A Collector of People

“She was a collector of people.”

This phrase has come up more than once in the last few weeks, strangely. The first and most moving time was at my friend Julia’s mom’s memorial service. In her eulogy, Julia mentioned her mother was a people collector and quickly it was clear she was  one of the most loved and admired women I’ve ever (once) come in contact with. She held her collection close to her and they very obviously lifted her up as she lifted them up.

I’ve known people like this. For example, my Grannie was like this. She liked to have people around. Family, friends new and old, children of her friends, grandchildren of her friends, nieces, nephews, neighbors… her door was always open. When she died, people didn’t know what they would do without her friendship and love.

I think I’m one of these people.

I think I’m a people collector. If somebody asked me to describe my “circle of friends” I wouldn’t know where to start.

The collecting of my friends has spanned my entire life. I’ve always been one who could jump from one group to another, I think, and that’s served me well.

But sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all the people I’ve collected over the years. I want to know everything they’re doing and going through and help them through tough times. That’s hard to do, physically and emotionally. Facebook has made it easier, but you still only get glimpses.

I’m going to keep collecting those people. Friends from my childhood, high school, and college; the ones I inherited when I married; child loss sisters and brothers all over the world; my December’s Finest girls; blogging friends (too many circles to list); my cheese group (you know who you are); runner friends; people I feel like are my sisters and brothers; and honestly, those I’ve not yet met TO collect!

I only met Julia’s mom once, quickly at a brunch, but my friend Julia’s mother has shown me something through her untimely death.

One day we’re all going to die and it’s absolutely true that a life well-lived with love and grace is a life well-remembered. And if you’ve collected people on your way through that life, your life will be richer and so will theirs.



Yesterday, I over-committed.

See? I decided after seeing Laurie post about this “write every damn day in August” writing exercise, that I would sign up for it, too. Let’s be honest here. I’m in a rut. I need to kickstart my brain.

But I’m not good at these things. These “do this for 30 days” things. I fall off the wagon and fully expect to this time. I figure if I make it to day 5, I’ll be pleased.

But maybe I’ll surprise myself.


If you want to join, check out the 30 Days of Writing: Write Yourself Alive site. 

Now YOU Can Listen (and watch)

Yesterday, the 2014 Listen To Your Mother videos were released.

I’m not going to lie.

I hadn’t watched the Atlanta show before yesterday.

I had no clue what it looked like from the audience. I didn’t realize what a beautiful group of individuals we had on stage. Well, I did, but not as much as I did when I watched them all — confident, bold, brave, honest, and raw — share their story to hundreds (now thousands) of people.

Seeing it all happen face-first made it all really real. My co-director/producer Miranda and I invite you to take some time and watch our show, beginning to end. Your life will be better with these stories in your heart.

You can see all of our show, in order, by clicking right HERE. I promise it will be the best 86 minutes you’ve ever spent on the internet!

via Lyssa Sahadevan

via Lyssa Sahadevan

Again, a huge THANK YOU to our sponsors, LiviRae LingerieFirefly Loft, and From The Hip. And one more shout-out to our amazing cause, Just Heart Foundation! Thank you all for making the show at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre amazing!


Big thanks to LTYM video sponsor CollegeSavingsChillout.com by T. Rowe Price! 

Watch the other 2014 videos on the Listen To Your Mother YouTube channel or choose a playlist by clicking on a city below:

Atlanta • Austin • Baltimore • Boston • Boulder • Charleston • Chicago • DC • Denver •Indianapolis • Kansas City •Little Rock • Madison • Metro Detroit • Milwaukee • Nashville • North Jersey • Northern Utah • Northwest Indiana • NYC • Oklahoma City • Plumas County • Portland •Raleigh-Durham • Sacramento • San Francisco • Southeast Texas • Spokane • St. Louis • The OC •Twin Cities

What Happens Next?

On May 23, Lucy posted a comment on Charlie’s Story. It moved me and prompted me to respond however I could.

I am crying for you. Devastated for you. Life is so beautiful, so heartbreaking. I don’t understand why these things happen. Perhaps you have a better idea than I? I want to know more about your journey. What happens next? How did you survive?

Lucy, there are no answers. And yet? There are a million answers.

Now I’ll speak of my story specifically. This is mine. Not Jason’s and not anyone else who has lost a child. Because grief is like that. You can’t speak for others. There’s no set way to do it except to go through it. Not around… through.

