Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Things said that break my heart

But I have no friends at home to play with.

Mommy, why is there nobody sitting next to me?

Maybe we can take Baby Alex's Christmas tree to the cemetery after we take a nap.


Ain't this fun? *sigh*

Recalled

I just spent some time perusing recall.gov and am now terrified of...everything.

The most scary recalls (to me) involve food with "undeclared" ingredients in them...or the children's products that contain lead.

Sulfites seem to be the most prevalent oversight in food. With a couple undeclared cheeses and anchovies thrown in for good measure. And let's not talk about the possible botulism.

As for children's products, Stravina Operating Co. of Chatsworth, Calif. is recalling about 6 million children's necklaces and zipper pulls that pose a serious risk of lead poisoning. And there is a recall listed for a CRIB that poses a lead poisoning risk. Good grief people!

Seriously, I need to stick to my crochet websites so I don't scare myself silly.

Send some love

If you get a chance, drop by Michelle's place and give her some love. Thanks.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Wish me luck

I had a craving for chocolate chip cookies. But thanks to an earlier craving for chocolate, I only have a half a bag of chocolate chips (and a bag of holiday M&Ms...red & green). I also do not have any baking soda, only baking powder. Further, I am missing Vanilla extract and only have almond extract.

So...I improvised.

I hope they're good. It would be a shame to waste chocolate chips and/or M&Ms.

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Not bad. Quite cakey and a little almondy. But not bad.

I Hate This

If you missed David's play on the radio...or if you have people you think might benefit from hearing it...you can play it HERE in MP3 format.

Great job David! Steve and I really enjoyed it.

Back to normal

I'm back to normal! I have absolutely nothing interesting or exciting to say anymore. No deep though or insight. No plea for help or counsel. No desperate need to understand anything. No sobbing as I type the words on this blog. I actually pondered the question, "What do I say today?" And the answer didn't come! I didn't automatically think of some Alex-is-dead-related post I just needed to get out of my system. I was stumped. Stymied. At a loss for words.

Hallelujah! Some normalcy!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Dreams or nightmares?

I had a dream last night. I was pregnant and in labor, in a hospital bed, feeling my baby kick and roll inside of me. They told me I had lost my mucus plug and should start to feel serious contractions soon. Then the male nurse asked me if I would mind if my baby was used in some study after birth...Something about eyesight and playdough (can you tell what living nightmare I had at my house yesterday?). I told him I would have to think about it and he sent a bunch of people in to see me to "explain the necessity" to me.

While I was waiting, I walked to the bathroom and caught a glimpse of myself in a full-length mirror and saw I was wearing my sexy red nightgown. Hugely pregnant and wearing my red nightgown. Now, this isn't humanly possible, given the style of said nightgown and the enormity of my belly when pregnant. Stunned, I turned right around and went back to my room.

Then the people came in and I stood on my hospital bed throughout the meeting, rubbing my belly. When it was over, I told the whole room (which had at some point changed into a conference room with my bed at the head of the table, "no...I won't consent." I was, at this point, wearing the hospital gown again...Though it wasn't open in the back like most hospital gowns.

The people started to disperse, I climbed down from the bed, and the doctor who wanted to perform the study came up to me and said, "I thought perhaps if I could explain things a little more to you and answer your questions that you might consent." In that moment I had a realization and I told her, all while still rubbing my moving belly, "You don't understand. My last baby was stillborn. I won't share this baby with anyone...Not even for a moment. It's very important to me and you'll just have to forgive me."

Steve woke me and I almost didn't want to get out of bed because I could still feel the movement. It wasn't like I was dreaming it was Alex, I openly acknowledged that Alex was gone and this was a different baby. I wanted to savor that feeling. But at the same time, I wanted to shake it off and remove it entirely from my thoughts. I showered and felt sad when I ran my hand over my sagging belly...What is left of the last time I was pregnant.

The thing I remember is the movement in my belly. I kept my hand on the right side of my belly the whole time. And he kicked and wiggled so that I knew he was ok. The kicking let me know this baby was fine...I knew he was fine and we were all going to be fine...As long as I didn't listen to those people. But that feeling. I miss that feeling. I have, from the first day, felt a sort of emptiness that I can't describe to anyone. I simply don't have the words for it. It's obviously emotional. But it is physical too. I remember having a somewhat similar feeling after giving birth to Sam. But it seemed to correct itself and I felt better after the postpartum hormones wore off. I was feeling like "myself" again physically. Now I feel weak and empty. It's similar...But very different. Like I said, I really can't explain it adequately.

Luckily, I remembered to bake the biscuits for this morning's welcome reception for three new staff members at our office and I was able to forget the dream...For a little bit.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Five days off

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I just don't know if I can go back to work tomorrow. We had five days off together and it was wonderful. I feel relaxed and calm and snuggly in my sweats and tshirt. The Christmas tree is up, Sam and Alex's ornaments are on hangers above the television, the lights are on the porch outside, the wreath and stockings are up above the fireplace...that's about all the decorating we're doing for the holidays. It doesn't sound bad...unless you know me. Normally my house is a Christmas wonderland. But this year I just can't bring myself to bring out the Santa Clauses or the nativity figures.
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We went to my mom's art show last night at Pentagon Gallery (Cleveland Heights, I think). It was nice to see her glass pieces displayed as the art that they are. Poor mom said she felt like she was a fish out of water. But I think that's just because she doesn't have a pretentious bone in her body. A black and white photo of a bowl of peaches...sandstone sculptures of heads...pottery vases, bowls, plates...watercolor still lifes...I think she was in good company, but certainly not better company than herself. But that's just my opinion.
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I finally got that last row of tile down on the bathroom doorway. I know I previously said I was going to do it...but something distracted me back then. So today I finally got it done. Yee-haw!
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Sam asked to see Santa Claus yesterday. So we took him to Beachwood Place to visit with the big guy. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that when he said he wanted to see Santa Claus, he was being quite literal. We walked up, saw Santa Claus, and that was about the end of it. I tried to cajole him into getting his picture taken with Mr. Claus to no avail. So we went walking and Sam got a really cool free toy from the Firefly mobile people.
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Had a delicious dinner at The Cheesecake Factory at Legacy Village. I highly recommend the Strawberry Daiquiris and the Chicken Medeira. However, I also recommend you skip the bread so you have room for the cheesecake...any cheesecake. Yum! But don't expect quiet romantic conversation. They've got the Christmas music blaring entirely too loudly in the dining rooms. And you might want to take a flashlight. Apparently they think you don't need to see your food to enjoy it.
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Do they have to use babies to sell everything? I mean...Planter's peanuts...is THAT really necessary?!?!
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Yes, we really did get all that snow. It was gone two days later. We got a bit more over Thanksgiving, but it's all gone now too. Don't worry...it will return. This is, after all, the snowbelt of the Great Lake Erie.
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I think I even have to go to court tomorrow. What a bummer. That means wearing nice clothes and acting like I've got my act together. How tiresome.
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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Bad luck inventory

Sitting in the back seat of the van with Sam.
Wearing the same brown pants...and the same earrings...and my winter coat.
Falling asleep and leaning my head on Sam's booster seat while Alex slowly died.
Some things are so much the same.
Some things are so much different.
Refusing to wear the gold ring again.
Selling the shirt I wore that day...the shirts I wore for several of those days.
Can you invite bad luck to visit?
Can you prevent it from returning by changing your clothes?
I wonder about the woman wearing my shirts.
What would happen if I wore that ring? Nothing.
Nothing happens now. Nothing good or bad. Just nothing.
But I like these pants.
I have trouble putting the earrings on, and am thinking of selling them.
Why?
I remember thinking how ridiculous I was then. I showered and got dressed and called work and said I was going to the doctor but would be in later, depending on what the doctor said. I put my jewelry on. How ridiculous. I took them off when I realized I wasn't leaving and I should get comfortable in that bed. I put them in my little "princess" pill box. I wasn't going to work after all.
Normally I can wear the pants.
But today I wore the pants and the earrings and rode in the back seat and fell asleep...and it was all just too much.
Did anyone notice I was crying in the dark?
I don't think so.
We went to my mom's art show.
The last one was when Sam was about six months old.
Why didn't my sister and her husband attend that one?
This one should have been when Alex was about six months old.
I could imagine the new pictures.
Why don't the memories crowd out the ghosts?
I need to get rid of these earrings...and these pants.
And remember to ride in the front seat.

The Polar Express


We bought the DVD yesterday afternoon. As of this moment we are watching it for the third time. It's not the Wiggles Christmas video we had to suffer through a zillion times last year...so I guess that's good. But am I the only one that doesn't understand all of this movie? I feel like I need Cliff's Notes to understand it all...no matter how many times I watch it.

Another commercial - PAIL ribbon angels

The handmade stained glass Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness ribbon angels will cost $12. Email me in order to make a purchase.

A tale of two Walmarts...and how I've lost my mind

Yesterday morning I woke up and went shopping. Not the 4am adventure I had planned...I was too tired to wake up and too comfortable snuggled up under my blankets to get out of bed. I did make it to Walmart by about 8:30am, in my quest for the advertised Thomas the Tank Engine two-pack (two engines for the price of one). Upon entering the store, I quickly headed directly back to the toy section as though I had blinders on, not to be distracted by the pretty shiny baubles marketed to us adults allegedly with disposable income (do these people not know that I would rather buy a toy for my three-year-old than some fancy gift-wrapped eau de cologne?).

Arriving at my destination, I found no holy grail...no Thomas the Tank Engine two-packs. I thought perhaps I could simply buy two individually packaged engines at the special price, so I grabbed two and took them up to the register. At the self checkout, however, they both rang up individually and I knew I was sunk. I voided the transaction and headed to the nearest attended register.

The cashier rang them up and they came up individually again. I asked if these were the ones that were on sale...two for $9.88? She sighed and, sounding rather irritated, told the embarassed looking young trainee standing next to her, "First we have to find it in the ad." She took the ad, smacked it down on her register conveyor and started flipping pages, looking rather bored with it all. She snapped at me, "Was it in the special section?" I told her no, it was in the regular sale circular for the week. She flipped it open to that page and the trainee, obviously feeling sorry for me at this point, declared, "There it is!" and pointed to the advertised special.

