Third Anniversary of Finley’s Death

Yahrzeit candle next to the back of our son’s urn with a beautiful fertility stone from the Chumash (Native Americans) tribe; lit on eve of anniversary of Finley’s death, ’12

Before I continue with where I left off with those first efforts, I want to step into *almost* real time to honor now.

Tonight is Sunday, November 18th, 2012.  3 years ago tonight, my friend Dee was alive, and she was at our apartment for a celebration dinner that Craig made for her family; it was a celebration since we believed she was in remission.  I had been having sporadic pains in my right abdomen since Friday, which I had self-diagnosed as ‘Braxton hicks contractions’.  She and I sat on the floor of my apartment in the dining-room-turned-into-office-now-full-of-baby-items-space, while her little 6-month old hovered next to us.  She asked me what we were naming our baby.  I told her, but I was tired, since I had over exerted myself too much that day and in days prior, and she was hard of hearing, so I had to write down his name. “Finley?”, she asked, kind of crinkling up her noise.   I was annoyed with her crinkle but still, too tired to argue or defend.  “Yes, we love it!” I had responded.

Now I sit at my desk in that same space, the baby items long since moved to the side of the hall closet where I can not look, for fear of painful memories flooding me, or in our $92 / month storage – a low cost but the bills of which are haunting reminders on a monthly basis of stolen dreams, with swollen eyes and tear stained cheeks, having had my first in a series of what I’m sure will be a few weeks of breakdowns, since 3-years tomorrow, by the Thanksgiving calendar that is, I went to the doctor for a 23.5 week check up, and was minutes later transported into a wheelchair and carted with an urgency to the hospital across the street.

I’ve had a fever since Friday; sometimes when I wrap a production, or in this case a series of back-to-back productions, my body knows it’s allowed to shut down. When you’re a producer in the middle of production, you really don’t get to call in sick.  Even on days when I’ve been violently ill – like early January of this year, when I was on a conference call during which our car shoot production in Canada was cancelled due to minimal snowfall, it was in between throwing up.

My body knows I have to keep it together and when I finish, or as we say, wrap the job; my immune system somehow releases itself, the stresses, the responsibility of keeping it together, and I end up sick. So I’ve had this fever – and done nothing but keep a family dinner obligation this weekend, and when I called for Craig to tuck me into bed and blow the candle out, the candle next to Finley’s picture and urn that we light every, single night, he kissed his hand and placed it gently on our son’s photo.  I’ve seen him do this many times, but tonight it was too much to take, so I broke down in tears.

I am so lucky that my husband knows when to be in the moment with me.  When I am crying and need to be left alone versus when I am crying and need him to touch my arm and say all of the right things. He reminded me that Finley is still with us.  That I am a great mother, and did everything I could, that it wasn’t my fault.  He reminded me that we have lots of angels, from Finley to our friend Dee, who it turns out was not in remission from her cruel and aggressive cancer when we had that celebratory dinner party 3 years ago tonight, to Craig’s friend Tom, who I never met, but pray to sometimes nonetheless, to my dear college friend Nicole – whose birthday was Finley’s due date, to my Aunt Heidi, my dad’s older and only sister.

We’re currently over a week out from the next pregnancy test to see if the latest efforts worked.  They weren’t our most aggressive efforts scientifically, since my doctor and I made the decision to convert the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycle into an IUI (In Uterine Insemination) – a far less invasive, less costly scientific effort that has significantly less chances of success with my severe case of endometriosis.  Nonetheless, it was the right thing to do, as the $5,000 in medication that I took for several days wasn’t stimulating enough follicles for me to have my 15th surgical procedure in 4 years.

And we coupled this IUI with our natural efforts, and as disappointed as I was that we didn’t have more to work with this time, I knew not having a surgery was the right thing to do, and had been reminding myself that I was right where I was supposed to be, and that our babies would come when they were ready to come.

I had been feeling something in my uterus. Was it expanding?  Was the embryo trying to attach?  Was the embryo chromosomally OK, since I am over 40, and quality of embryos decreases significantly after 35?  I was trying not to obsess too much about it, as my desire to “produce” a pregnancy since Finley’s death had fallen short every fucking time.  And there was Craig, stroking my arm, lying with me in our bedroom, my safe place – my cave as he sometimes calls it, saying, “Tell your body to accept the pregnancy.  You are ready. We are ready. There’s nothing but love waiting for them,” to which I responded, SCREAMING, “I’ve done that every time.  I can’t tell my body what to do. I can’t do anything different than what I’ve done.  The baby has to be ready to come.”

Craig, of course, hadn’t done anything wrong.  But I just needed to assert that I didn’t have any control over this, if not to him, to myself.  There was nothing more I could do than what I did, every, single day.

