Those were the words from the poem printed on the funeral stationary for our babies…both times.
Focusing on the birth of a baby, the realization that all babies are born is one of the powerful and profound truths we learned while taking our birth and bereavement training through stillbirthday.com to serve as an SGM/SBD for Sufficient Grace Ministries.
It is true. All babies are born, and worthy of honor and celebration. That is why we do this sacred work.
But, I want to talk about another birth that comes after life is cut short. After the months of flailing in the desperate sea of grief, tossed about, choking up the salty water from a flood of tears. Gasping for breath. Coming up for air. Certain at times that you may drown in the relentless sea. But, you didn’t. You keep breathing. Even in the gasping. The pain of breath tearing your heart raw and bloody, until you wonder how…how it can keep on beating. An ache so deep, you know for certain with stark reality that you live, still.
You live, but part of you died. And, in the dying…something…someone else emerges in time. A rebirth. From the ashes.
By now, everyone has heard that Robin Williams, one of the funniest and most talented actors of our time, has taken his own life. In the wake of the tragedy, the world mourns, and we all reflect, trying to make sense of it. Wondering what drives a person to such desperation. We understand pain and darkness…the kind that comes from the deepest pits of brokenness.
And, yet…we live.
In the gift of living, of breathing…even through the pain, the opportunity for birth, newness…and even a renewed hope can emerge after the darkness. We realize, you see, how fleeting this gift of life is, at least on planet Earth. We who have watched how easily life can slip away. There comes a time, when even the grieving heart of a mother (or father) longs to truly live, and not the kind of life she lived before. But, a new one. A deeper, fuller, more real life…with much less of the things that don’t matter this side of heaven…and much more of the things that do.
I watched Dead Poets Society tonight, as many have over the course of the last few days…to honor, to remember, a great artist. And, to search for something deeper for a moment, something of inspiration, and hope, and beauty…the kind that rises from tattered ashes. That kind of beauty, that kind of living, that kind of resolve is beyond mere survival. It is so much more.
Only those who’ve found the sweetness of life beyond the pits of despair know what I’m talking about. The way life tastes after facing the pain of death.
I thought of the mothers I’ve walked with, the heroes who keep breathing one breath at a time, being carried with grace beyond what this world can offer, living life after the death of their child or children. Everyday.
If we’re looking, there is a deeper, sweeter beauty in everything once the bitter taste of loss has grazed passed your lips. And, I see you now, finding your way. Choosing to live with your broken pieces…as a new creation is birthed, even through your fierce pain.
There is a freedom here….when what once seemed so important no longer carries weight. A desire to cast off the shackles, to seek out and dance a little after the mourning, or even in the midst of it. A rebellion of sorts emerges. The good kind of rebellion. The kind that gives men a reason to keep on.
“Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!” ~ John Keating (as played by Robin Williams) Dead Poets Society
So find your voice. Speak. Break free. In whatever way that looks like for you.
“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’
Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” ~ John Keating (Robin Williams)
Don’t be afraid to find your verse and sing it loud…play it loud…speak it loud…live it out loud. You are not forgetting your baby. You are remembering in the sweetest, most powerful way imaginable…by living this life as much and as well as you can. Until you hold that sweet babe in your arms again one day.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear, nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck all the marrow of life…” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Don’t be afraid to go searching and seeking what it is you were born to do, beyond the day to day grind of life…what stirs passion deep in your heart. You are not the person you were before you spoke the most painful of goodbyes. Find out who you are now. The idea of carpe diem…seizing the day…you know more than most the preciousness of the gift of now. We are only guaranteed now.
So live. When the time comes to rise above the waters, to gasp your first breaths after flailing in the sea awhile. Grasp life, grasp tightly, and hold on. Breath deeply.
Kelly Gerken is the president and founder of Sufficient Grace Ministries, an organization providing perinatal hospice services, bereavement support and Dreams of You memory-making materials to families facing the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death and the death of a young child. Kelly has walked through the loss of three of her five children, and now reaches out to walk with other grieving families as an SGM perinatal loss support doula and SGM Remembrance Photographer. She is a creator and facilitator of training for birth professionals on compassionate care for bereaved parents facing perinatal loss. Her memoir, Sufficient Grace, was published in 2014. You can read more about Kelly’s journey of grace, hope and healing and the outreaches of SGM, order resources or find her book here: www.sufficientgraceministries.org.