The cashier looked at me and said flatly, "That's a special two-pack." When asked if they had any of those, she snarled, "I don't know, you're the first to ask." While I find that statement hard to believe, it was clear she was not going to help me any further, so I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Okaaaayyy..." and I wandered back to the toy section again, starting to sweat. It was warm in the store, but I knew that I was overheating in a different way. I held it together long enough to put the individual train engines back on the shelf, ask for help from a toy associate (who was equally unhelpful), look through two more aisles for myself, and leave the store empty-handed. As I headed for the door, my steps came quickly in rhythm with my breathing.

In that moment, there was no greater disappointment for this mother than to fail on my Christmas shopping trip early on the morning after Thanksgiving for the ONE gift I know my son will LOVE. I was dejected...disappointed...sad...embarassed. The logical part of my brain was telling me that it was no big deal, I would find something else to wrap and put under the tree on Christmas morning. But there I was, rushing from the store, nearly in tears.

And then I couldn't find my car.

It's a SuperWalmart, but still...I couldn't find my damn car. At that point, hysteria found me. I had failed. I failed at shopping, I failed at parking and finding my car like normal people...I was never like this before...I failed at being a mother to BOTH boys. A miserable failure. Can you see where this train of thought headed?

I wandered around for a few minutes, tried to open the door to a car that looked like mine but wasn't mine, and grew increasingly upset. I elicited some strange looks from a man loading his two boys into their SUV when I said, obviously out loud and not in my head as intended, "What is happening to me?"

Thankfully, I found my car before having a complete breakdown in the slushy parking lot. I climbed in, sat in the driver's seat, and took several deep breaths to avoid hyperventilating over the stress of it all...the weight of my failures.

The breakdown was fleeting...come and gone in less than twenty minutes. I collected myself and headed off to Joann's for some great fabric deals. I missed the 9am deadline for the 20% additional discount and had to settle for 10%. Turns out those twenty minutes of mental distortion cost me money. gah! But, I was still able to buy some flannel for $0.96 a yard (regularly $3.99 a yard) and some yarn at a great discount. Plus, I was lucky enough to find yarn of the same dye lot as some previously purchased and being used to crochet a shawl for my mom for Christmas (she knows...I'm not blowing any big surprise by posting it here).

I headed home with my purchases...realizing they were all for me. I hadn't gotten a thing for Sam. sigh

When I arrived home I told Steve about the rude cashier and the unhelpful sales associate at Walmart. I left out the part about the breakdown, but I think he may have instinctively known, because he picked up the phone and called other Walmarts to find the elusive gift. He called the Walmart in Erie, PA and the woman said, "Yes, we have two left." Steve was disappointed and simply said, "Oh," thinking there was no way we could get there in time to get them. The woman said, "Well, are you going to come get them?" Steve explained that it would take us at least two hours to get there (he and Sam had yet to get showered or dressed for the day). Then the woman said something that makes me believe in the magic of Christmas again. She told Steve that she would put them behind the sporting goods counter and if we came in before the end of the day, we could have them. Later in the day, when we arrived at sporting goods, there was even a note on them saying, "Hold for Stephen."

My brave and handsome husband sorted it out and made it all good again. This is the story of my life. So I will get the joy of watching our boy open those packages on Christmas morning. Our boy will get the joy of opening those packages on Christmas morning. And maybe I'll have eluded a complete psychotic break for another day.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving moments

I only cried once. And I think I hid it pretty well. Shortly before the tears fell, I had yelled at Steve to keep his eyes on the very snowy and slippery road...so I don't think he even noticed. We were riding down the road to my parents' house in the snow and it was very quiet...too quiet. Suddenly, the feeling of that other life overwhelmed me. That life where we were riding to my parents' house in the minivan with Sam telling me all about what his baby brother was doing in the carseat next to him. I could hear the giggles and the laughter sure as if they were really happening. Maybe if I turned my head fast enough I could catch just a glimpse. I did get a glimpse of Sam...but he was all alone and there was no happy laughter. What would he have been wearing? How would I have kept him warm in this weather? We'll never know.

And so we arrived at my parents' house and my mother hugged me and waited for me to get my coat off before asking me how I was doing. When I said, "Fine." She asked, "Really?" I told her not to make me cry...and we left it at that.

We had a delicious dinner, thanks to mom's fabulous cooking. The desserts went over well. And the pumpkin pie got rave reviews, thank you very much.

After dinner, my sister and her husband brought out "pre-Christmas gifts." They had apparently travelled to Bronner's Christmas Wonderland and bought us each a new Christmas ornament for our tree(s). Each ornament meant something special to each recipient. Steve loves polar bears...he got a polar bear. I love moose...I got a moose. Sam loves trains...he got a train. It was really very sweet.

But more important to me than that was that they presented Steve and I with a blue ornament with Alex's name on it. It matches the red ornament they bought us for Sam's first Christmas. I said thank you, but it seemed so inadequate. With that simple little gesture, my sister and her husband welcomed Thanksgiving and Christmas open up to Alex's memory. I didn't cry...

He should have been sampling mashed potatoes and gravy. His uncle should have been throwing him up in the air and catching him. His big brother should be dancing around telling us all the exciting things he and his baby brother were enjoying about the day. His father and I should be smiling and happy and comfortable as we received his Christmas ornament.

I'm crying now.

Striking a balance

It's a balancing act of sorts. Missing our dead son, while still enjoying the son we have with us...mourning for what should have been, while being thankful for what is...crying at the odd moment when we're alone with our momentos, while smiling in the middle of the family gathering.

I read of women who would feel unfaithful to their lost child when they found happiness again. I didn't understand it at first. I think that is because I was so consumed with the sadness, the concept of happiness was a near impossibility. But now that there is some happiness...now that I've learned there IS an art to balancing it all...I can understand the feeling. If you let the scales tip even slightly in the favor of happiness there is this overwhelming worry that I am leaving Alex completely behind...that I will forget. It's insane, to tell you the truth. But there isn't much about this journey that hasn't been insane. So I just consider it par for the course.

On this Thanksgiving, I hope you'll forgive me if I indulge in the fantasy that our boy reads this blog.

We miss you Alex. We are so thankful for the time you were with us. Just because the scale may tip toward smiles and happiness today does NOT mean we have forgotten you. We love you.

updates

This morning, while watching the many show tunes at the beginning of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, I updated my links list. I added more pages I read regularly. Now I feel a little less one-dimensional.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Pumpkin pie and landmines

I decided to go ahead and break from tradition and buy Thanksgiving dessert instead of make it this year. Problem was, my mother is diabetic and I couldn't find a suitable sugar free pumpkin pie as requested. So despite having bought the pecan pie and the chocolate divine cake for everyone else, I was still left to bake the sugar free pumpkin pie for my mom.

It was a welcome activity today, filling up some of the time I would have spent thinking about how I was missing Alex on this Wednesday before Thanksgiving. And pumpkin pie, it turns out, is a pretty easy thing to make (I'll let the taste reviews speak for themselves tomorrow).

So I was humming along in the kitchen, opening cans and spices and getting it all ready to mix up. I needed the electric hand mixer. I grabbed the mixing paddles and went in search of the mixer itself. Not in the first cupboard I looked in. I walked over to the cupboard built in above the ovens in the wall and opened the doors. The mixer was there, under the vinyl bib I saved from my first son...that my second son should be using about now. And as if that isn't enough, when I pulled the damn thing down from the cupboard, the brand-spankin-new unused Playtex nursers came tumbling down from whatever place I had hidden them in.

There will come a day when there won't be these little painful reminders tucked away in my house...or maybe there won't and I'll have to move to escape them (but since Steve finally finished the trim on our living room flooring...almost ten months after starting the project...I feel more like staying than ever). Or maybe we'll get lucky and we'll have our dream baby to help us disarm the landmines a bit.

I hope the pumpkin pie gets good reviews.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Something to be thankful for!

Gideon has arrived! Congratulations to Vixanne and Marc!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

gah!

Men!

He said he'd bake the chocolate chip cookies. After last night's burnt ones, I asked him to be careful and not burn these.

I mean, how hard is it to put some frozen cookie dough lumps on a baking sheet and bake them properly?

Yeah, yeah, yeah...blow me off and ignore what I have to say.

Guess what?

Yep...burnt cookies AGAIN.

I'm going to bed...without cookies.

We don't cry anymore

We don't talk about Alex as though he were something special anymore. Now, don't get me wrong, we know he's special. But we talk about him now in the same way we talk about Sam...as our son...not as the defining experience of ourselves.

I remember when I was pregnant and everything about him was special. His kicks, his weight on my spleen, his impending arrival, his bedroom...it was all covered with a bright shiny newness that made us look around and smile. Life was ours to live and we knew exactly how it was going to be. We reveled in discussing the shiny happy possibilities.

When Alex died, we talked. We cried and we talked and we tried to understand one another. A sense of urgency to return to normal versus a sense of emptiness that prevented normal from ever happening again. Life suddenly became something to survive, and we had no idea where we were headed. For a while it seemed as though we were headed in different directions and I was more scared than I have ever been in my life. It was as though our very existence revolved around our communicating how we felt with one another.

I now realize that a new happiness has found its way into our home. A new normal has come to stay.

Last night, in the middle of some sarcastic comment about why I should appreciate him more, Steve said, quite normally, "...because I sired your two children." And, quite normally, I laughed at the silliness of the thought of me appreciating him more...when I already worship his feet and kiss his...

Anyway...

It was all so...normal.

In those precious few months we knew Alex, we loved him and anticipated his living with us (little did we know the key word would be LIVING). When things went so horribly wrong, I remember asking people, "How do I just go on with my life like nothing happened? How do I go back to who I was?" And I remember being frustrated because there was no answer that satisfied me. Nobody could tell me what to do with that shiny newness that had turned to such absolute crap.

So we did the work. We found a way to tuck that happy anticipation in a box of memories and close the lid. What we were left with in its place was a sort of rusty awkwardness that we didn't quite know what to do with. So...We talked and we cried and we tried to make sense of it together. We don't do that anymore.

It seems we have found a place to exist where it is a part of our lives without engulfing our entire existence. We have found a way to rub the rust off the grief and make it something presentable. I think it sits on the shelf next to the box that contains the shiny happiness. We know they are both there, even if everyone else breezes by without noticing.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'm not sure how I feel about this new normal. Have I moved on too fast? What's to be gained by making strides forward OR backward? Shouldn't we talk more? Do we talk too much? Do I really care?

