Monday, December 27, 2010

Life is like a Blackboard

I was reading one of the many, many baby loss blogs I follow, Awful But Functioning. In a recent post she mentioned that several years ago, she'd written a post about political candidates that had lost children. And Elizabeth Edwards responded with a very, very beautiful analogy that was so eloquent and TRUE that I wanted to share it here. Even though it's three years old I just saw it for the first time.

I have often described the death of a child in this way: in life we have a blackboard on which we write all the things we are doing -- our jobs, coaching soccer, working at Goodwill, going to basketball games, whatever. And the board is full, so when the next thing comes along, we find a corner or the board to add a computer class or a space between other things for book club or sewing Halloween costumes. It is full and lively and seemingly all important.

And then your child dies, and all the things that were so important that you worked to squeeze them in? Well, they are all erased. And you are left with an empty blackboard. Everything you thought was important was not. And the next time you write something on the board, you are very, very careful about what it is. Your choices about what to do and how to do it are so much more deliberate. Doing something that is so patently important as public service -- whatever your politics -- well, that seems like an easy call. That is worth some of the space. And putting something on the board, well, it allows you -- in your words -- to function another day. And each day that you find something else worthy of the board makes it a little easier to put one foot in front of the other. And each day you functioned the day before makes it easier to function again. Are there still bad moments, even bad days nearly twelve years later? Sadly, there are. But they are not as frequent and they don't happen in that same emptiness you feel today. Now when they happen, we can turn to something that we have written, something worthy of our time, of his parents' time and we can function through that pain. As you will -- not without [your child], but with [your child]* not as a living, breathing daughter [or son] but as an inspiration and a helper to decide what is worthy of your blackboard. 

How beautiful and so spot on is that?

*Tash, I hope you don't mind that I changed this...I wasn't sure if you'd want your daughter's name out on someone else's blog, and I thought it was such a beautiful sentiment that I wanted anyone to be able to see their child's name there. Let me know if it's not ok!


  1. I just went back and read both of those posts - that is simply amazing. what a perfect metaphor.. That's EXACTLY what it's like! Also, it took me a few minutes to figure out that she meant that Elizabeth Edwards ACTUALLY commented on her blog. I think I would pass out if anything like that happened to me! haha