Saturday, February 6, 2010

When There Are No Words

Yesterday we found out that Willa will die from her cancer. The tumor in her abdomen, the mass that has been growing and receding but all the while doing its terrible business in her tiny body has wrapped itself around the major blood vessels of her left side. If we proceed with surgery she will lose her leg, probably her bladder, and without seeing with the coldness of the eye who knows what else. The tumor will take her life.

I have just begun today to say these things. I have just begun to feel the words in my mouth. To taste the filth of them. To spit them out in disgust upon tables underneath harsh lights. These are the most real words I have ever said. But on the examining table it amazes me how little they seem. These words are so small. Even “cancer.” Just two syllables, lower-cased, a mark on the page.

They mean nothing compared to what I feel in my heart, in my stomach, across the scar on my abdomen, the scar where Willa emerged, the scar she would have a mirror image of should she have been able to have surgery.

What grew inside of me was pure life and what grows inside of her is pure death and there it must stay locked away, trapped, all-powerful and final.

There are words that have not been born. Made up of letters no one has ever seen. There is an entire vocabulary that parents know who have lost a child. I think that is what we see behind their eyes. It’s a language I have not yet mastered but I will. It is a purer expression of that it feels to lose your baby. To lose the life you made, the life you put all your life into.

I have no ability to express what I feel. I don’t think it is ever a thing you can share. It is more invisible than our most lost places. It is more invisible than anything I have yet experienced.

When you have language you can express your fears. You find ways of telling people what you are most terrified of and by these sentences you build roads, you make pathways, you fashion worn trails back and forth from mouth to ear, rivers of understanding flowing parallel to them. You make whole worlds of connection and hands holding, reaching out and making purchase.

With no language to do this I am scared. I am scared of the questions I have locked in my heart, my stomach, my scar. I am scared of asking these questions in words that do not express true meaning, my truest intentions, accuracy of feeling. They do not sound right as:

When Willa dies so much of me will die with her, will I have anything left?

Will I still be a mother?

Will I learn to live without her?

Can I forgive myself if I do?

If you drive past my house today you will not see anything amiss. It is not draped in black. It is not on fire. Tomorrow I will go to the pharmacy and pick up Willa’s prescriptions. I will not be dressed in black. I will not be on fire. When I drive home I will steer myself true. I will return to the driveway. I will not drive into the house. I will not set the world on fire. But inside me everything is black, everything burns, the world is ashes and there is just no way to say it, any of it. Not what it feels like. Not what it means. Nothing.

There are just no words.


Ann said...

I don't know what to say either. I can't remember how I stumbled on your blog... your words from the invisible city... but I feel blessed to have read them and seen beautiful Willa. I've lost a baby at 20 weeks but I know that isn't the same as what you're going through. I have experienced grief, while the world continues on. My son Caleb, who will be in 2 in April, put me on the road that went left when so many others have gone to the right. I've encountered so many incredible people because of it...people like Willa and her mom. I hope wherever your journey takes you, you'll continue to express yourself through this blog, even if it's a long way down the road. I wish I could throw you a life preserver.

Anonymous said...

May God hold Willa in the palm of his hand ~

"You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp." Anne Lamott

Anonymous said...

I have no brilliance or wisdom for you... all I can tell you is that I will continue to hold all of you in my heart and mind and that I hope that you will be able to feel that thin strand of light if you need it. jen @ only who i am

Lisa said...

I have nothing - absolutely nothing - to offer you or Willa, except the tears from a stranger who cannot imagine your pain, but nonetheless is devastated. You, Willa, and her family and friends are in my heart.

TUC said...

There is a hard lump in my throat and tears on my cheeks. I am so so sorry to hear this.

Miryam (mama o' the matrices) said...

I wish I had a magic wand, or failing that, the just-right words to type.

Sitting here with you. Listening.

DownTownDan said...

I'm sorry. I ache for you.

Anne said...