Now I know why there were no answers to my first raw questions. Because you DON'T go back to your life...you move on in a different life...filled with doubts and fear and anxiety (and even happiness). And there IS a day when you don't talk about it. And there IS a day when you don't cry. But you know that you can, if you need to.

There is no magic fix. And my arms still ache to hold my beautiful boy. But we're alive...together and alive...and that's pretty darn good considering the circumstances.

Monday, November 21, 2005

We now interrupt this program for...a commercial...

I love my mom for so many reasons. This is one small reason why...

I saw a stained glass breast cancer awareness "ribbon angel" in some mail order catalog and asked her if she could create something similar for me, but using the pink and blue of the PAIL ribbon. She went above and beyond the call...

For someone who has lost a baby boy...


This one, in progress, is for someone who has lost a baby girl.


As you can see, each one is different...some might say they're one of a kind (like my mom). You'll be able to find them at Familiar Echoes very soon...just click on the link on my sidebar to get to the website. Over there------>

Thanks mom!

It's just not fair

Something else that is forever ruined by losing Alex. I can no longer play fun internet games like I used to.

Posted on the message board I used to call "home"...

Name 3 big changes that have occured in your life since you started posting here.

Even a stupid fun little game like that makes me sad and angry and jealous.

It's just not fair! I hate this! (insert mega temper tantrum here)

Holiday Bill of Rights for Grieving Parents

I have the right to go from estatic to tears in 30 seconds.

I have the right to be excited about going holiday shopping, only to get there & need to leave because of a panic attack.

I have the right to not be joyful every single moment or day of the holiday season.

I have the right to not send out Christmas cards, AGAIN.

I have the right to NOT listen to Christmas music when I can't bear it.

I have the right to be quiet, continue to grieve my child & be alone when I need to.

I have the right to choose not to participate in gift exchanges and holiday celebrations at my place of work, worship, or anywhere else.

I have the right to look for & feel joy & love in the holidays & my life, just please don't try & force it on me. I'll find it on my own.

I have the right to want to buy my child a Christmas present and take it to the cemetery.

I have the right to buy the present and decide that I can't bear to take it to the cemetery.

I have the right to get to my family's house late and leave early.

I have the right to walk outside and get away for a bit of fresh air when it gets to be too overwhelming.

I have the right to include my child in any activity that I want without getting the "funny looks".

I have the right to be angry.

I have the right to be alone with my child and not have to explain why I want to be alone.

I have the right to laugh at unexpected times and hug a pillow and talk to myself when I am remembering.

I have the right to long to have my child back, to have the life I once had.

I have the right to find a way to honor and remember my child during the holidays by whatever ritual I feel comfortable with.

I have the right to be me...the one who now exists.

Forbes.com

An email experiment that could be fun.
Click here to see about building an email time capsule
What do you want to say to someone next year? in five years? in ten? twenty?
Or do you want to send yourself a letter?
Now I need to think of what I want to say...
(and remember to never change my email address)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Not funny

Steve and I have a long-running "joke" of sorts. When we pull into the driveway, we spot our horses in the front pasture and one of us will say, a la Dr. Seuss, "One horse, two horse." It's...quaint.

Tonight, after being away from home all day, we pulled in the driveway and there was silence...we were both looking and anticipating which of us would be the first to say it. But we pulled in and drove slowly up...in silence. About halfway up the drive I said, rather panicked, "Steve...where are our horses?"

No horses.

My heart started racing as I scanned the darkness trying to find the familiar shapes of my beautiful girls. My mouth went dry and I couldn't breathe.

No horses.

Steve flew out of the van and into the pasture...walking the fence...looking for an opening or looking for a downed/sick horse. We've had broken fence before, but nothing that would allow a horse to get out, let alone two. And just last weekend we walked the fence and repaired what needed repaired. We'd had no indication that either of the girls wasn't feeling well...so it seemed doubtful that they could be sick unless they had tripped in the snow and broken something.

He disappeared in the darkness. I couldn't see him. I couldn't see any horses. I hollered several times, "Steve...anything? Do you see them?"

No horses.

Steve came running out of the pasture darkness, gesturing toward our side pasture gate, and said, "The gate over there is open. Somebody opened it."

Frantic, I sent Steve into the house for flashlights and I dialed our trainer to see if she could offer any help. Fully prepared to go wherever I needed to go...even to climb down the ravine in the back of our property...we started tracking horseprints in the snow while I dialed the Sheriff's department.

We went separate ways and I couldn't see any tracks headed off our property. There were plenty all over the yard (they must have had a field day in my gardens...sigh). The hoof prints seemed to go in circles and I had NO idea where to look.

We live on a State Route where our girls could conceivably total a car if hit...not to mention what it would do to them. I wanted to vomit thinking about it.

Still trying to give relevant details to the Sheriff's Department on the phone (why they ask for your birthday?), I resigned myself to the idea that I would have to climb down the ravine in the dark...that was the only way I could figure they could have gone. In an effort to see ANYTHING during my descent, I turned on ALL our outdoor lights, including the old nitrogen yard lights that make a loud buzzing noise that you can hear across the yard (Sam calls them the noisy lights).

Suddenly, I hear Steve yelling, "Cathy, they're back."

I ran out of the barn, told the Sheriff they were home and hung up the phone, and ran full tilt to my big beautiful girls...prancing around in our back yard.

One horse, two horse.

Steve stood there and held onto mane hair as tight as he could while I ran up to the front pasture to get their halters and leads. They were so well-behaved, I am so proud of them.

Near as I could figure, they heard the noisy lights and thought it was feeding time. Being ruled by their stomachs, they were ready to eat. They're getting extra portions of hay tonight, I can tell you that.

After getting the girls locked in their stalls, having a breakdown in the center aisle of the barn, and returning phone calls to our trainer and the Sheriff (to call off the cavalry), I grabbed a flashlight and went out to investigate. Sure enough, the gate had been opened and the safety clip (like those mountain climbers use to fasten their gear) had been moved from the right/locked position, to the left/open position. No horse did that. Someone deliberately let them out and I'm pissed.

When the girls were delivered in March 2004, they were green and crazy. I remember bucking and kicking and rearing that frightened me. But never, in the midst of all of that, was I ever as scared as I was tonight. The thought that kept running through my mind? Haven't I lost enough this year? And now, to know that someone did this to us deliberately...

I had a Deputy come out and make a report. It won't do anything, but at least it will create a record in case we do catch the bastards.

Now...The adrenaline rush is disappearing and I'm going to take two advil and go to bed. Tomorrow I buy combination locks for my pasture gates.

One horse, two horse.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Check out our new blog

Our new photo blog...Just click on Sam's name on the side over there----->

A note to my crafting for charity group...

Off to Pine Ridge OST Healthy Start today...a box of baby blankets, quilts, afghans, and hats...8 lbs 8 ozs worth of stuff (had my husband cart the box in for me...lol). I hope the babies use them well to stay warm and cozy.

Off topic a bit...

I committed to sending the handmade crib quilt that my son would have used had he lived (he was stillborn in May at 35 weeks). I was ready to do it and I did it. But now that it's gone...I'm a bit teary-eyed. I hope some living baby is able to get some use out of it. I think I need to go crochet something to keep my mind busy.

Thank you again to everyone here for everything you do. You have no idea what it means to receive a simple gift of love (especially when you're living the worst moments of your life). We were given a hat and a blankie when we lost Alex...and I treasure them. It feels good to be able to give that love back to someone else who may need it.

Not trying...not preventing

I've turned the proverbial corner...and I feel good about it. The revelation...to be filed in the TMI file...

For the past few months, we have not been using any birth control. We were technically not trying to conceive at first...but we weren't preventing pregnancy either. Last month, we actively tried and it didn't work. I was so relieved. No, I was THRILLED I wasn't pregnant. I said to Steve, "That can't be a good sign, can it?" I mean, you're supposed to be disappointed when you don't manage to conceive. Not me...I was sighing a sigh of relief and doing a small dance of joy.

But then I let some stress go during the next few weeks (mostly work and holiday related), and Steve and I talked about it, and we decided to really try this month. Yesterday, I thought, "maybe." And I was genuinely excited about the prospect of being pregnant again. There was a small part of me that was sad and longing for Alex, but the bigger part of my psyche was feeling happy "am I?" anticipation. I actually SMILED at the thought. I felt so gosh-danged normal, it kind of scared me. As you can probably guess from the past tense used in this post, I'm not pregnant. I'm actually disappointed. Not ready-to-fall-on-a-sword disappointment...but just a general feeling of, "darn." And a feeling that it's going to be fun to try again this coming month.

I think I'm going to be OK.

Now...if I could get my defective body to cooperate...

Let's clear something up

I'm not depressed or suicidal or even really really sad. Most of the time, I function pretty well. I laugh and smile and dream about good pizza and a cold beer (neither of which it looks like I'll get tonight unless you count Freschetta as good pizza...which I don't). I know my posts here are generally sad and depressing and just plain awful to read. I personally warn people off my blog because I know what it sounds like.

BUT...

I am, by no means, a sniveling mess who does nothing but sob and look sad and pathetic. Yes, I have my moments. And those moments generally come out here because this is my safe place to release some steam/pressure/craziness. I write here generally when things get to a point where they have overcome my thoughts and if I don't get them out somehow then I WILL be a mess.

I'm not the same person I was before Alex died. There is no doubt about that. I don't focus like I used to...I find it very difficult to concentrate. My temper is short and I often snap at people when I don't really mean or want to. And yes, I do cry...at commercials, at the baby in the checkout line in front of us, at Sam saying, "I have nobody to play with." But those moments are not the norm for my usual day. Heck...I even painted my nails and wore lipstick once this past week (still not back to eye makeup...don't know if I'll ever care enough for that).

I did consider seeing a therapist. But after weighing my options and considering the incredible effort that it would require to find the "right" therapist for me, I chose not to do so (I never did like to date around). Plus, I have to be honest...I just don't see what it could do for me. Alex will still be dead and I'll still have to deal with the same things I have to deal with now...I'd just have "tricks" to deal with them. I personally would rather figure out my own way back...a bit like studying for the exam the old fashioned way and skipping the Cliff's Notes (Note here...I am NOT saying that therapy is wrong...I just think it's wrong FOR ME at this point).

It's been great hearing what everyone has to say when I have questions or concerns about my mental state or my grieving process. And I truly value the support I have received from the blogosphere. I just wanted everyone to know that I'm not about to jump off a cliff or anything...at least not today. Today has been a good day and I seem to be able to string a few of them together at a stretch lately. So that's SOME progress at least.

