Friday, August 11, 2017

The Death of Shakespeare's son

He opened the letter... his son was ill, time was short, return home now. The master of words went silent. When we lose a child we find ourselves lost too. We are suddenly not the person we were. On August 11th, 1596, the man known everywhere for his wit, his wisdom, & his insight, found himself speechless. William Shakespeare's son died. Hamnet was 11 yrs old, and a twin. William had only been around him a few times most likely, on vacations home from London where he lived and worked. One might think his lack of words were due to this lack of familiarity, but a few tiny hints in plays he wrote after his son died makes me believe otherwise.

William lived in a time when women were underrated, and a boy was the heir. William had risen in life far above the station of his father, with money and contacts that he would need to leave to a son. He was also a man who mastered the art of expressing deeply interwoven emotions. His characters suffered great loss, enjoyed great success, and mastered great manipulations, but the man who created all those things was silent on the subject of the death of his son.

As a twice bereaved mom, I know first hand that everyone deals with their loss differently. I have seen the most social people dig themselves a hole to crawl into and go silent, and I have seen the most introverted spirits suddenly explode with demands for socialization. I believe William Shakespeare was among the former group. When you spend your life imagining tragedy and loss, you give countless hours to creating the experience that moves everyone who sees it, there must be that moment when art becomes life, and it is nothing like what you imagined. Everything he thought would be, was wrong. I'm amazed he ever picked up another pen.

But he did. He wrote his best work after that loss. His comedies were deeper, with hidden messages that have very serious tones, sarcasm, and an ability to show the world how silly humanity can be. His tragedies were suddenly very real, discovering the powerful ability to reach inward to the character's soul, and simply let the audience eavesdrop on their thoughts.

In the play King John, written just after the death of Hamnet, in 1596, he writes in the character of a grieving mother who speaks the words the author could not: "I am not mad; I would to God I were".

She goes on to say:

"Grief fills the room up of my absent child,

Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form."    ---(III.4.93–97)

We can not possibly know (yet) the exact dates that he wrote his plays, and we can certainly argue the point that his plays, and his writing skills, were improving all the time. and the death of his son had no impact on that. That said, the idea that the death of his son stimulated a higher level of understanding, therefore deeper characters and story dynamics, can also be made. We literally have nothing in his words as a bereaved father, we only have the words he wrote into fictional characters in fictional situations of child loss. Even those are very few, but all those references written after the loss of his son are consistent with our own knowledge as bereaved parents, while those references written in his plays before the death of his son, like in Romeo and Juliet, are more like what we hear from those who have not faced the reality of child loss. 

The loss of his son left him silent... except in his plays. His play, Hamlet, is a perfect example of the words William Shakespeare was missing in his own life:
"There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
"Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince:
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!" 


The irony of this man's life, a life of words and expression, masterfully written with advanced thinking for his time, is also the life of the deepest silent solitude when it comes to his private story.  Perhaps, as grieving parents, we might find solace in the example Shakespeare provided as a man who found an outlet for his grief, behind a mask for safety, but always in public. He continued to have a very successful life, deeply motivated by the man he had become after the loss of his son.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Not What I Expected

    Being a bereaved parent is not what I expected, starting with the fact that I didn't expect to be a bereaved parent. Who does that?! I mean, no one EXPECTS to be faced with burying their child. We, as new parents, are so focused on making sure we provide a strong childhood and upbringing to our new child that we refuse to allow those darker thoughts to enter our minds. We don't even want to take up the offer we all get in the mail to sign up our new babies for Gerber's Life Insurance that pays us if our child dies. WHO DOES THAT?! Yes, it would have been smart for us to do that, wish we had.
Our Rainbow, Cheyenne

    Then when we were faced with burying our second child, we found ourselves without that baby life insurance again. Then, when we had our HEALTHY third child, we STIL DID NOT DO IT! This time we knew he was healthy, so we didn't want to risk taunting Death. The point is that as a human race, it is natural for us to be positive and hopeful in our daily lives, more so when parenting our children, so when we find ourselves living what we never expected, we are not prepared.

Our Froggie, Emily.

