Stars in the Deepest Night - After the Death of a Child

Stars in the Deepest Night - After the Death of a Child is a collection of poetry written after my twenty-one year old daughter Lori died in a car accident in 1991.

Catching the Light - Coming Back to Life after the Death of a Child

Catching the Light - Coming Back to Life after the Death of a Child is a collection of poetry and prose from the author of Stars in the Deepest Night. Now she takes us further along in her journey after the death of a child, sharing the renewed hope, joy and new life she has found in grief’s garden.
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Catching the Light - Coming Back to Life after the Death of a Child

Catching the Light – Coming Back to Life after the Death of a Child is a unique collection of poetry and prose in which the author takes us further along in her journey, sharing the renewed hope, joy and new life she has found in grief’s garden. Its powerful message will give solace to bereaved parents and the hope that they too may move through the darkness of grief to find light and joy once again in their lives, and bring their beloved children with them as they do.

This is what the author says about Catching the Light:

Since the publication of Stars in the Deepest Night, new poems have come to me when I’ve needed them. Just like the feelings they’ve described, they have often popped up when I least expected them. These poems may not be as raw, full of anger or as pain-filled as the earlier poems, but they have been just as important in helping me describe and understand my feelings.

In 2009, I realized that no one had written a book that described the full arc of a bereaved mother’s feelings from the earliest days after her child’s death, up to eighteen years after. So I pulled out the poems and articles I’d written along the way and realized I could put together that book.

As the project moved forward, I found gaps in what I wanted the book to say about my own particular journey. I began digging into my heart and soul and found new poems to give the widest possible picture of what my experiences had been.

I wanted to show that the death of a child causes bereaved parents to set out on a life-long journey. But with work and time, grief can soften and the memories become sources of light, rather than pain. That their lives can shine through once more, overcoming the darkness of their death. That no matter their age at their death, we can add to their legacy. And we can keep them on all the pages of our lives. My hope is that Catching the Light will give readers all that, and more.

Poems from Catching the Light:

The Winds of Life
The more the wind blows,
the more music wind chimes make,
the louder the music.
They make no music without the wind.
So too, the winds of life
blow against us, buffet us,
and the pounding winds of change
bring out the music in our souls.

The Space Between Thoughts
You are no longer in my thoughts constantly.
You are now dwelling in the space between thoughts,
a part of my every moment whether joyful or sad
or in between, or both simultaneously.
I walk, talk, work, play and you surround me.
You are in the sparkle of my smile
the wisdom in my thinking
the rainbow circles in my life.
As long as I live, you will live.
As I learn, you are teaching, not only me
but all those who are in my life today.
You are a blessing, dear child, for all you were
and all you are and all you forever will be.

Oh, How I Love the Words!
“I was thinking of Lori the other day.”
Such music to my ears
an aria, a sweet refrain,
that brings me close to tears.
The years and years of sadness
have mostly slipped away
now just a well within me
that bubbles up, but doesn’t stay.
But when a friend remembers her
and thinks to tell me so
my heart bursts at the joyful news.
I love so much to know!

The Key
The shoe drops . . .
So begins
the searing silence
a child’s death brings.

No other loss
is so unspeakable
it ties the tongues
of friends, erecting

sound barriers,
muffled meanings
constricting hearts
in numbing fear

Then a friend comes
taking courage
with loving face,
a listening ear,

bringing lanterns
for the journey
bearing witness
to the pain,

a companion
midst the heartache,
seeing loss
and finding gain.

Patient years
bring deeper friendship,
grief’s door opens;
light spills in.

And all because
in deepest darkness,
one turns the key,
and walks right in . . .

Grief’s Garden
When our innocence has ended
and the dark night has begun,
despair and heartache vie with numbness,
mind and body, shocked, unstrung.

Levels of pain and understanding
must be reached before we see gain.
Taking longer than expected,
no one else can know the pain.

Grief like clearing virgin farmland,
full of boulders, stumps and stones,
back breaking and bone crushing,
and, in great part, done alone.

Think when feeling strong emotion,
“Another boulder moved today.”
When it’s felt with all your being,
it can then be moved away.

If we feel the stone’s not moving,
we may have to look beneath,
bring to sunlight what’s in shadow,
so what’s there may be released.

Treat yourself to gifts and blessings
that will help to keep you strong.
Give yourself to happy moments,
feel each feeling, then move on.

Work and work to clear the garden,
feel transcendence in the toil.
Under all the stones and boulders
will be found much fertile soil.