Next post...a revelation.

____________________________________________

Now that I've gotten three comments/emails from people thinking this...let me clarify...

This post isn't directed at anyone in particular. And as I've said before...never apologize for comments or emails or anything said if it comes from the heart. ok?

I've just had some comments and emails lately that have made me think. I realized that I probably sound like I'm ready to jump in front of a bus. And I wanted everyone to know that is simply not the case. In fact, even in my darkest hour, I never considered anything drastic (except maybe overindulging in the drink). I KNOW I have a lot to live for. I have my Sam, my Steve, my family (dysfunctional though we are), my friends, my animals, this house, and too many things yet to do in this life to give up. And I wanted you all to know that I know.

(Now that I've alienated half of everyone who bothers to read...on with your regularly scheduled insanity)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Pretty cool (to borrow an outdated phrase)

Anybody who knows me knows I HATE email forwards. But the boss sent this one out and I thought it was pretty neat. I'm probably the last person on the internet to see this...but just in case I'm not...

This is sidewalk chalk art by Julian Beever, an artist who has displayed his works in the U.K., Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Germany, the USA and Australia.





A beautiful day

The sun was just coming up this morning as I showered, and the light reflected off the snow and in through my shower window. (Yes, we have a window in our shower...and I love it) I stood and watched the water sparkle through the sunlight as it showered down. Beautiful (though a bit cold due to our malfunctioning water heater).

I walked carefully down the drive, shuffling my feet so as not to slip and slide on the ice and fall. The snow on the back lawn was perfect. The top of it sparkled in the sunlight as the sun started to peek up through the branches of the trees in the back yard. Beautiful (though a bit cold...several inches of the white stuff).

Driving down the road, I was thinking about Sam playing in the snow last night (pictures will be posted later tonight). And I was thinking about spending the long Thanksgiving weekend with Steve. And I was thinking about an email my mom sent me that I hadn't yet responded to. And I was laughing at the comment my brother-in-law posted last night, giving me nightmare images to beat all nightmare images. :o) And I was wondering if Kristin's MOM bracelet had arrived yet. And I was wondering how Rachel was doing today, after a particularly heartwrenching day yesterday for her friends. I was thinking about my friend M, and how I owe her an email to see how they're doing in their new house.

And I was smiling. I was thinking about all these people who bless my life and I was smiling. Then I saw them...an entire flock of crows. Some in the trees, some on the ground, some just coming in for a landing in both places.

My mom calls them my "familiar." No, my mom's not a witch. But she is a student of other cultures...particularly historical ones. She knows about ancient languages and dressing rituals for women in different centuries. She reads...a lot. We used to make fun of her when I was a kid because she could tune out the rest of the world while reading her books. Today, I admire her desire to learn...and to share interesting information we otherwise might never learn.

But I digress...

So anyway...A familiar animal, in folklore, is an animal believed to be possessed of magic powers such as the ability to change its shape. It may be a temporary form assumed by a spirit, devil or trickster god. Together in the same genus are ravens, crows, jackdaws, and rooks. Natives of northwestern North America consider Raven the Creator of the World. In some religions, ravens are considered to be sacred messengers, or the eyes and ears of gods. (thanks wikipedia)

I have identified the crow (or the raven) as my familiar from the day I took the bar exam the third time and knew I passed. I had always previously been under the impression that crows were bad luck. I suppose I read too much Edgar Allen Poe in high school. I remember riding to and from my motel room on all three days of the exam...and, as I pondered the questions I knew or didn't know the answers to, noting a single crow sitting on a telephone wire...on every single trip (six trips total). I even remember seeing one sitting on the wire in the Subway parking lot where Steve and I ate lunch. At the first sighting, I realized I didn't have a sense of bad luck at all...rather, just the opposite. And I told myself that seeing the crow was a sign that I was going to pass that exam this time (third time's a charm, ya know). But when I continued to see them on each and every trip...I knew.

Since then I have seen a crow whenever I've been pondering if I'm travelling down the right path in my life. And after Sam was born, and I was questioning some family matter, I would see them grouped together in threes and I would know it was going to be ok. Looking back now, I realize that when I was pregnant with Alex, I would see them in groups of four...but always with one off by itself...a group of three...and then one more. I remember seeing the three and almost holding my breath until I saw the fourth. In fact, I knew on the way to the doctor's office that morning that Alex had died because I saw my three on the hill...and then one more way off in the distant trees. (Perhaps I should have gotten the message sooner?)

So today, when I was thinking of all of the people who bless my life...to look up and see so many crows...

I'm still smiling at the beauty of it all.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A part time job

I got a part time job. I'm a mystery shopper. Now don't laugh. I'm going to get to mystery shop A&W restaurant this weekend. Rootbeer floats, chili cheese fries and corndog bites...all for taking a few pictures of the merchandising materials in and around the store. Now THIS is living!

When I worked in Cleveland, my manager and my coworkers and I would hit the A&W at the Galleria for lunch. We would sit on the orange stools at the big windows that overlook the river and giggle when the subway train would rumble underneath the building causing our stools to vibrate.

When I was a kid, I'd spend part of my summer vacation at my grandparents' house in Indiana. My grandpa and I would get up early in the morning and head into town to the post office. We would stop for lunch at the A&W drivethrough and chow down while we watched the waitresses roll around on rollerskates (except they're not called waitresses...I can't remember the word). It's true! Roller skates and rootbeer floats. It makes me smile and fills me with warm summer thoughts even today...thirty plus years later.

A year and a half ago, we drove down to Kentucky to pick up some rescue dogs. It was my son's first encounter with an A&W...and I think he loved it as much as I do. I can't wait to take him on Saturday. And I'm going to dream sweet sweet dreams until then. There's no calories in dreams, right?

Snow

So it took me 6 months 6 days to have a complete break with reality. I've been through the longest spring, summer, and autumn of my life. And I handled it. Then today, on the drive home, I started to cry as I thought about Alex under all the snow. "Cry" doesn't even really come close to describing it. It was more like hysterical sobbing of the sort I thought I left behind. I KNOW he's not there and not cold. But I literally couldn't breathe with the thought of him alone in the cold without someone to hold him close.

Steve and I commented once that it was always difficult to leave him behind. We left him behind at the hospital. Then again at the Funeral Home. We leave him at the cemetery time and time again. It seems we're always leaving him. But it wasn't until the snow fell today that it felt like it finally broke me.

The fact is, Alex left us...not the other way around. And it's all so final when there's snow sitting on top of his grave. I imagine him in his coffin, surrounded by his blanket and his stuffed dog. But I know his skin is cold...it was cold the day I left him at the hospital...it must be frozen by now. My poor sweet little boy.

When is this going to get better? When am I going to stop having new and exciting nightmare images to fixate on?

Two years worth of work...and the damn delete key

So today I pulled a real smart move. I got the bright idea that I would reorganize my work on my office computer so as to be able to find things easier. Instead, I successfully deleted about half of my client folders. How, you ask? I'm an idiot and there was no, "are you sure?" box after I hit "delete." It should be a RULE that you get an, "are you sure?" box after you hit delete. In my case, I should get two or three inquiries as to whether I know what I'm doing.

So I called the IT guys and begged for their help. Thankfully, our system backs itself up on digital tape and I should have my directory back by Monday at the latest.

arrgh! I swear I never used to be this much of a space cadet. It's really starting to get to me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Where you least expect it...

Men. I used to think they didn't understand women all that well. And I was certain they couldn't understand the grief of a mother who has lost a baby.

But in the last three days I've had two different encounters with men that make me think I may have been hasty in forming that conclusion.

Monday I had a pre-hearing conference with a Judge. As I entered his chambers, he looked me right in the eye and asked (without the sympathetic head tilt), "How are you?" Not, "How ya doin'?" that people throw out there by way of greeting without really expecting an honest answer. He didn't smile and he didn't look as though he pitied me. He looked as though he cared. So I didn't feel uncomfortable telling him, "I'm hanging in there," with the same direct look and delivery.

The thing is...he didn't offer any platitudes. He didn't try to make me feel better. He looked me in the eye and said, "Good." Then he looked down at the case file on his desk and said, "Now what are we going to do with this case?" He didn't tell me to hang in there. He didn't tell me it would get better. He didn't say anything stupid.

Then today, the farrier was out to give the girls a manicure. As he was leaving he said, "I'll see you in January. I hope you have nice holidays...Christmas...Thanksgiving...New Year."

I smiled and said, "You too." When it came out of my mouth, I saw the question in his eyes...but I couldn't answer it. He was gracious enough not to ask the question and not to offer anything further that would prove useless. He let it be...but still somehow let me know that he cared.

So often I focus on what is wrong...what people do wrong...it's only fair that I share the people like this and the instances like this...where things are just perfect.

This leads me to wonder something that I'm a bit uncomfortable wondering. Have I been unfair to people? Have I expected too much? Have I set unrealistically high standards for the way I think people should behave around me?

In these simple moments, where my guard wasn't up and I wasn't agonizing over every detail of how to react to the other person or how to deal with my grief publicly, there was peaceful comfort. It was...nice. Maybe I don't need to worry so much. Yes, I KNOW there are going to be idiots out there..."It wasn't meant to be," or "You can try again." And I know that the idiot comments are hurtful. But maybe (and I'm just admitting to maybe at this point), if I relax and accept situations as they come without imposing standards for perfection upon them, I just might find that peaceful comfort more often.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The cost of mailing a letter will increase to 39 cents on Jan. 8. Even at its cheapest, a greeting card costs $0.50. I'm really going to have to like you to send you snail mail at these prices. I wasn't going to send Christmas cards this year...but maybe I will send them for one last year before I get priced out of the market.

Happiness in an egg cup



I don't know anyone who collects egg cups (I've heard Martha Stewart has a thing for them)...but thought I would pass this along in case anyone out there does know someone who collects egg cups (current bid=$117.50). Personally, I think is particularly inappropriate that you can buy Happy in an egg-sized cup...a Happy cup should be bigger...maybe barrel sized.

***bid update 11/17/05 at 4:30pm - $207.50***

I feel old

I remember when it was THE thing to get a real silver flute or piccolo. Then, in college, I was introduced to the joys of the wooden piccolo. I even stumbled across one a fellow cashier at Discount Drug Mart was trying to sell in the summer of my Junior year...and I convinced my parents to buy it for me at an unbelievable price (I still feel a bit guilty that the girl didn't know what she was selling).

