I said I’d talk about it in December. But the holidays were so busy. I put it off until January.
Then January ebbed away. On the very last day, after an emergency room shift, I finally sent a message to my newsletter:
I’ve been wanting to connect, but not knowing how to do it.
Last year, I received a very touching message from someone who had lost his father and found solace in my book, Buddhish.
He sent that message within hours of one of my friends losing her baby at 30 weeks.
I couldn’t bring their father or baby back, but I thought, If this book can help one more person, I need to let folks know. But I’m having trouble talking about it because I wrote it at the darkest time in my life, when our first pregnancy ended at twenty weeks with a tiny little girl we named Isadora.
What do you do when someone dies, and you love that being more than you love your own life?
After my family and friends returned to their normal lives, I did what I always do. I read. And part of what I read was about Buddhism, which helped me a lot, because basically, it told me that life contains suffering. I wasn’t alone and isolated in my tragedy. We will all experience both horror and joy.
For the first year, I wanted to talk about Isadora all the time. I didn’t want to overwhelm people with my grief, but I needed to share it. I found wise and helpful friends everywhere. But now that I finally have two healthy children, it’s easier not to talk about tragedy and to pretend everything is fine.
It’s easier for me to say, “Hey, CBC Books recommended Human Remains as its top mystery for the holidays, along with Louise Penny!” than it is to say, “Did you know what happened to me before these two kids?”
On the other hand, as JK Rowling’s Albus Dumbledore pointed out, “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”
It’s not easy for me to talk about Isadora, but I believe the world needs more honest conversation, so I’m telling you about Buddhish. It’s part of the way I honour her. And I do have friends who care.
One of my writer friends, Lisa Silverthorne, told me that she circled February 26th (Isadora’s birthday/death day) on her calendar, and that she thinks of her every year. Another friend asked to see pictures of her and said that she was beautiful.
Thanks for listening.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. I don’t necessarily “know” most people who subscribe to my newsletter. I’m terrible about sending it out, and when I do, I might get a few messages back, but it’s mostly throwing a bottle of words into the ocean of the Internet.
There are a lot of “shoulds” for newsletters. How often to send them out, the best kind of content, how to engage. Not one of them says, “Make sure you talk about the worst thing that ever happened to you.”
I sent it anyway, and I fell asleep. It was just before midnight.
When I woke up, I had messages from all over the world. People had lost their own babies. People had lost spouses. Some of them wanted to pray for me, or with me. Some friends who wanted to show support, even if they hadn’t lost anyone. The Cornwall Library and Champlain Library each bought a copy of Buddhish, and Lisa Henderson bought two for the Hillcrest Funeral Home.
One friend said she cried on nearly every page.
I was amazed. It reminded me of Leonard Cohen’s poem, “Anthem,” which is so famous and so true.
Yes, Isadora was the deepest crack in my life. And she let in so much light.
Even so, I stayed mute on social media. It was easier to keep her quiet and private, in a world where no one will count the reactions and judge us as worthy or unworthy.
But her birth day/death day comes up tomorrow, on February 26th.
And Leonard Cohen told me that I have to ring the bells I still can ring. He instructed me to forget the perfect offering.
So today, I’m taking a deep breath and sending her story into the harsh spotlight of Facebook and Twitter.
It’s okay. I still love her.
All our offerings are imperfect. We have to take the light we can, and keep ringing our bells, even if no one hears us.