Guest Post by Carrie Fisher-Pascual
For as long as I can remember I have been a lover of stories.
I remember my mother coming to pick me up from preschool when I was three years old and my teacher telling her, “She’s in the corner, reading.” And I was. Though I can’t remember what book I was holding in my hands that day, I certainly remember how compelled I was by the words on the page to go further, seek more and take in what would happen next.
As I got older my appreciation for stories centered specifically on the real. I thrived on my grandmother’s memories of life on her family’s farm in the rural hills of Puerto Rico. I roamed the aisles of non-fiction at the bookstore making a mental list of which memoirs would soon be part of my personal library. Whether it was my fascination with the similarities and contrasts to my own life circumstances or the vivid imagery conjured up by the words, I respected that these stories had the power to convey the dynamic nature of a person. Who they once thought they would be and who they actually became.
And then one day I experienced something that would focus my attention on the untold stories. It was August 5th 2002. My husband and I had just buried our daughter Elena who was stillborn at 22 weeks gestation. The giddy joys of pregnancy had turned to the devastation of loss in one brief moment and she was gone. We had done all the things no parent should ever have to do – choose a tiny white casket, invite our loved ones to a funeral, and return home with arms aching from the weight of emptiness. It seemed Elena would have no story.
On that day we had invited everyone back to our house for a small reception. I remember moving swiftly through the house and the backyard to make sure everyone had enough to eat. That was until my next door neighbor asked to speak to me privately, so we stepped out to the front porch. She shared with me that her daughter, who was a good friend and co-worker of mine, was a twin. Her twin sister died of a heart condition at four months old. My feeling of shock would increase moments later when a very good friend of mine told me that his mother had lost a baby before he was born. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he said, “I can’t help but think that if he hadn’t died, I wouldn’t be here.”
I couldn’t stop thinking that if this had happened to people I knew and loved, there must be others. And I wondered why I didn’t know something of this magnitude about people that I was so close to. There were a lot more stories out there hidden away in hearts and tucked safely in memory boxes placed where no one could see. Why weren’t these stories being told and what would happen if we started sharing them? How deep did the silence go?
These questions and our journey to discover the answers over the past ten years have led to this day and the beginning of a powerful documentary film project called “STILL.” Utilizing our independent production company, my husband and I have committed to connecting with people across the country and around the world who have suffered the loss of a baby, as well as those who have not, in an attempt to begin an honest dialogue about pregnancy and infant loss. The mission of The STILL Project is to organically capture the effects of miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS and other forms of infant loss on individuals, families and communities. The title “STILL” represents the silence created when a baby dies and the steadfast resilience of their surviving families.
To fund a film project with the potential reach of “STILL” we are launching a crowdsourcing campaign on Indiegogo.com. And we have chosen August 1st, Elena’s 10th birthday, as the day to begin this new journey. This aspect of The STILL Project gives grieving parents and the people who love them the chance to be an active part of the movement. Contributing to The STILL Project is an investment in breaking the silence about an untouchable subject as well as a way to honor the babies who are missed by many.
So it appears I was wrong about Elena’s story. It was not buried with her. In fact the pages of Elena’s story will continue to unfold, revealing the stories of other children like her and giving a voice to the families who celebrate them.
I guess things haven’t changed much for me. I’m STILL a lover of stories. And because of my daughter I am STILL compelled to go further, seek more and take in what will happen next.