It was such good fun. Cold Friday nights in the marching band. Drinking hot cocoa and dancing around like a crazy person in the stands with my friend Kerry. Flirting with the boys in the drum section. Cheering and chanting, "We've got spirit...how 'bout you?"

But today...today you can get a purple piccolo. That's right...any color of the rainbow is available for your musical use. Purple, pink, green, orange, blue...it's all the latest rage.

I wonder if they still do the same cheers? It would seem they would get passed down from generation to generation...like a comfortable old story or song...or a delicious family recipe you make for special occasions.

I saw Kerry in some lawyer magazine a while back...she looks different, as we all do. Turns out she's an attorney who works to protect the rights of special education students. I really should give her a call just to say hi.

I don't play my piccolo anymore. It sits upstairs in that room...the spare room that was to be Alex's room. Today, for some reason, I really want a purple piccolo.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A comment on comments

Please don't apologize for commenting. That anyone takes the time to read my ramblings still amazes me. That anyone takes the time to actually comment is more helpful than you can ever know. It makes me feel less...alone. It gives me something by which to measure my insanity...just to see if I'm on track for a white jacket sooner or later than I anticipate.

As to the comments about God and his plan...

I suppose it's supposed to be some comfort that people believe Alex is in heaven or that his death has some meaning or purpose.

It's just not as comforting as you would think...when all I have of my baby is a cold headstone and a box of momentos.

Expectations and disappointments

I thought I would feel better by now. Maybe because so many other people expect me to feel better, or maybe just because I have unrealistically high expectations of myself. Maybe because I have no clue what I'm doing and I'm wandering around like a newly blind person left with nothing more than darkness, other senses that haven't yet learned to compensate, and a fading memory of the things I used to see (I've also apparently become used to using really bad metaphors and similes...ick).

The fact is that I'm not back to normal and I still haven't made any progress on figuring out what my new normal is. I have few moments where I'm not high-strung, nervous, or angry. Despite my best intentions I can't make it work...this new life of mine. It's not that I don't WANT to be happy. It's that there is nothing that really makes me feel happy. Everything pales in comparison to the happiness and the sadness I've felt this year. I guess that's my problem. I want THAT happiness back. I want something that will erase THAT sadness. But there isn't anything that will do that, is there?

You know, sometimes I sit at my keyboard and write and the words just flow out my fingertips onto the screen through a shower of tears. Sometimes I can barely type for the force of the sobs that escape my body as I get the words down. And then sometimes I feel like the words totally escape me and I wonder where the tears are hiding. Surely they are around the next corner...the next turn of a phrase. I almost don't want to write because I don't want them to fall AGAIN. I'm so tired of crying.

I have work to do. So I will ignore this gnawing feeling that something isn't right today...something even more wrong than usual...and get to it. I can't put my finger on it. I can't put it in words. It's this feeling I've been having since I saw the almost dead cat open its eyes and twitch its tail while laying in the middle of the road waiting to die on Friday...the same feeling I got yesterday while watching the flock of vultures circling our front pasture...a sense that there is some disaster on the way...some impending doom. There is some exhausted part of me that says, "Bring it on...what more could you do to me?" But then I think how the universe doesn't play fair and likes to take on a challenge like that...how it bats us all around like we're little cat toys...giving and taking life on a whim. No, I don't want to tempt fate like that.

I could talk about God here...as Steve and I had a pretty interesting conversation about God on our way to engage in some retail therapy on Saturday. But instead I'd rather talk about my Pumpkin Spice candle and my Eddie Bauer sweater. I've never owned anything Eddie Bauer in my life. I feel like I've turned some sort of corner.

I will never again in my life be able to say that things are just the way they should be. I will never answer that question, "What would you change?" with the trite, "Nothing, everything is the way I would want it if I could do it all again." I don't want this new life. I would even trade my Pumpkin Spice candle and my very first Eddie Bauer sweater if I could change just one thing and have my life back the way it should be.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Six months...he's still gone...I'm still missing him...

I just don't have anything to say. It's been six months since my beautiful baby boy, Alex, died and was stillborn and I don't want this blog to turn into a diary of what time I woke up (10am) and what I ate for breakfast (chocolate chip pancakes, thank you very much). I feel like there should be something important to share...some thought I should want to record for all history. But there just isn't. I'm not raw and hurting. I'm not happy. I'm not really anything. Just numb...hollow...empty.

I had a moment today where I thought I saw Sam standing behind me. But then I realized Sam was in the living room watching television. He looked so much like Sam...

Friday, November 11, 2005

Random holiday thoughts

Yep...this image pretty much sums up our experience watching Chicken Little today. I'm so glad we had movie passes and didn't waste money.

I am not a fuddy-duddy normally...but this movie is NOT appropriate for small children. Rated G...my ass. In the first sequence, Chicken Little is darn near killed several times. There is too much going on...scary stuff. We made it about forty minutes in before Sam decided he would rather "go home and play with trains." I couldn't argue with him. It was just awful. What happened to Disney?

And questions that remain from this viewing...Why do fish have to wear helmets?

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Standing in Lowe's holding a miniature spruce tree in my hand...

"I'm conducting a class on how to decorate those tomorrow, if you'd like to attend. You can put real lights or these little glass ornaments on them!"

"Thanks, but this is for the cemetery, I think we'll stick with bows."

"Oh, lots of people use the bows. I even use those in MY house."

Gee thanks.

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"Is this for your table centerpiece?"

"Actually, it's for the cemetery."

"Do you do this every year?"

"Actually, it's our first year."

"Does the cemetery throw them away?"

"No, our cemetery is very good about allowing things between October and April."

"My mom told me about a cemetery where they'll leave the flowers you take out there for a week and then pick them up and give them to an old folks home or something."

Huh...ain't that something...thanks for sharing.

---------------------------------



Trying to explain to a three-year-old why people are buried in a cemetery is..................tricky.

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And when you think he's sleeping and you're talking about how you got pregnant with him and his brother...just know that he's not sleeping and he'll pipe up from the backseat, "But mommy, you are wrong, I don't live with Baby Alex."

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What happened to John Lithgow that he's now doing cheesy Campbell's Soup song-and-dance commercials?

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When you leave the movie theater early with a three-year-old in tow and overhear a marching band practicing...it's perfectly acceptable to drive on over and make yourselves into a small three-person audience.

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May 11th, I left my baby behind physically. Six months later I still have the urge to dig him up just to hold him.

When it first happened, I thought six months was such a horribly long time. Today it still feels like just yesterday...six months gone in the blink of an eye. It was tortuously slow in some ways...and gone too quickly in others. I feel a greater distance...but the ache is still there.

An anniversary for our family.

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A day to remember those who served our country in the military.
Dads...Grandpas...Uncles.

Thank You.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Emily Post

I have often joked that "Emily Post doesn't live here."

But recently, while reading The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, I was struck by the passage that described Joan's effort to figure out what she was supposed to "do" shortly after her husband died. Surely, she was supposed to be doing something. She consulted Emily Post on funerals.

I've never read Emily Post on funerals...weddings and babies, yes...funerals, no...never had a reason. But it stuck with me that Ms. Didion consulte Emily Post.

And then Rebecca's post about "The Rules" reminded me of that passage.

As it turns out, Emily Post was quite smart about this topic. While some of the information is clearly outdated, there are definitely some tips for those people who say they just don't know what to do when a loved one is grieving.

I have previously posted about how there should be a handbook for bereaved parents. And I've had people tell me that they need a handbook on how to help bereaved parents. So I post this here for everyone to get a bit of an education. I know it is impossibly long. I am including the entire text as a way to test Blogger's limits. But also as a way to insure that I have this information readily available to myself in the future. But I hope you will take the time to read it and maybe adjust your own behavior accordingly...when you have the unfortunate need to do so in the future (and we all will...death is a certainty for all of us).

I'm particularly moved by the passages that talk about mourning. Ms. Post acknowledges the ongoing nature of the process and doesn't shrink from the knowledge that it is necessary. She is of an age where people valued each other...where people realized that it's not something to be embarassed or ashamed of...mourning is natural and should be encouraged. Yes, I know the social construct was different and the REQUIREMENT that women mourn dead spouses for such a long period is...well...icky. But the focus on the permissibility of mourning intrigues me. It's not to be cut short immaturely or moved past too quickly. It's like that long slow dance with your first love that you savor and try to absorb into your very being.

I am also intrigued by the concept of clothing being used to identify those in mourning. I had a wonderful conversation with my friend Julie last night on the telephone. In talking about the callous way in which people generally treat each other in our society, she said, "I can't walk around with a sign on me that explains my grief." And it's true today. But in Ms. Post's time, there was a visual reminder that the person before you needed some extra human compassion. There WAS a way to identify people who were in a fragile emotional state. I wonder why we left that behind?

I would definitely make some additions to Ms. Post's rules of funeral etiquette. But generally, I think it should be required reading...handed out with those useless pamphlets they give you in the hospital that tell you how everyone grieves in their own way. Instead of frightening people with the variability of grief, we should empower people with some concrete suggestions on what they can do to manage the worst time in a person's life. We should give them back a bit of control. And provide them some insight on what to expect during the mourning process.

Anyway...I have babbled on enough...but don't be surprised if you see white flowers near my doorbell this holiday season.

And on with the show...

At no time does solemnity so possess our souls as when we stand deserted at the brink of darkness into which our loved one has gone. And the last place in the world where we would look for comfort at such a time is in the seeming artificiality of etiquette; yet it is in the moment of deepest sorrow that etiquette performs its most vital and real service.
All set rules for social observance have for their object the smoothing of personal contacts, and in nothing is smoothness so necessary as in observing the solemn rites accorded our dead.
It is the time-worn servitor, Etiquette, who draws the shades, who muffles the bell, who keeps the house quiet, who hushes voices and footsteps and sudden noises; who stands between well-meaning and importunate outsiders and the retirement of the bereaved; who decrees that the last rites shall be performed smoothly and with beauty and gravity, so that the poignancy of grief may in so far as possible be assuaged.

