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Woman Her Name Courageous

June 20, 2011

The Most Courageous of Women

Genny White

Some three years ago, I spoke on the phone with my Mother.  I had just written a condolence letter to a woman who had lost a son.  In talking, with my Mother I shared how I hoped that this note would offer some comfort to this bereaved parent.  My Mother replied, “Well, Honey I think that only God himself can console this woman.”  I listened and agreed.  I sent the note on for whatever merit of comfort this grieving mother might find in it.

The greatest challenge in my life up to this point in time had been the emotional hurdles placed before me in my VBAC pregnancy where I faced and overcame the difficulties of enduring a traumatic birth and realized the empowerment of a safe and satisfying birth experience.  As I had journeyed through life and met with certain snafus; chronic pain, living with a hidden disability and problems with my health, marital discord, pressures of this world, and a rebellious teenager screaming in my face, I would ask myself this question:  Are any of these things more difficult than my facing of those emotional hurdles of reconciling a traumatic birth, and I would have to answer a resounding “No!”  Then with strength and fortitude I would move forward to managing whatever trial lay before me. UNTIL, my daughter Corban died.

Mountain of Grief

As they rolled my daughter to OR and the doors closed behind her so that her desires and her wishes of sharing the gift of life could be honored by the harvesting and donation of her organs, I turned to walk away.  I began gasping for air.  It was as if my breath had been snatched away from me.  And then the same voice, that I had heard when I was pregnant with her spoke, when I was pregnant it said “Don’t give up, don’t grow weary you are carrying a little treasure.”  Now it spoke to me again and said “You have a mountain of grief before you, but, as large as that mountain is, I Am even bigger and I will be with you.

The first nine months passed, and I was frozen barely able to breathe or move, despite all of this by sheer force of wits, I continued on refusing to be paralyzed by this icy prison of grief I kept moving maintaining what social commitments I could.  I sat by her grave and reasoned that I did not like this; I did not want this, but here I sat —  I sat determined and decided that if I had to be here that I would make the best of it and be the best mother of a dead child ever — whatever that looked like, and if that meant getting her the spinning pin wheel to adorn her headstone, that is what I would do.  I shared my quiet epiphany with a wise and dear mother who had lost her child many years before.  “Genny, you know what,” Bev, astutely said, to me, “That is right; she is still your daughter, even though she is dead, and you are still her mother.  The only thing that has changed is that she resides in heaven while you still remain on earth.  Nothing has happened that will ever change the fact that she is still your daughter and that you are still her mother.”  This was the pearl of great wisdom.  Death does not alter the bond that exists between a Mother and her child.

As I walk and breathe and move around, I carry an extremely real part of her around with me, an incredibly real part of each of my children I have carried and given birth to, I still carry pieces of them with me, within my own body.  Research has documented that mothers continue to carry cells of their offspring in their own blood stream.   These cells known as fetal cells microchimerism FCm have been found in women’s blood for as long as 38 years after they had given birth.

As the grief wore own the sharpness of my pain flushed against the normalcy of others lives and this acuteness and those who did not understand created a chasm where I and my grief became objects of sharp criticism and of scorn and I withdrew.  I spent the next nine months immersing myself with my peers in support group-like settings.  As my daughter’s life was taken by an intoxicated driver, there was MADD, and, because I was fortunate enough to dwell in CA, there was Umbrella Ministries, a faith-based, support group especially for mothers who have lost their children.  Their motto is “we may not be able to stop the rain, but we can hold an umbrella for you.”

Yes, indeed I was most fortunate.  I went and I found the Most Courageous of Women, and they shared themselves with me, they bore their souls to me and helped to keep me afloat.  These most courageous of women have given me an understanding.  I met mothers who could barely look up, bearing tear-stained eyes.  I would ask “how are you doing today?” to which the reply was “I am a bit sad.  I just got out of the hospital for the third or fourth time, oh I’d say well I am so glad that you are here.”  I met mothers, who after the death of their child went to bed and did not get up for months and months until the months turned into years.  They had lost all their muscle tone and self-worth.  The very act of being there with us was a monumental task.  Thank you for coming, I am so glad that you have come.  Through the death of our child, a sorority was born, though a sorority that no one ever wants to belong to.  What these women have taught me is that there is no loss that is any greater than any other and that there no loss that is less significant than another.

Regardless of age of the child 2 minutes, 2 days, 2 months, 2, 18, 22, or 62 or of gestational age of a child: a loss is a loss.

Regardless of sibling status only child or not, regardless of birth order first middle or last the death of a child is the death of a child.  Regardless of birth, singleton, twin or triplet when one of them is dead, one of them is lost.

The death of a child hurts.  Regardless of cause or manner of death, a congenital birth defect, pediatric cancer, a bullet streaming through the night, suicide, drug overdose, or murder of any type.  A grief is still a grief and the henchman demands his time.  No grief is any easier than that of another kind.

A traumatic birth is a loss and a grief.  The death of a child and bereavement is a loss and a grief of a different kind.  Grief is grief no matter the size, and grief demands reconciliation, a justification.

A sorority has pins, and if I could, I would pin each and every woman in this sorority of sisterhood of loss.  Our pins would be of solid gold (white or yellow depending on your personal metallic color).  Gold, as we too can endure heat, it can be beaten but not broken. Gold is beautiful, and yet malleable.  For us to move forward, though, a huge part of our hearts has been blasted away, we must be incredibly strong and able to adapt against a sea of humanity who haven’t a clue.  This pin of gold would be fashioned with the most perfect  of pearls, a reminder that even death can not alter the bond between a mother and her child for our children are still with us.  The most courageous of women are those who have lost a child.

Last week Phillip and I celebrated our birthdays his on the 8th and mine on the 9th by having a birthday lunch out.  We sat up high as we finished up our crispy onion rings.  Phillip stood up with a twinkle in his eye, grabbing his cup he said, “I’m going for a refill.  I’ll get Dr. Pepper because that was Corban’s favorite.” As he turned his back, I could see, I could feel that our dear daughter was there.  She reached out her arm around me and gave me a hug and a kiss on the check and with a smile said, “Happy Birthday, Momma,” and was off with the wind.  Phillip returned with his cup.  “Are you ready to go,” he asked?

“Yes,” I said, grabbing my purse and hopping down from the high stool.  I was immensely happy to receive this spirited Happy Birthday wish.  Our children are still with us though we dwell here on earth and they dwell in Heaven.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2011 6:23 pm

    beautiful, thank you for sharing .
    Widow and mother of six angels in heaven

  2. Rosie permalink
    June 22, 2011 7:38 pm

    I remember the time of Corban’s passing. I had just found your wonderful website and you accepted my friend request on facebook. I was shocked, affected, grief struck, praying, and touched. Thank you for this today. See you in heaven. – A sister and a stranger

  3. February 22, 2013 6:39 pm

    Oh……this is captivating, heartwrenching, poignant, beautiful, and…….true.

    As a bereaved mother myself, I thank you, for your bravery, your authenticity, and your loving heart. I’ve also added a couple of these resources that you found helpful, in our child loss section at stillbirthday, so that through you and your sharing, other mothers may also find help on their healing journey…

  4. March 11, 2013 11:52 am

    How beautiful. My daughter died on the 18th of January 2013. I am floundering and looking all over for solace.

    • March 19, 2013 4:32 pm

      Nothing takes the air out of you like losing someone suddenly, and especially a child. I’d suggest getting with others who have had similar trauma in their life. I’m at work right now, but you can email me a whitesplace@gmail.com

  5. May 2, 2013 2:05 pm

    Very, very beautiful Ginny! Remembering my angel Cassidy!

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