    It's been nearly 20 years since our oldest, Cheyenne, passed. A few less since we lost Emily. We have been living the cliche "Life goes on" journey. Our son is nearly 11 now, healthy and loved, if not a bit spoiled. Yes, we have good days... even GREAT days. I thank God for those days. They are needed to balance those days that will never go away. Those days that hit without warning, unexpectedly. There are lots of things that happen that we don't expect when our children die. How we react to them will determine how our lives unfold after our children die. Below is a list of a few of those unexpected things, and the reactive choices we are faced with. The trick for a grieving parent is to choose wisely so our lives will have opportunities for greatness again.

    I didn't expect that the grief process after loosing Emily, our second child to bury, would move faster, or be easier. At times I didn't think it did, but it did. Each day we were faced with the returning pain, and we had to choose to reject it or embrace it. By embracing it, we were in (a bit) more control. We used it to recognize the love we still have for our girls. We used it to recognize our own strength and ability to get through it as experienced bereaved parents. Then we could (still can) face each day knowing we are better for having known and loved our children. We are better and stronger than most other people.

   I didn't expect to be faced with the almost celebrity style respect and admiration we often get from others who "can't imagine" what we live with. I don't like it, it makes me very uncomfortable because I'd rather have my girls back. I know they just want to help us see how strong we are, but it's weird.

   I didn't expect to ever feel whole again, but I do... usually. I've learned that what Patrick Swayze said in "Ghost" is true... "The love stays with you". The love is them, still here, just in a different form. So I take it and run with it. I remind myself that I am a better person for having been their mom, and that means I AM WHOLE, despite the fact that my heart is not.

   I didn't expect... get ready... to hear my husband say the loss of his mom is more difficult than burying his two little girls. WHAT???!!!! Yes, it's true. HOW????? ...the pain of loss is built up of the memories and the relationship shared. They had a VERY SPECIAL and very rare mother son bond, built on 57 years of life together. It's hard to explain, harder to understand, but I think I'm getting it.

   Everyone grieves differently, based on the relationship, and how it was left at the time of the death. We can prepare all we want, or ignore all the signs telling us we need to prepare. Either way, death comes to us all. How we choose to live with it will define how our lives unfold. I miss my girls more than words can say. Anyone who has buried their child knows this gut wrenching misery. There was a time when I feared this day, the day I would say that my girls are JUST PART OF MY JOURNEY. The day that I would say my life is MORE than being their mom. I didn't expect I could ever say this. ...but I do now, and it's OK. It has not lessened the love or weakened the memories one bit. The LOVE never dies, so neither do they.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Howdy Scotland!!!!

Scotland. Of all the places to vacation, why would anyone choose SCOTLAND?! I mean really, what's there... nothing but big mountains, so many lakes, old buildings, and people who talk without filters.

Wait, I forgot to use adjectives. big BEAUTIFUL mountains, so many AMAZING lakes...

I also forgot some nouns... Castles, Islands, Forests, Modern Cities, Great Performing Arts, and my favorite: People who love the earth, and are not afraid to use strong "adjectives" to say so.

I am Texan. My husband has Texas roots so far back they seem to have grown through the earth and surfaced in Scotland. He HATES traveling, but he found himself drawn to Scotland after watching several shows and films made there. We love the Monty Python series, and Outlander of course.

He once asked me "Is it really that beautiful there?" "Let's go find out!" We have made our first of many trips there, falling in love with the place immediately.

Texas and Scotland are a lot alike. Both fiercely independent states of a larger country that "absorbed" them, both fighting for that lost independence. Both have cultures that respect nature, where ranching and farming are essential to the economic growth, & grand landscapes that take the traveler from mountain to coast stopping in amazing modern cities on the way.

We stayed in a small village pub with rooms to rent, a large all-inclusive hotel, and an inner city apartment. We loved them all, but our son loved the small pub house best. He said it was like staying at the Prancing Pony in Lord of the Rings! I loved my Highlander Coffee!

Our stay took us from Loch Ard to Edinburgh. We rented a car and loved the freedom of the drive! We visited three castles, explored the forests, shopped in the city, and relaxed in pubs. One of my favorite things is where old meets new.

My husband found his football number!
And blue doors. They have blue doors. I knew I'd love this place!

SO, where to next? The Highlands? The east coast full of castles, or the west coast and all those beautiful islands? So much to choose from!!! My husband actually suggested we get a summer home there! 