FIRST DETAILS

As soon as death occurs, some one (the trained nurse usually) draws the blinds in the sick-room and tells a servant to draw all the blinds of the house.
If they are not already present, the first act of some one at the bedside is to telephone or telegraph the immediate members of the family, the clergyman and the sexton of the church to which the family belong, and possibly one or two closest friends, whose competence and sympathy can be counted on—as there are many things which must be done for the stricken family as well as for the deceased. (The sexton of nearly every Protestant church is also undertaker. If he is not, then an outside funeral director is sent for.)
If the illness has been a long one, it may be that the family has become attached to the trained nurse and no one is better fitted than she to turn her ministrations from the one whom she can no longer help, to those who have now very real need of just such care as she can give.
If the death was sudden, or the nurse unsympathetic or for other reasons unavailable, then a relative or a near friend of practical sympathy is the ideal attendant in charge.

CONSIDERATION FOR THE FAMILY

Persons under the shock of genuine affliction are not only upset mentally but are all unbalanced physically. No matter how calm and controlled they seemingly may be, no one can under such circumstances be normal. Their disturbed circulation makes them cold, their distress makes them unstrung, sleepless. Persons they normally like, they often turn from. No one should ever be forced upon those in grief, and all over-emotional people, no matter how near or dear, should be barred absolutely. Although the knowledge that their friends love them and sorrow for them is a great solace, the nearest afflicted must be protected from any one or anything which is likely to overstrain nerves already at the threatening point, and none have the right to feel hurt if they are told they can neither be of use nor be received. At such a time, to some people companionship is a comfort, others shrink from dearest friends. One who is by choice or accident selected to come in contact with those in new affliction should, like a trained nurse, banish all consciousness of self; otherwise he or she will be of no service—and service is the only gift of value that can be offered.

FIRST AID TO THE BEREAVED

First of all, the ones in sorrow should be urged if possible to sit in a sunny room and where there is an open fire. If they feel unequal to going to the table, a very little food should be taken to them on a tray. A cup of tea or coffee or bouillon, a little thin toast, a poached egg, milk if they like it hot, or milk toast. Cold milk is bad for one who is already over-chilled. The cook may suggest something that appeals usually to their taste—but very little should be offered at a time, for although the stomach may be empty, the palate rejects the thought of food, and digestion is never in best order.
It sounds paradoxical to say that those in sorrow should be protected from all contacts, and yet that they must be constantly asked about arrangements and given little time to remain utterly undisturbed. They must think of people they want sent for, and they must decide the details of the funeral; when they would like it held, and whether in church or at the house, whether they want special music or flowers ordered, and where the interment is to be.

ON DUTY AT DOOR

A friend or a servant is always stationed in the hall to open the door, receive notes and cards, and to take messages. In a big house the butler in his day clothes should answer the bell, with the parlor-maid to assist him, until a footman can procure a black livery and take his or her place. A parlor-maid or waitress at the door should wear either a black or gray dress, with her plainest white apron, collar and cuffs.

MEMBER OF FAMILY IN CHARGE

A close friend or male member of the family should be—if not at the door—as near the front hall as possible to see the countless people with whom details have to be arranged, to admit to a member of the family anyone they may want to see, and to give news to, or take messages from, others.
As people come to the house to enquire and offer their services, he gives them commissions the occasion requires. The first friend who hurries to the house (in answer to the telephone message which announced the death) is asked to break the news to an invalid connection of the family, or he may be sent to the florist to order the bell hung, or to the station to meet a child arriving from school.

NOTICE TO PAPERS

The sexton (or other funeral director) sends the notices to the daily papers announcing the death, and the time and place of the funeral. The form is generally selected by a member of the family from among those appearing in that day’s newspapers. These notices are paid for by the sexton and put on his bill.
With the exception of the telephone messages or telegrams to relatives and very intimate friends, no other notices are sent out. Only those persons who are expected to go to the house at once have messages sent to them; all others are supposed to read the notice in the papers. When the notice reads “funeral private” and neither place nor time is given, very intimate friends are supposed to ask for these details at the house; others understand they are not expected.

HANGING THE BELL

As a rule the funeral director hangs crepe streamers on the bell; white ones for a child, black and white for a young person, or black for an older person. This signifies to the passerby that it is a house of mourning so that the bell will not be rung unnecessarily nor long.
If they prefer, the family sometimes orders a florist to hang a bunch of violets or other purple flowers on black ribbon streamers, for a grown person; or white violets, white carnations—any white flower without leaves—on the black ribbon for a young woman or man; or white flowers on white gauze or ribbon for a child.

CHECKING EXPENSES IN ADVANCE

It is curious that long association with the sadness of death seems to have deprived an occasional funeral director of all sense of moderation. Whether the temptation of “good business” gradually undermines his character—knowing as he does that bereaved families ask no questions—or whether his profession is merely devoid of taste, he will, if not checked, bring the most ornate and expensive casket in his establishment; he will perform every rite that his professional ingenuity for expenditure can devise; he will employ every attendant he has; he will order vehicles numerous enough for the cortège of a president; he will even, if thrown in contact with a bewildered chief-mourner, secure a pledge for the erection of an elaborate mausoleum.
Some one, therefore, who has the family’s interest at heart and knows their taste and purse, should go personally to the establishment of the undertaker, and not only select the coffin, but go carefully into the specification of all other details, so that everything necessary may be arranged for, and unnecessary items omitted.
This does not imply that a family that prefers a very elaborate funeral should not be allowed to have one; but the great majority of people have moderate, rather than unlimited means, and it is not unheard of that a small estate is seriously depleted by vulgarly lavish and entirely inappropriate funeral expenses. One would be a poor sort who for the sake of friends would not willingly endure a little troublesome inquiry, rather than witness a display of splurge and bad taste and realize at the same time that the friends who might have been protected will be deluged with bills which it cannot but embarrass them to pay.

HONORARY PALLBEARERS

The member of the family who is in charge will ask either when they come to the house, or by telephone or telegraph if they are at a distance, six or eight men who are close friends of the deceased to be the pallbearers. When a man has been prominent in public life, he may have twelve or more from among his political or business associates as well as his lifelong social friends. Near relatives are never chosen, as their place is with the women of the family. For a young woman, her own friends or those of her family are chosen. It is a service that may not under any circumstances except serious ill-health, be refused.
The one in charge will tell the pallbearers where they are to meet. It used to be customary for them to go to the house on the morning of the funeral and drive to the church behind the hearse, but as everything tending to a conspicuous procession is being gradually done away with, it is often preferred to have them wait in the vestibule of the church.
Honorary pallbearers serve only at church funerals. They do not carry the coffin for the reason that, being unaccustomed to bearing such a burden, one of them might possibly stumble, or at least give an impression of uncertainty or awkwardness that might detract from the solemnity of the occasion. The sexton’s assistants are trained for this service, so as to prevent in so far as is humanly possible a blundering occurrence.

MOURNING FOR FUNERAL

Among those who come to the house there is sure to be a woman friend of the family whose taste and method of expenditure is similar to theirs. She looks through the clothes they have, to see if there is not a black dress or suit that can be used, and makes a list of only the necessary articles which will have to be procured.
All dressmaking establishments give precedence to mourning orders and will fill a commission within twenty-four hours. These first things are made invariably without bothering the wearer with fitting. Alterations, if required, are made later.
Or the mourning departments of the big stores and specialty shops are always willing to send a selection on approval, so that a choice can be made by the family in the privacy of their own rooms. Nearly always acquaintances who are themselves in mourning offer to lend crepe veils, toques and wraps, so that the garments which must be bought at first may be as few as possible. Most women have a plain black suit, or dress, the trimming of which can quickly be replaced with crepe by a maid or a friend.
Most men are of standard size and can go to a clothier and buy a ready-made black suit. Otherwise they must borrow, or wear what they have, as no tailor can make a suit in twenty-four hours.

“SITTING UP” NO LONGER CUSTOMARY

Unless the deceased was a prelate or personage whose lying-in-state is a public ceremony, or unless it is the especial wish of the relatives, the solemn vigil through long nights by the side of the coffin is no longer essential as a mark of veneration or love for the departed.
Nor is the soulless body dressed in elaborate trappings of farewell grandeur. Everything to-day is done to avoid unnecessary evidence of the change that has taken place. In case of a very small funeral the person who has passed away is sometimes left lying in bed in night clothes, or on a sofa in a wrapper, with flowers, but no set pieces, about the room, so that an invalid or other sensitive bereft one may say farewell without ever seeing the all too definite finality of a coffin. In any event the last attentions are paid in accordance with the wish of those most nearly concerned.

EXTRA WORK FOR SERVANTS

Kindness of heart is latent in all of us, and servants, even if they have not been long with a family, rise to the emergency of such a time as that of a funeral, which always puts additional work upon them and often leaves them to manage under their own initiative. The house is always full of people, family and intimate friends occupy all available accommodation, but it is a rare household which does not give sympathy as generously below stairs as above; and he or she would be thought very heartless by their companions who did not willingly and helpfully assume a just share of the temporary tax on energy, time and consideration.

CHURCH FUNERAL

The church funeral is the more trying, in that the family have to leave the seclusion of their house and face a congregation. On the other hand, many who find solemnity only in a church service with the added beauty of choir and organ, prefer to take their heartrending farewell in the House of God.

ARRANGING AND RECORDING FLOWERS

An hour before the time for the service, if the family is Protestant, one or two woman friends go to the church to arrange the flowers which are placed about the chancel. Unless they have had unusual practise in such arrangement they should, if possible, have the assistance of a florist, as effective grouping and fastening of heavy wreaths and sprays is apt to overtax the ingenuity of novices, no matter how perfect their usual taste may be.
Whoever takes charge of the flowers must be sure to collect carefully all the notes and cards. They should always take extra pencils in case the points break, and write on the outside of each envelope a description of the flowers that the card was sent with.
“Spray of Easter lilies and palm branches tied with white ribbon.”
“Wreath of laurel leaves and gardenias.”
“Long sheaf of pink roses and white lilacs.”
These descriptions will afterwards help identify and recall the flowers when notes of thanks are sent.
As the appointed time for the funeral draws near, the organ plays softly, the congregation gradually fills the church. The first pews on either side of the center aisle are left empty.

