they see me smile,  I hope they think, what enables her to smile?  What does she know that I don’t?  And maybe they’ll ask.  And if not, maybe they’ll wonder.  That is usually the beginning of something wonderful.

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It was 2 months ago today that our son, Milan, passed away.  If I look at the anniversary of his death by the hour, it was at this very moment, 2 months ago, that I was holding his lifeless body in his arms just after we realized CPR was hopeless.  The 20 medical professionals were filtering out of the NICU room about now.  I was crying out his name.

I recount this painful story to explore the value of Anniversaries.  As it is the first and hopefully last death trauma I have had to cope with, I will have to understand my feelings of a death anniversary for the rest of my life. 

Here is the definition of anniversary according to Dictionary.com:

-noun; 1.  the yearly recurrence of the date of a past event: the tenth anniversary of their marriage; 2. the celebration or commemoration of such a date; 3. wedding anniversary.

When we acknowledge and often times celebrate anniversaries of all sorts, we dig deep into our memories and commemorate the date.  A birthday is an accomplishment to commemorate, so long as you are still alive.  A wedding anniversary is also something to celebrate, so long as the relationship is working for the most part, and you remember all the things you’ve been through together.  Still this is a happier anniversary when you are both alive.

In coping with a traumatic loss, do we need an anniversary to remember the loss we are living with everyday?  You play out your memories when you are washing your face, peeing in the middle of the night, or touching someone’s skin.  Distractions offer only a moment of rest.

Maybe one day, when time has passed and my memories naturally fade, I will need to take a day to remember.  For now, trying to live in the present is what’s helping me live with the past.

"A little statue of Buddha."

Image via Wikipedia

In the time of the Buddha, a woman named Kisagotami suffered the death of her only child.  Unable to accept it, she ran from person to person, seeking a medicine to restore her child to life.  The Buddha was said to have such a medicine.

Kisagotami went to the Buddha, paid homage, and asked, “Can you make a medicine that will restore my child?”

“I know of such a medicine,” the Buddha replied.  “But in order to make it, I must have certain ingredients.”

Relieved, the woman asked, “What ingredients do you require?”

“Bring me a handful of mustard seed,” said the Buddha.

The woman promised to procure it for him, but as she was leaving, he added, “I require the mustard seed be taken from a household where no child, spouse, parent, or servant has died.”

The woman agreed and began going from house to house in search of the mustard seed.  At each house the people agreed to give her the seed, but when she asked them if anyone had died in that household, she could find no home where death had not visited-in one house a daughter, in another a servant, in others a husband or parent had died.  Kisagotami was not able to find a home free from the suffering of death.  Seeing she was not alone in her grief, the mother let go of her child’s lifeless body and returned to the Buddha, who said with great compassion, “You thought that you alone had lost a son, the law of death is that among all living creatures there is no permanence.”

(Excerpt from The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler)

Our 9-day-0ld son passed away just less than 2 months ago.  Hoping to understanding how my Rh Disease would affect a possible future pregnancy, I convinced my husband to meet with the high risk doctors whom I saw during this most recent pregnancy.  So today we spent a couple hours at the hospital and for the first time a Doctor took time to ask us, in depth, how we were doing emotionally.

“I never expected a Doctor would care about that, but obviously that was a misconception, so thank you,”  I said to him, feeling like I insulted and complimented him at the same time.

Later, a social worker who helps grieving parents came to the room and spoke to us about the different support systems we might think about.  What bothered me most wasn’t thinking about our loss, it was her description of others who have also lost a child and some of the physical reminders that they construct of their loss.  For example,  tattooing the infant’s footprint to the parents’ lower legs so as to always be able to say “My child walks with me.”  I teared up at the thought, because it gave me a feeling of being stuck, of not understanding that pain and death is part of life.  I imagined it would feel like wearing a tether.

I still cry but I make more effort in managing my tears.  For weeks now, I have not looked at any of his pictures other than the one next to our wedding picture.  Am I hiding pain?  Am I trying to forget?  I don’t think so.   

I am learning from my son about the awesomeness of life and the impermanence of nature.