Let’s start at the beginning:

I am crying for you. Devastated for you.

Life is so beautiful, so heartbreaking.

Life IS heartbreaking. Losses like mine (infant death) and so many others (stillbirth, miscarriage, childhood death, etc) aren’t supposed to happen. At least that’s what our brains and hearts tell us. Life IS beautiful and heartbreaking. Just like there is beauty in death and loss. It’s not able to be seen at first, and honestly can take years, but there IS beauty in death.

I don’t understand why these things happen.

I don’t either and quite honestly, it pisses me off. I like concrete answers to specific questions.

A common response to someone losing a child or young adult is “why did this happen? They’re such good people.” To which I respond, “then were we BAD people?” No. Not at all.

These things just happen. They’re not supposed to happen but they do. They happen. It sucks and they happen.

What a cop-out answer, Jana.

I do personally believe, even though it’s one of the worst things you can say to a person who has lost a child, that things do happen for a reason.

I believe I was chosen to give birth to a child who wouldn’t live to see a full month on this earth. I believe I was chosen to carry this heartbreak. I believe Jason and I were chosen to be the parents of two who only have one here on Earth.

I believe these things like I believe the sun is hot and the grass is green.

I want to know more about your journey.

The journey for me has been a strange one. The Grateful Dead had it right when they said, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

Over the course of probably the next 24 months after Charlie died, and that included the pregnancy and birth of Henry, I went through the five stages of grief. I was angry, in denial, depressed, bargained and then finally, accepted. I rolled through them all, sometimes all in one day, sometimes for weeks at a time.

I questioned it all. How did Charlie get sick? Was it my fault? Surely this is my fault. Research. Question. Research. Feel guilty. Question some more. Oh, there’s a chance it COULD have come from me, but also a chance it could have come from life?

Then I chose life. I chose to believe it wasn’t my fault. Sure, there was a chance it could have been, but did I want to live the rest of my life with the guilt of thinking, without knowing for 100% sure, that it was all MY fault? No. So I chose LIFE.

I don’t remember much about my pregnancy with Henry or his birth. I’m not sure I wanted to get close, but once he was here, it was different. He looked like he was here to stay. He didn’t have the wise eyes and other-worldly soul. I did everything I could to protect him from the evil of GBS and from the evil of anything else that could hurt him.

But then, I carried on.

For 11 years, I’ve carried on. I’ve talked about Charlie. I’ve talked about death. I will talk to anyone openly and honestly about how I feel. Why? Because it’s my story. It’s woven into my life like the veins that carry my blood. It makes me breathe and validates that he was here and he was important.

Over the years, I’ve questioned my faith. I’ve wondered what kind of God would let this happen to a family and why was it MY family. I’ve been angry at God and wanted desperately to believe in something else. Anything else that would explain WHY.

But I believe in God and Heaven and that when I get there I will be reunited with Charlie. He’ll be waiting in a rocker for me, having saved my spot for many years. He’s waiting. Just like I am. Charlie is my protector. I feel him surrounding me every single day. He shows me signs when I need to know I’m not alone. He drops light into my world when it starts to feel dark. I believe in his pure, innocent, child-like spirit.

How did you survive?

One day at a time. One step at a time. One foot in front of another.

I’ve said this before. You survive because you have to.

Nobody wakes up one day and says, “You know what? Today would be a super day for something horrible to happen.”

We don’t get to choose these things. Maybe the universe does. Maybe God does. Maybe shit just happens. But at any rate, we survive because we have no other choice.

Well, we do, but the other choice is never a pretty one. Many people who lose a child do end up on this side though. Suicide, divorce, crippling depression… they’re all very normal side effects of horrible losses. But they don’t have to be.

(If you’re feeling hopeless or suicidal, please talk to someone. Call 1-800-273-8255 for help 24/7.)

What happens next?

Life happens next. Again, I speak only for myself.

I choose to live life to the fullest and honor and remember my son’s very short but very important life each and every day.

People will continue to ask these same questions, Lucy, and I will continue to answer them. Others will continue to not know what to say and be scared to ask for fear of making me remember.

I hope what happens next is that I live long enough and have my memory long enough to never forget the feeling of a beautiful 6 pound baby in my arms, taking his first and last breaths against my heart.

That’s what I hope happens next.



It twists and turns,

going up and down,

around and around.


Never a straight line,

always contorted.

Always changing directions.

The contorted filbert branches–

they’re a lot like life.


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