THE PROCESSIONAL

At the appointed time the funeral procession forms in the vestibule. If there is to be a choral service the minister and the choir enter the church from the rear, and precede the funeral cortège. Directly after the choir and clergy come the pallbearers, two by two, then the coffin covered with flowers and then the family—the chief mourner comes first, leaning upon the arm of her closest male relative. Usually each man is escort for a woman, but two women or two men may walk together according to the division of the family. If the deceased is one of four sons where there is no daughter, the mother and father walk immediately behind the body of their child, followed by the two elder sons and behind them the younger, with the nearest woman relative. If there is a grandmother, she walks with the eldest son and the younger two follow together. If it is a family of daughters who are following their father, the eldest daughter may walk with her mother, or the mother may walk with her brother, or a son-in-law. Although the arrangement of the procession is thus fixed, those in affliction should be placed next to the one whose nearness may be of most comfort to them. A younger child who is calm and soothing would better be next to his mother than an older who is of more nervous temperament.
At the funeral of a woman, her husband sometimes walks alone, but usually with his mother or his daughter. A very few intimate friends walk at the rear of the family, followed by the servants of the household. At the chancel the choir take their accustomed places, the minister stands at the foot of the chancel steps, the honorary pallbearers take their places in the front pews on the left, and the coffin is set upon a stand previously placed there for the purpose. The bearers of the coffin walk quietly around to inconspicuous stations on a side aisle. The family occupy the front pews on the right, the rest of the procession fill vacant places on either side. The service is then read.

THE RECESSIONAL

Upon the conclusion of the service, the procession moves out in the same order as it came in excepting that the choir remain in their places and the honorary pallbearers go first. Outside the church, the coffin is put into the hearse, the family getting into carriages or motors waiting immediately behind, and the flowers are put into a covered vehicle. (It is very vulgar to fill open landaus with displayed floral offerings and parade through the streets.)

FEW GO TO THE BURIAL

If the burial is in the churchyard or otherwise within walking distance, the congregation naturally follows the family to the graveside. Otherwise, the general congregation no longer expects, nor wishes, to go to the interment which (excepting at a funeral of public importance) is witnessed only by the immediate family and the most intimate friends, who are asked if they “care to go.” The long line of carriages that used to stand at the church ready to be filled with a long file of mere acquaintances is a barbarous thing of the past.

HOUSE FUNERAL

Many people prefer a house funeral—it is simpler, more private, and obviates the necessity for those in sorrow to face people. The nearest relatives may stay apart in an adjoining room or even upon the upper floor, where they can hear the service but remain in unseen seclusion.
Ladies keep their wraps on. Gentlemen wear their overcoats or carry them on their arms and hold their hats in their hands.

MUSIC

To many people there is lack of solemnity in a service outside of a church and lacking the accompaniment of the organ. It is almost impossible to introduce orchestral music that does not sound either dangerously suggestive of the gaiety of entertainment or else thin and flat. A quartet or choral singing is beautiful and appropriate, if available, otherwise there is usually no music at a house funeral.

HOUSE ARRANGEMENT

Some authorities say that only the flowers sent by very close friends should be shown at a house funeral, and that it is ostentatious to make a display. But when people, or societies, have been kind enough to send flowers, it would certainly be wanting in appreciation, to say the least, to relegate their offerings to the back yard—or wherever it is that the cavilers would have them hid!
In a small house where flowers would be overpowering, it is customary to insert in the death notice: “It is requested that no flowers be sent,” or “Kindly omit flowers.”
Arrangement for the service is usually made in the drawing-room, and the coffin is placed in front of the mantel, or between the windows, but always at a distance from the door, usually on stands brought by the funeral director, who also brings enough camp chairs to fill the room without crowding. A friend, or a member of the family, collects the cards and arranges the flowers behind and at the side and against the stands of the coffin. If there is to be a blanket or pall of smilax or other leaves with or without flowers, fastened to a frame, or sewed on thin material and made into a covering, it is always ordered by the family. Otherwise, the wreaths to be placed on the coffin are chosen from among those sent by the family.

THE SERVICE

As friends arrive, they are shown to the room where the ceremony is to be held, but they take their own places. A room must be apportioned to the minister in which to put on his vestments. At the hour set for the funeral the immediate family, if they feel like being present, take their places in the front row of chairs. The women wear small hats or toques and long crepe veils over their faces, so that their countenances may be hidden. The minister takes his stand at the head of the coffin and reads the service.
At its conclusion the coffin is carried out to the hearse, which, followed by a small number of carriages, proceeds to the cemetery.
It is very rare nowadays for any but a small group of relatives and intimate men friends to go to the cemetery, and it is not thought unloving or slighting of the dead for no women at all to be at the graveside. If any women are to be present and the interment is to be in the ground, some one should order the grave lined with boughs and green branches—to lessen the impression of bare earth.

DISTANT COUNTRY FUNERAL

In the country where relatives and friends arrive by train, carriages or motors must be provided to convey them to the house or church or cemetery. If the clergyman has no conveyance of his own, he must always be sent for, and if the funeral is in a house, a room must be set apart for him in which to change his clothes.
It is unusual for a family to provide a “special car.” Sometimes the hour of the funeral is announced in the papers as taking place on the arrival of a certain train, but everyone who attends is expected to pay his own railway fare and make, if necessary, his own arrangements for lunch.
Only when the country place where the funeral is held is at a distance from town and a long drive from the railway station, a light repast of bouillon, rolls and tea and sandwiches may be spread on the dining-room table. Otherwise refreshments are never offered—except to those of the family, of course, who are staying in the house.

HOUSE RESTORED TO ORDER

While the funeral cortège is still at the cemetery, some one who is in charge at home must see that the mourning emblem is taken off the bell, that the windows are opened, the house aired from the excessive odor of flowers, and the blinds pulled up. Any furniture that has been displaced should be put back where it belongs, and unless the day is too hot a fire should be lighted in the library or principal bedroom to make a little more cheerful the sad home-coming of the family. It is also well to prepare a little hot tea or broth, and it should be brought them upon their return without their being asked if they would care for it. Those who are in great distress want no food, but if it is handed to them, they will mechanically take it, and something warm to start digestion and stimulate impaired circulation is what they most need.

MOURNING

A generation or two ago the regulations for mourning were definitely prescribed, definite periods according to the precise degree of relationship of the mourner. One’s real feelings, whether of grief or comparative indifference, had nothing to do with the outward manifestation one was obliged, in decency, to show. The tendency to-day is toward sincerity. People do not put on black for aunts, uncles and cousins unless there is a deep tie of affection as well as of blood.
Many persons to-day do not believe in going into mourning at all. There are some who believe, as do the races of the East, that great love should be expressed in rejoicing in the re-birth of a beloved spirit instead of selfishly mourning their own earthly loss. But many who object to manifestations of grief, find themselves impelled to wear mourning when their sorrow comes and the number of those who do not put on black is still comparatively small.

PROTECTION OF MOURNING

If you see acquaintances of yours in deepest mourning, it does not occur to you to go up to them and babble trivial topics or ask them to a dance or dinner. If you pass close to them, irresistible sympathy compels you merely to stop and press their hand and pass on. A widow, or mother, in the newness of her long veil, has her hard path made as little difficult as possible by everyone with whom she comes in contact, no matter on what errand she may be bent. A clerk in a store will try to wait on her as quickly and as attentively as possible. Acquaintances avoid stopping her with long conversation that could not but torture and distress her. She meets small kindnesses at every turn, which save unnecessary jars to supersensitive nerves.
Once in a great while, a tactless person may have no better sense than to ask her abruptly for whom she is in mourning! Such people would not hesitate to walk over the graves in a cemetery! And fortunately, such encounters are few.
Since many people, however, dislike long mourning veils and all crepe generally, it is absolutely correct to omit both if preferred, and to wear an untrimmed coat and hat of plainest black with or without a veil.

A WORD OF ECONOMY

In the first days of stress, people sometimes give away every colored article they possess and not until later are they aware of the effort necessary, to say nothing of the expense, of getting an entire new wardrobe. Therefore it is well to remember:
Dresses and suits can be dyed without ripping. Any number of fabrics—all woolens, soft silks, canton crepe, georgette and chiffon, dye perfectly. Buttonholes have sometimes to be re-worked, snaps or hooks and eyes changed to black, a bit of trimming taken off or covered with dull braid, silk or crepe, and the clothes look every bit as well as though newly ordered.
Straw hats can be painted with an easily applied stain sold in every drug and department store for the purpose. If you cannot trim hats yourself, a milliner can easily imitate, or, if necessary, simplify the general outline of the trimming as it was, and a seamstress can easily cover dyed trimmings on dresses with crepe or dull silk. Also tan shoes—nearly all footwear made of leather—can be dyed black and made to look like new by any first class shoemaker.

MOURNING MATERIALS

Lustreless silks, such as crepe de chine, georgette, chiffon, grosgrain, peau de soie, dull finish charmeuse and taffeta, and all plain woolen materials, are suitable for deepest mourning. Uncut velvet is as deep mourning as crepe, but cut velvet is not mourning at all! Nor is satin or lace. The only lace permissible is a plain or hemstitched net known as “footing.”
Fancy weaves in stockings are not mourning, nor is bright jet or silver. A very perplexing decree is that clothes entirely of white are deepest mourning but the addition of a black belt or hat or gloves produces second mourning.
Patent leather and satin shoes are not mourning.
People in second mourning wear all combinations of black and white as well as clothes of gray and mauve. Many of the laws for materials seem arbitrary, and people interpret them with greater freedom than they used to, but never under any circumstances can one who is not entirely in colors wear satin embroidered in silver or trimmed with jet and lace! With the exception of wearing a small string of pearls and a single ring, especially if it is an engagement ring, jewelry with deepest mourning is never in good taste.

WHEN A VEIL IS NOT WORN

Nor should a woman ever wear a crepe veil to the theater or restaurant, or any public place of amusement. On the other hand, people left long to themselves and their own thoughts grow easily morbid, and the opera or concert or an interesting play may exert a beneficial relaxation. Gay restaurants with thumping strident musical accompaniment or entertainments of the cabaret variety, need scarcely be commented upon. But to go to a matinee with a close friend or relative is becoming more and more usual—and the picture theaters where one may sit in the obscurity and be diverted by the story on the silver screen which, requiring no mental effort, often diverts a sad mind for an hour or so, is an undeniable blessing. An observer would have to be much at a loss for material who could find anything to criticise in seeing a family together under such circumstances.
One generally leaves off a long veil, however, for such an occasion and drives bareheaded, if it be evening, or substitutes a short black face veil over one’s hat on entering and leaving a building in the daytime.

