Day 25: Mother Earth

The prompt said to plant something, as an act of remembrance, allowing our children’s memory to grow over time.  But it’s October where I live, which translates into a cool New England autumn- not exactly planting season.  I have planted a garden in my backyard, a little plot that bears her name, filled will colorful flowers by our white fence.  I dug up, tilled and planted a veggie garden in my grief, another piece of land that will forever remind me of my daughter.

Since it’s saturday- our usual Mabel’s visiting day- when I picked up some flowers on the way home from work, I grabbed two bouquets.  When we arrived at the cemetery, we placed the colorful bunch of mini roses by Mabel’s grave and then wandered around the cemetery with the other bouquet- this one an orange one, the color of carrots.  We sought out headstones with specific dates- short intervals, or sometimes just one date.  Often it was one name carved in a stone meant for three that caught our eyes.  We were looking for children.  When we found such tombstones, we placed a stem of roses- a gift from Mabel to them.  Though it may not be planting anything, we remembered them today- acknowledging their short lives, giving them a gift from mother earth, letting them know that they are remembered.

#CaptureYourGrief

Mabel's roses

Mabel’s roses

One name on a headstone meant for three.  Her parents outlived her.

One name on a headstone meant for three. Her parents outlived her.

So many kids, so young

So many kids, so young

I know this child... sort of.  I say her name every day when I counsel patients about cord blood banking.  Her parents started a nonprofit in her name to benefit those who need stem cells

I know this child… sort of. I say her name every day when I counsel patients about cord blood banking. Her parents started a nonprofit in her name to benefit those who need stem cells

Mabel's neighbor, a three day old baby.  Sad that she's here too, but grateful Mabel has company.

Mabel’s neighbor, a three day old baby. Sad that she’s here too, but grateful Mabel has company.

The kids graves often stand apart for all their beautiful decorations

The kids graves often stand apart for all their beautiful decorations

A child clearly very remembered by friends and family.  Thought she could use one more person thinking of her

A child clearly very remembered by friends and family. Thought she could use one more person thinking of her

This one stood out- Mabel too had congenital heart defects, though it was her kidney/lung combo that limited her life.

This one stood out- Mabel too had congenital heart defects, though it was her kidney/lung combo that limited her life.

Only one date on this stone, like Mabel's.

Only one date on this stone, like Mabel’s.

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Day 9: In Memory

“Is this new?” my acupuncturist asked looking at my tattoo as he placed tiny needles into my foot.

“Yes.”

“You  must really like carrots,” he said with a chuckle.

“It’s for my daughter.  When I was pregnant with her, we used to call her out little Karate Carrot.”

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I love that my memorial is subtle, requiring a little explanation.  I’m grateful that we came up with a nickname for her that stuck and is real-world enough that I get to see reminders of her from time to time.

***

“Why do you have a carrot necklace?” the daughter of my friend asked.

“I had a baby who died and we used to call her our Karate Carrot.”

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***

“What’s with the carrots?” the little boy asked.  We were seated around a large round table, drawing on small index cards.  Taken together they would fill up a mural in a Mother’s Day remembrance activity for the babylost.  He was drawing something for his little brothers, twins gone too soon.  Chris and I were each drawing carrots in our own way.

“We used to call our daughter Mabel our Karate Carrot.”

“Hah! That’s funny.  A carrot doing karate.”

I smiled.

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#CaptureYourGrief

 

 

 

While I was grieving

“Wow!” He was amazed at the vegetable plants I was showing him.   “When did you do all this?”

I was showing off my garden to my cousin-in-law as we waited for his wife to meet us for dinner. He’s good company, always polite and thoughtful, one of those people whose picture would be in Webster next to “nice guy.” He’s also a physician and so we often enjoy sharing medical stories we collect at work.

I pointed out each plant, telling him which ones we started from seed (the carrots, the basil and the tomatoes, though the latter two were gifted to us by a friend who started them from seeds) and which ones were seedling transplants (the rest- the squash, cauliflower, potatoes, peppers, onions and beans). I felt a little embarrassed because the squash plants were yellowed and scrawny. I would have removed them had not a huge yellow bulb been growing at the end of the dead-looking vine.

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Otherwise, it was a nice looking garden. It sat in a 8 x 12 foot patch, along our driveway, partially shaded by a tall, voluminous tree. Tall metal green posts lined it holding up black deer netting, giving the space an almost crib-like feel. Six rows of vegetables ran perpendicular to the driveway, each separated by rows of small rocks, cataloging the burgeoning plants.

I guided him around the corner of the garden to show him the side. The grass had a bit of a dip, putting the garden on the slightest slant. There on the side, piled on top of each other, were multiple fifty pound rocks stacked into a makeshift wall.  For three and four hour spurts, I used to sit in the dirt that would become my garden and dig with a spade, then a a shovel, then a pitchfork until I unearthed all the stones and mini-boulders that the Connecticut soil was secretly holding.  At the end of each day, the pile of rocks would grow and I had physical evidence of what I did each day.  My arms would ache, my back would by angry and my shoulders would spot a few new freckles as reminders of the hard labor I had put in.  It was a good mental distraction from the thoughts that consumed me at the time.

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“I dug them each up.”

I smiled as I saw him take in my handiwork.

“You dug them up? Yourself?”

“Mmmhmm.”

“When did you do all this?” he asked again.

“While I was grieving.”

We wandered over to my flower garden. Like many bereaved mothers I know, I have a spot in my backyard dedicated to my dead child. I had wanted to put a garden by the white decorative fence ever since we moved in a year ago, but didn’t know what I wanted there. Now a lilac bush, a gift from my midwives, sat in the center. Salvia, peonies and other perennials surrounded it with buckets of colorful annuals interspersed between them. A small hand painted sign marked the edge, announcing “Mabel’s Garden,” a Mother’s Day gift from Chris.

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“Wow! You did all this too? When?”

“While I was grieving…”