After the hysterics had ceased, I asked Craig to pass me the picture of Finley.  I am struck STILL by how beautiful he is.  I mean, I know every parent says or thinks that, but our little baby was truly beautiful.  Even at only 1.5 pounds, superficially, he was a fully formed little boy, with beautiful features that resembled his father’s.  Tiny but sweet and perfect hands are folded over his chest.  His lips are pink and lush and sweet.  His arms are little, too small for the size of his head, I suppose, on which there is a yellow and white knit beanie hat.

I will never, ever be able to express enough gratitude for the nurses in the Santa Monica N.I.C.U. – (Neonatal intensive care unit) who put the hat on him, laid him on that little blanket, and wrapped him in another, before taking this picture, the only photograph we have of our son.

In the photo, his eyes are closed; if I had ever seen my son’s eyes open, would that make it easier or harder?  Could it be any harder than this?  I think not.

I’ve always found great comfort in kissing the frame before holding it to my heart.  With every beat, I miss him, so it only makes sense that I hold one of the few physical reminders I have of him to my heart, to prove that he lives on inside me, that I ache for him, that my heart is broken, forever.

Part of the reason I’m writing this blog now is that my therapist and I agree that once I get to the ‘other side’, meaning after the fertility treatments / prayers / acupuncture / apple beet carrot juice I drink regularly – after the combination of efforts made every. single. day. work – and I am holding Finley’s brother or sister, or both, as Craig likes to repeat, I will not remember the pain as vividly. Is that true?

When I am pregnant or hopefully holding a child next year at this same time, will that change the hurt that I tread over carefully at this time of year, these landmines on my soul?

Monday November 19th:  This is my first weekday not working since early March.  This timed out perfectly as 3-years ago today, the Monday before Thanksgiving, I went in to see my doctor for a check up and then got wheeled out to the hospital, where I would stay until my baby was born, after my baby died, and once they released me with an infected C-Section.

Other women left that maternity ward with balloons tied to their wheelchairs and babies in their arms.  I left with condolence orchids; an infected incision where the c-section had been done, which had formed a pulsing fever; lactating breasts; arms that ached, physically ached, for my dead son.

Today I woke up and my fever was down; actually, I did not take my temperature as I felt well enough to get up and take a walk.  Living in Venice Beach, I have lots of choices as to where to go; I chose to put on my headphones, listen to a combination of Joan Osborne and Joseph Arthur, and walk.  Emotional but present is how I felt as I passed others walking babies in strollers, taking bike rides, jogging in Venice.  A guy who looked like he could be the photo on an advertisement for Muscle Beach ran in front of me, shadow boxing and hitting parts of his hard body, that was gleaming with sweat.  I laughed aloud with a fellow Venetian with whom I locked eyes as we crossed a street.

I saw a tree that had a full top, and then on the side had a sort of tree-like-flower growing out of it.  I compared it to myself, wondering if that’s what happened to me. Did I grow as much as I could in one direction, and then when I lost my child did I stop growing in that direction, and out of a sense of survival form a new self?  I maintain that I do not remember who I was 3-years ago yesterday.

I kept walking West on Washington and ended up on a place I truly love, the Venice Pier.  I walked to the end, wondering if I would have a dolphin sighting.  I reminded myself that I didn’t need to see a dolphin to know Finley is with me, but as always would have been thrilled to see one of those beautiful little creatures.

I can stare out at the Pacific Ocean and know deep in my heart that even if I don’t see a dolphin, there are dolphins there.  That is my form of faith.

I used to like dolphins the normal amount, like as much as anyone who appreciates that they are beautiful, playful, and highly intelligent creatures.  I only grew to love dolphins after I dreamed about them many times after Finley died.  I would talk about the dolphin dreams in therapy, and would keep mentioning fins – before my therapist reminded me that I often referred to Finley as Fin.

My therapist, Dr. Sharon I’ll call her – believed that was my way of processing my thoughts about him.

I believed that was his way of visiting me, and so since had become obsessed with dolphins.  Not as obsessed as I am with butterflies, which I’ll get into later, but nonetheless entranced by those beautiful creatures, that I know is one of the ways my angel Finley visits me – whether in dreams or in the ocean in my backyard.

I think of Craig and the hurt he goes through.  It is different for a man. They are just built differently and communicate differently.  A week after Finley died Craig and I went to pick out our wedding rings, yes, totally fucking crazy – I know; I remember us clinging to one  another as we navigated through the holiday insanity that December at the Westside Pavillion, and him being in discomfort.  He complained of acid reflux, but it got progressively worse, bad enough, in fact, that we went to Urgent Care after getting our rings to do some tests and see if he was OK.  I saw all of the wires on his naked chest, and it reminded me of the wires and tubes that Finley spent most of his life wearing.  I silently believed he might be having a heart attack; I was in between oxycodone doses and knew I would need one soon.