MOURNING FOR COUNTRY WEAR

Except for church, crepe veils and clothes heavily trimmed with crepe are not appropriate in the country—ever! Mourning clothes for the summer consist of plain black serge or tweed, silk or cotton material, all black with white organdy collar and cuffs, and a veil-less hat with a brim. Or one may dress entirely in dull materials of white.

A WIDOW’S MOURNING

A widow used never to wear any but woolen materials, made as plain as possible, with deep-hemmed turn-back cuffs and collar of white organdy. On the street she wore a small crepe bonnet with a little cap-border of white crepe or organdy and a long veil of crepe or nun’s veiling to the bottom edge of her skirt, over her face as well as down her back. At the end of three months the front veil was put back from over her face, but the long veil was worn two years at least, and frequently for life. These details are identical with those prescribed to-day excepting that she may wear lustreless silks as well as wool, the duration of mourning may be shorter, and she need never wear her veil over her face except at the funeral unless she chooses.
A widow of mature years who follows old-fashioned conventions wears deep mourning with crepe veil two years, black the third year and second mourning the fourth. But shorter periods of mourning are becoming more and more the custom and many consider three or even two years conventional.

THE VERY YOUNG WIDOW

The young widow should wear deep crepe for a year and then lighter mourning for six months and second mourning for six months longer. There is nothing more utterly captivating than a sweet young face under a widow’s veil, and it is not to be wondered at that her own loneliness and need of sympathy, combined with all that is appealing to sympathy in a man, results in the healing of her heart. She should, however, never remain in mourning for her first husband after she has decided she can be consoled by a second.
There is no reason why a woman (or a man) should not find such consolation, but she should keep the intruding attraction away from her thoughts until the year of respect is up, after which she is free to put on colors and make happier plans.

MOURNING WORN BY A MOTHER

A mother who has lost a grown child wears the same mourning as that prescribed for a widow excepting the white cap ruche. Some mothers wear mourning for their children always, others do not believe in being long in black for a spirit that was young, and, for babies or very young children, wear colorless clothes of white or gray or mauve.

A DAUGHTER OR SISTER

A daughter or sister wears a long veil over her face at the funeral. The length of the veil may be to her waist or to the hem of her skirt, and it is worn for from three months to a year, according to her age and feelings. An older woman wears deep black for her parents, sisters and brothers for a year, and then lightens her mourning during the second year. A young girl, if she is out in society or in college, may wear a long veil for her parents or her betrothed, if she wants to, or she wears a thin net veil edged with crepe and the corners falling a short way down her back—or none at all.
Very young girls of from fourteen to eighteen wear black for three months and then six months of black and white. They never wear veils of any sort, nor are their clothes trimmed in crepe. Children from eight to fourteen wear black and white and gray for six months for a parent, brother, sister or grandparent. Young children are rarely put into mourning, though their clothes are often selected to avoid vivid color. They usually wear white with no black except a hair ribbon for the girls and a necktie for the boys. Very little children in black are too pitiful.

EXTREME FASHION INAPPROPRIATE

Fancy clothes in mourning are always offenses against good taste, because as the word implies, a person is in mourning. To have the impression of “fashion” dominant is contrary to the purpose of somber dress; it is a costume for the spirit, a covering for the visible body of one whose soul seeks the background. Nothing can be in worse taste than crepe which is gathered and ruched and puffed and pleated and made into waterfalls, and imitation ostrich feathers as a garnishing for a hat. The more absolutely plain, the more appropriate and dignified is the mourning dress. A “long veil” is a shade pulled down—a protection—it should never be a flaunting arrangement to arrest the amazed attention of the passerby.
The necessity for dignity can not be overemphasized.

BAD TASTE IN MOURNING

Mourning observances are all matters of fixed form, and any deviation from precise convention is interpreted by the world at large as signifying want of proper feeling.
How often has one heard said of a young woman who was perhaps merely ignorant of the effect of her inappropriate clothes or unconventional behavior: “Look at her! And her dear father scarcely cold in his grave!” Or “Little she seems to have cared for her mother—and such a lovely one she had, too.” Such remarks are as thoughtless as are the actions of the daughter, but they point to an undeniable condition. Better far not wear mourning at all, saying you do not believe in it, than allow your unseemly conduct to indicate indifference to the memory of a really beloved parent; better that a young widow should go out in scarlet and yellow on the day after her husband’s funeral than wear weeds which attract attention on account of their flaunting bad taste and flippancy. One may not, one must not, one can not wear the very last cry of exaggerated fashion in crepe, nor may one be boisterous or flippant or sloppy in manner, without giving the impression to all beholders that one’s spirit is posturing, tripping, or dancing on the grave of sacred memory.
This may seem exaggerated, but if you examine the expressions, you will find that they are essentially true.
Draw the picture for yourself: A slim figure, if you like, held in the posture of the caterpillar slouch, a long length of stocking so thin as to give the effect of shaded skin above high-heeled slippers with sparkling buckles of bright jet, a short skirt, a scrappy, thin, low-necked, short-sleeved blouse through which white underclothing shows various edgings of lace and ribbons, and on top of this, a painted face under a long crepe veil! Yet the wearer of this costume may in nothing but appearance resemble the unmentionable class of women she suggests; as a matter of fact she is very likely a perfectly decent young person and really sad at heart, and her clothes and “make up” not different from countless others who pass unnoticed because their colored clothing suggests no mockery of solemnity.

MOURNING WEAR FOR MEN

The necessity of business and affairs which has made withdrawal into seclusion impossible, has also made it customary for the majority of men to go into mourning by the simple expedient of putting a black band on their hat or on the left sleeve of their usual clothes and wearing only white instead of colored linen.
A man never under any circumstances wears crepe. The band on his hat is of very fine cloth and varies in width according to the degree of mourning from two and a half inches to within half an inch of the top of a high hat. On other hats the width is fixed at about two and a half or three inches. The sleeve band, from three and a half to four and a half inches in width, is of dull broadcloth on overcoats or winter clothing, and of serge on summer clothes. The sleeve band of mourning is sensible for many reasons, the first being that of economy. Men’s clothes do not come successfully from the encounter with dye vats, nor lend themselves to “alterations,” and an entire new wardrobe is an unwarranted burden to most.
Except for the one black suit bought for the funeral and kept for Sunday church, or other special occasion, only wealthy men or widowers go to the very considerable expense of getting a new wardrobe. Widowers—especially if they are elderly—always go into black (which includes very dark gray mixtures) with a deep black band on the hat, and of course, black ties and socks and shoes and gloves.

CONVENTIONS OF MOURNING FOR MEN

Although the etiquette is less exacting, the standards of social observance are much the same for a man as for a woman. A widower should not be seen at any general entertainment, such as a dance, or in a box at the opera, for a year; a son for six months; a brother for three—at least! The length of time a father stays in mourning for a child is more a matter of his own inclination.

MOURNING LIVERY

Coachmen and chauffeurs wear black liveries in town. In the country they wear gray or even their ordinary whipcord with a black band on the left sleeve.
The house footman is always put into a black livery with dull buttons and a black and white striped waistcoat. Maids are not put into mourning with the exception of a lady’s maid or nurse who, through many years of service, has “become one of the family,” and who personally desires to wear mourning as though for a relative of her own.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF SYMPATHY

In the case of a very prominent person where messages of condolence, many of them impersonal, mount into the thousands, the sending of engraved cards to strangers is proper.
Under no circumstances should such cards be sent to intimate friends, or to those who have sent flowers or written personal letters.
When some one with real sympathy in his heart has taken the trouble to select and send flowers, or has gone to the house and offered what service he might, or has in a spirit of genuine regard, written a personal letter, the receipt of words composed by a stationer and dispatched by a professional secretary is exactly as though his outstretched hand had been pushed aside.
A family in mourning is in retirement from all social activities. There is no excuse on the score of their “having no time.” Also no one expects a long letter, nor does any one look for an early reply. A personal word on a visiting card is all any one asks for. The envelope may be addressed by some one else.
It takes but a moment to write “Thank you,” or “Thank you for all sympathy,” or “Thank you for your kind offers and sympathy.” Or, on a sheet of letter paper:
“Thank you, dear Mrs. Smith, for your beautiful flowers and your kind sympathy.”
Or:
“Your flowers were so beautiful! Thank you for them and for your loving message.”
Or:
“Thank you for your sweet letter. I know you meant it and I appreciate it.”
Many, many such notes can be written in a day. If the list is overlong, or the one who received the flowers and messages is in reality so prostrated that she (or he) is unable to perform the task of writing, then some member of her immediate family can write for her:
“Mother (or father) is too ill to write and asks me to thank you for your beautiful flowers and kind message.”
Most people find a sad comfort as well as pain, in the reading and replying to letters and cards, but they should not sit at it too long; it is apt to increase rather than assuage their grief. Therefore, no one expects more than a word—but that word should be seemingly personal.

OBLIGATIONS OF PRESENCE AT FUNERALS

Upon reading the death notice of a mere acquaintance you may leave your card at the house, if you feel so inclined, or you may merely send your card.
Upon the death of an intimate acquaintance or friend you should go at once to the house, write, “With sympathy” on your card and leave it at the door. Or you should write a letter to the family; in either case, you send flowers addressed to the nearest relative. On the card accompanying the flowers, you write, “With sympathy,” “With deepest sympathy,” or “With heartfelt sympathy,” or “With love and sympathy.” If there is a notice in the papers “requesting no flowers be sent,” you send them only if you are a very intimate friend.
Or if you prefer, send a few flowers with a note, immediately after the funeral, to the member of the family who is particularly your friend.
If the notice says “funeral private” you do not go unless you have received a message from the family that you are expected, or unless you are such an intimate friend that you know you are expected without being asked. Where a general notice is published in the paper, it is proper and fitting that you should show sympathy by going to the funeral, even though you had little more than a visiting acquaintance with the family. You should not leave cards nor go to a funeral of a person with whom you have not in any way been associated or to whose house you have never been asked.
But it is heartless and delinquent if you do not go to the funeral of one with whom you were associated in business or other interests, or to whose house you were often invited, or where you are a friend of the immediate members of the family.
You should wear black clothes if you have them, or if not, the darkest, the least conspicuous you possess. Enter the church as quietly as possible, and as there are no ushers at a funeral, seat yourself where you approximately belong. Only a very intimate friend should take a position far up on the center aisle. If you are merely an acquaintance you should sit inconspicuously in the rear somewhere, unless the funeral is very small and the church big, in which case you may sit on the end seat of the center aisle toward the back.