Watered by our weary weeping,
warmed by tender words and sighs,
green shoots sprouting all around us,
springtime comes through open eyes.

When we look to find what’s growing,
we are shocked to see ourselves.
Now replacing fearsome chaos,
an awakening garden dwells.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
As at first we glimpse the garden,
the next moment it feels gone.
It’s a painful kind of growing,
falling back, then moving on.

Since this garden’s fed by feelings,
some form mist to block the view.
If we try to feel them wholly,
they will always move on through.

Just when we think we’re finished,
that the hardest work is done,
there before us, weeds and brambles,
so immense they shade the sun.

Grief’s garden work’s not easy.
But from deep inside the soul
will come strength and deep compassion.
With love and care it will take hold.

And our children watch the growing;
somewhere they are growing too.
And the tears that flood the garden
create rainbows and clear views.

With our gardens we pay tribute
to our children who have gone.
Their memorials are our gardens;
through our gardens they live on.

The Robin’s Song

It’s spring once again. Our part of the world is turning back towards the sun; trees are leafing out; wildflowers are blooming. Robins are again singing to one another. And, I believe, also singing to those who are grieving.

Before my daughter Lori died in the summer of 1991, I was under the misperception that only the English robin had a glorious song. That smaller, red-breasted scalawag of a bird delights all who hear it, and I had felt that we in the United States had been short-changed when they’d misnamed its larger, boring, American cousin the same sweet name. All I’d ever heard our robins do was cheep!

Then one spring day in the year after Lori died, during one of the darkest times of my grief, my ears and heart flew open with surprise at a song I heard outside my window. I distinctly heard, in the midst of my pain, a bird singing loudly and clearly, “Cheer up! Cheer up! Cheerio! . . . Cheer up! Cheer up! Cheerio!” I went outside to see what marvelous bird might have been sent to sing to me. I could barely see the bird at the top of the neighbor’s poplar tree, so, while hoping this exotic, magical bird wouldn’t fly away while I was gone, I went to find our binoculars.

Rushing back, I could hear the bird from each room in the house. After adjusting the binoculars, I was truly amazed to see one of our “boring” American robins come clearly into view! As he continued singing clear as day, “Cheer up! Cheer up! Cheerio!” I marveled at this special message and wondered if my robin was the only one who sang these words. So I looked it up in my Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds and found that my robin was not an anomaly, but that robins are considered the true harbinger of spring, singing “Cheer-up, cheer-up, cheerily.”

I stood there that day filled with wonder. I wasn’t hearing things; there it was in the bird book: “Cheer-up, cheer-up, cheerily.” I thought to myself, “Cheerily . . . No, that isn’t what I hear.” We had lived in England for a year and our family, especially Lori, who loved to put on an English accent, often said “Cheerio!” to one another when we meant, “Goodbye” or “See you later!” There was no doubt in my mind as I stood there listening. It WAS cheerio. Lori could have found no more perfect way to try to cheer me up AND say “hello”!

Nine springs have passed since then, and although I will always deeply miss Lori’s physical presence in my life, those darkest of times are thankfully now mostly in the past. It is spring once again and as I hear the robin singing so hopefully in the highest branches, it takes me back to that first spring song, and I smile, remembering. And I think of all those who are now in the darkest depths of their own grief and pray they too will hear this lovely song.

Saying Goodbye
It’s not in forgetting,
but remembering
that I find peace.

It’s not closure,
but opening
that heals my soul.

It’s not in letting go,
but holding on
that sets me free.

It’s not in saying goodbye,
but saying hello
that keeps me sane.

Saying hello to the joy,
as well as the pain
hello to the gain,
as well as the loss
hello to the light,
as well as the dark
hello to good memories,
as well as the bad
hello to the songs,
as well as the silence
hello to her life,
as well as her death -
and never, ever,
saying goodbye.

Closure – “the act or process of closing – a closed condition (Oxford American Dictionary)
How can closure
and my daughter
or her death
be contained
in the same sentence or paragraph?

I will never close the door
on my daughter, her life,
her death and all that
they have left in me.

Our bond will never be cut.
Our love will never be broken.
She has gone through a doorway
but I will never close it.

Through the doorway of her death
came emptiness and pain
and seeds to start new life
amidst the ashes.

and as the door stays open
blessings can float in
because the doorway of her life
made me her mother.

Tears wash things clean, teach us.
Sadness will always be a part of me,
but they no longer swamp my life.
Instead it is a soft rain,
moistening the dry spaces
so what is within me can open
and grow . . .