So as the countdown was underway for the day Finley would have been 3 immediately followed by the 3rd anniversary of his death, (which is today), he subtly mentioned that he was having trouble breathing, and that maybe it’s just something that will happen to him every year around this time as a result of the anxiety we experience, exponentially worse than other times of year, now.

Fascinating, really, when anxiety turns itself from emotional into physical.

Breaks my heart to think that Craig’s turmoil has manifested itself like this.

I let myself listen to Finley’s and my song as I was walking down the pier. If I close my eyes, I remember the first time I listened to it with him, when he was safe, in my belly.  I listen closely, to see if there are messages in the lyrics that maybe I haven’t caught before.

As I sit here writing this, today at the Venice Library so I don’t get distracted at home, listening to songs that transport me into emotional and spiritual presence, I have Finley’s picture next to me.  I took it out so that I could write that description.  I didn’t want to miss any details, and it’s far too soon to share that photo with you, whomever may be reading this.  I can’t trust that you will see the beauty as I do; I will not jeopardize my son being judged.

This photo is in our bedroom at home, next to his urn.  Both my husband and I also carry wallet-sized versions. We have it framed and on the mantle over our fireplace as well, surrounded by great photos of our grandparents – a metaphor for our belief that they are taking care of him in heaven.  Over those framed pictures we’ve hung a piece of butterfly art, that recently caught Craig’s eye on a visit we’d made to Ojai, and that matches the tattoo I got on the first anniversary of Fin’s death on my arm.

Amazing that I thought I looked at everything in that store, but that I didn’t even notice an entire wall dedicated to butterfly art or these beautiful little stones made by the Chumash, a tribe, until my husband pointed them out.

In addition, I have a framed copy of the photo in my toiletry travel bag, as every trip I take – whether it’s for an overnight stay or 3 weeks abroad on production – I need to light a candle by his photo.  A healer I once went to said I should not travel with his photo anymore.  That was about 9 months after he died. She turned out to be a bit crazy; I think she was an evil woman, the exact opposite of the spiritual healer I work with now, and I no longer seek permission or approval from anyone for the fact that it makes me feel sane (sane as I possibly can be with all that I go through anyway) to have the ritual of the candle next to the photo, every, single night.

In Jewish tradition the candle flame is often thought to symbolically represent the human soul, and lighting candles is an important part of many Jewish religious occasions from Shabbat to Passover Seders. The connection between candle flames and souls derives originally from the Book of Proverbs (chapter 20 verse 27): “The soul of man is the candle of G-d.” Like a human soul, flames must breathe, change, grow, strive against the darkness and, ultimately, fade away. Thus, the flickering flame of the Yahrzeit candle helps to remind us of the departed soul of our loved one and of the precious fragility of our life and the lives of our loved ones, life that must be embraced and cherished at all times.

The picture at the top of the post was taken on the evening of December 3rd, the eve of Finley’s death, as my husband and I held hands, and spoke to our angel son, while we lit the candle, as has been our tradition every year.

Sometimes if I look at his picture long enough while it’s next a burning candle, I can almost bring him to life.  Today, for this moment, anyway, I know I cannot bring him back to life, but that he lives on inside of my husband and me.

7 thoughts on “Third Anniversary of Finley’s Death

  1. Beautiful post Lorraine. I get it. I really do. In the same way that your heart feels what it feels when you see babies in strollers or in arms, I feel when I see photos on facebook of happy families traveling together on vacations. I do believe you will get to the “other side” and when you do, the hurt will be less. You are doing all the right things, and everyone is your life is so proud of you. xo

  2. Lorraine,

    Lovely. I feel so many similar emotions. Every day. You are honoring Finley, Craig, your family, in the truest way. Wishing you comfort, wishing for Finley’s siblings to find you. Soon. Sending love. Stacey

  3. I have seen that photo of Finley, and he is indeed truly beautiful. I think it is wonderful that you light the candle, like a kiss goodnight. Love to you and Craig today and every day.

  4. Lorraine,

    Your beautiful words, strength & courage have brought me to tears. I would never begin to claim knowing your pain, but i DO know your struggle! The memory does fade, but is never forgotten. Your dreams WILL come true…just don’t let them go!


  5. Lorraine I am so sorry to hear about your on going struggles. It sounds like you have an incredible partner and that’s half the battle won already. I will continue to read your blog and support you in any way I can. I am sending all my positive thoughts your way. I cannot start to imagine your heartache, I am moved to tears just reading about it. Stay strong and keep doing what you doing, something’s gotta give eventually. Lots of live and happiness always, your old (not that old) friend Deb. xo

  6. I chose to launch this blog over these days very obviously to honor him and his short life, and you have helped make that happen. Thank you. Next week the posts will continue.

    For this to get more momentum and end up spreading to the many people out there who are bereaved and / or struggle with fertility, I need your continued support. So please – share, like on Facebook, and keep reading.


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