Heather, we knew each other in college and I just recently found your blog. I lost my first daughter, Oona under different circumstances, but I feel very close to you. She was just six weeks old When I look at Willa's face I can't help but love her. You will always be a mother and after I read your words, I know you are the most amazing mother that Willa can possibly have. She is a lucky girl.
There is a letter that Plutarch wrote to his wife that was the only thing I felt connected to after Oona died.
Please know you are in my heart.

Anonymous said...

I wish there was something I could do to lessen the pain you all are in. You have been and are going through so much. I know it seems like it is too much to take, but you have so much strength. My heart goes out to you, Colin and beautiful Willa.
With so much love. Your friend.
Liz Parker

Chrystal said...

Oh, H. These are the saddest words that I never wanted to read.

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Knowing you and Willa has made me better.

If there is anything I can help you do to bring a smile to your baby girl's face, please let me know.

Jen said...

My heart is breaking while reading this news. There really are no words, are there?

You will always, always be a mother; the most amazing kind. Please know that Willa is loved, even by strangers in this world. I'm so, so sorry it's not a better place right now.

Heathers T and E said...

Heather and family,

I am a friend of Caroline's (Molly's mother) her in Maine and have read your blog from the beginning.

I think of Willa everyday and probably always will...she is a powerful little package.

For this struggle, I am truly sorry.
May the universe bless and keep you all.


claire said...

I am so sad ...Many many thoughts from France.

Dina said...

I have no words except I am so sorry. Your pain is unimaginable. It is so brave of you to share this journey.

Kami Lewis Levin said...

Oh, Heather. I'm sure you don't remember me from Barnard, but we were in the same class and even though we weren't friends further than saying "hey," in passing, I always felt there was a kindness in you. A kindness you don't find just lying around. I read about your blog in the alum magazine and just got around to checking it out today. I have no clue what you are going through. I have no clue what you must be feeling in your life right now beyond the words you've written here. But for what it's worth, my heart aches for you. And I am so very very sorry. I would like to give you a hug, so I'm sending it virtually, tight arms, mother to mother, from deep inside me.

Annie said...

I found your blog through Kami and immediately started from the beginning, weeping often at the sheer beauty of your words. Now I weep out of sadness, and anger at the world for the injustice of it all.
As a mother myself and as a friend to a couple of mothers (which yes, you will most certainly always be) who are rediscovering their stride after walking down this same path, I just wanted to let you know that I am here and sending strength your way.

Mommy Melee said...

I'm so sorry you're going through this.

You are and will always be a mother, and your words and love are beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I really don't know what to say.I am so sorry that you are going through this. I wish I could help you carry this enormous weight.
Love her and hold her and kiss her as much as you can.

Tatiana said...

It feels so incredibly pithy to say that I'm sorry for you all, I'm sorry that you and your family are in this pain, and I'm sorry that your beautiful Willa cannot grace the world for longer, but it's true. Your words hurt to read but I can't fathom how much more they hurt to write and feel.

You are always a mother, because your child is always in your soul and spirit, the most secret and sacred places.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

I am so sorry. No parent should ever have to experience such loss.

Anonymous said...

I came because Kami pointed me here. I stayed because you've written so beautifully about your daughter.

You will always be her mother. She will always be your daughter. That will never change.

We're praying for her peace and comfort.

Amber, The Unlikely Mama said...

Kami posted your link and I followed. I have read your blog from beginning to end. Beautiful and heartbreaking. You will always be a mother.

Peggy said...

I just discovered your blog and my heart sank as I read this entry. I am so sorry. Just as Willa will always be your daughter, you will always be her mother. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Mashuga Mom said...

Heather, I found your blog through someone else's and my heart ached as I read your posts. I am so sorry you have to go through this and the words come with tears as I write them. Willa is blessed to be a part of this world with you as her Mother. You are her Mother, you will always be her Mother and you are the best Mother she could ever have. Be strong, love her and enjoy every moment you can with her. You are a strong woman!