Monday, March 13, 2017

That One Person

Wow. Here I go again, saying the same thing I've said too many times before: It's been over a year since I've written in my blog. Over two this time! I did NOT see that happening! Where did it go?! So now here I sit, finally having time and energy to write. The question is WHAT to write. I mean, why do people even blog (or vlog) in the first place? It feels a bit narcissistic when I'm writing about me, at no one's request, for the world to see. Then I remember that one person who lost a child and needs some support (been there twice), or that one person who just started teaching and really needs some good classroom tips (been doing it for 30 years), or that one person who loves travel stories because travel is not an option, or that one person who loves photography, or scrapbooking, or quilting, or costume design...

photo credit: Wren Weichman

It's all about THAT ONE PERSON who somehow finds their way through a myriad of personally opinionated bloggers and lands on mine because I hit a tender spot in a heart that needs my specific words. For whatever reason.

One person. It can start an avalanche of recovery, revelation, or maybe just a much needed rest from an otherwise chaotic day.

Sometimes I am that one person. Sometimes I just need myself to stop and listen to what I have to say to me. Or maybe I'm just clearing my head. Whatever the reason, I often feel pulled to my blog, like others are pulled to the beach or the mountains. It clears my head and helps me feel a bit more fulfilled. So why have I been ignoring it for TWO YEARS????

Life. It sweeps us up and carries us away while we are still looking back and reaching for that which we might never have, nor should we. It's what happens while we are pursuing what we THINK is our life, but actually, our lives are what happens while we live each day, each moment, each breath.

I am blessed enough that I will be able to retire from teaching and work from home while getting my son through the last 6 years of school. I love my job, it's been amazing, but I love my son more. My job isn't a typical teaching job. I teach high school theatre. I work long hours on my feet building sets, hanging lights, sewing costumes, coaching actors, and producing plays that cost thousands of dollars. I teach teenagers how to have successful lives in whatever they pursue. My body is tired, it needs a more gentle life. Thank God (and her team) for giving me additional skills to supplement my retirement income at such a young age. ...and yes, 54 at retirement is young, I know. Like I said, I have been blessed.

There are so many people out there far better at my skills than I, working as hard or harder, and just as connected, but their lives don't have the blessings that I have had. Maybe, just maybe, something I say in my blog will find its way to THAT ONE PERSON who needs my words. ...and maybe that one person is me. Reminding myself that I am loved. I am strong. I am smart.

So, as I approach the last year working at my theater, and I begin looking ahead to my next stage of life, making plans and rebuilding my efforts as a photographer and private acting coach, I will be getting back to my blog so I can keep myself in check while hopefully giving a little something to that one person who needs it.

Thank you for visiting, reading, and commenting. I hope you return. Spread the word, share the love.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Pieces of the Puzzle: Part 3, A Wedding

In August I took my son with me to our nephew's wedding in Oregon. We went to Washington for a few days first, then off to Oregon and a really cool winery to see Wren marry his love, Jenna. Weddings are so beautiful, and the joy in the faces of these two says it all. Gotta love love!

The moms...

The dads...

Me with my travel buddy...

Wren is a special effects creator and this is a re-enactment of a scene from a video he did... great idea to personalize the photo shoot with his groomsmen, who also work with him. Check out their work on You Tube here and here.

The cake...

The bride... 

 The groom...

 The girls...

The vows... Jenna's mom officiated her own daughter's wedding! SO cool!

 The kiss...

 The joy...

 The vineyard...

 The goofballs...

 The flowers...

 The cake? ...or a stolen kiss...

 Oops, need a new knife to cut for the guests!

 The dance...

 ...and the PAR-TAY, BAY-BAY!

So as the pieces of the puzzle to my life fall into place, I hold this past summer dear to my heart as I got to travel, create new memories while healing from the old, and spend precious time with the people who mean the most to me. I have no idea how the puzzle will look when it's all done, years from now I hope, but these images will stand out as my best memories of 2014.  

None of us ever know what we are going to be faced with, but we do know what makes us happy and who brings us joy. Those are the moments that will hold the puzzle together to create an amazing image of our lives. The more pieces to put in the puzzle just means a bigger image in the end.