My sweet son Evan is 2 months old today. But he is not with me. He is far away, travelling across the world into the hearts of others!
…In sharing my story of losing my son Evan, I have received numerous messages. People who don’t know what to say other than sorry for my pain, friends & other photographers I haven’t been in touch with for ages, and also words of empathy and comfort from other parents who have experienced loss through miscarriage, fatal diagnosis or other sudden accidental loss. It is touching to hear from all kinds of people. Each post on my flickr that relates to our story has an average of 60,000 views, a great deal for only a few weeks. He’s flying far and wide!
Amongst the responses, I have heard from people to whom reading of my loss has touched them in a way that doesn’t necessarily relate to loss or even children at all. They have been moved to reflect on life as a whole. This has touched me because they find something of their own meaning in my story. Behind my sadness for losing Evan it actually makes me ecstatic inside because then Evan can touch many lives. It means that after those 43 weeks of his life living through me, he can go on living through me, in the words I write and words I speak.
Below, with permission from a young woman who wrote to me, I share her letter. I share it because I was thrilled to read it. I am thrilled because my experience was not just about me nor just about Evan. It’s about all of us.
I’ve been following your posts about your journey with your son Evan for a while now and have commented a bit, and have thought of sending you a message, but didn’t want to be intrusive. I just read your post on tumblr that you’ve shared, and I must tell you that it moved me to tears.
I’ve been struggling with a heartbreak for the past six months that has changed the way I’ve seen the world. By no means does it rival the loss of a child, or come close to the pain you’ve been through, but it has made me question what my goals are, and what it means to grow and love and become closer to living in this world as a full and compassionate person. I’ve entered therapy and have reached a lot of realizations, and have struggled to find honesty with myself and others, but I’ve been so afraid of losing the memory of the life I had before my heart was broken, thinking that somehow it was better back then, to be happy and secure, and unaware of what was to come.
Reading your post has made me realize how strong a woman can be, not because she fights what is wrong in this world with more of what is wrong, but because she has the strength to meet anger with love, and degeneration with love, and fear with love. I have realized that the fact that I am so very afraid of my future, and of the pain that I still carry, doesn’t make me weak, or less off than I was before. It makes me stronger and more alive, and more willing to face my future with an open heart.
I can’t thank you enough for sharing your story with such openness and honesty. So many times we’re told how perfection leads to love, and happiness leads to fulfillment. I remember reading your post about the diagnosis you received, and how it didn’t occur to me that you would complete the pregnancy. It’s embarrassing to admit that now, and I hope you don’t take offense. I think at the time I’d thought that if something didn’t lead to the results we were always told were worthwhile, why continue? Now, reading of your journey, learning what beautiful love and pain and hope can come from living life without closing off from realities and difficulties, I see all of this in a whole different light. I feel so grateful to be able to read what you’ve written, and to reaffirm what our hearts have always told us: we are enough because we are love.
Life doesn’t know or care. It’s up to us to make meaning from what it does, often not what we expect or want. You have to choose how you will respond to what life does to you. It’s up to us to cherish the positives, the small mercies. It’s easy to be be negative. As Matthew says, you can pick up all the negatives, make an island out of them and stay all day there if you want. We can choose to make either positivity or negativity a habit. It’s hard to be positive but it’s the only way to truly live. Life is tough, but we need to be tougher.
This morning, after two rough days of grief, I turned on my iPad to read yet another beautiful message from a woman that touched me in a new way, I quote from her, “it is so good to find women who are not afraid to be whatever they choose to be… that you can be as bright as a star some days and as dark and heavy as a black hole other days and in spite of all that complex struggle… to still come up with amazing things."
So despite how terrible this all feels, how utterly angry, gutted and sad I feel about this unjust loss, these are the moments I am proud of the journey and can smile through the tears. I will let myself get thrashed around by the sea of grief for what nature chose, but I will not choose to stay down and be depressed. Because, this is life.