"Normally, at the end of a loved one’s life, despite our sadness there are certain things we can fall back on to offer us a measure of peace. Maybe a funny or touching story about the deceased, or some words of their imparted wisdom, or, if we are fortunate, the small consolation that their life was a full one, with a list of milestones reached and goals realized. In short, a way to celebrate a life lived. Today, however, one year to the day that my son Toren was born, I am unable to temper my grief with any of these comforts. The simple truth is that Toren and I have no shared experience, and these common consolations are therefore not available to me. Instead I find myself left only with sadness, confusion, anger, and an ever-present aching sense of loss. I am therefore not ready or able to talk today about Celebration.
What I am able to talk about today is Acknowledgment. The recognition that Toren’s life mattered and continues to matter. I don’t see his death as the end of a story but in fact the beginning of one that is now integrated into mine, and will be for the rest of my life. We often stress our adult roles as teachers and guides, but our children, living or dead, in turn teach and guide us. I am proud to say that Toren has taught me much through the first year since his birth, and that he will continue to do so in the years to come, as our relationship grows, evolves, and matures.
And how do we acknowledge someone that we have never met? We do it through ritual, such as our gathering today. We do it by sharing how they have affected us and those around us. We do it by observing their birthdays and anniversaries. We do it by including them in the definition of our families. We do it by donating our time, energy or money to a worthy cause. We do it by making memories to fill in the gaps that have been left by their absence. And, most simply and most powerfully, we do it by speaking their names.
Acknowledgement is so important. It validates the feelings of grieving parents, who remain parents to the child who is absent. It makes us feel part of a broader community. It helps bring us out of the isolation we feel. In time, it may help us to make meaning out of our loss. For being here today, for your support over this first year, and for helping us acknowledge Toren, I thank you.
I would also like to extend a special thank-you to the other baby-loss parents that have been such a large part of our lives this year. Toren's Mom and I often say that you have been the best friends that we wish we had never met. Your support has been invaluable to us, I am exceptionally grateful for it and at the same time I am deeply grieved that it has come from such a shared experience. Thank-you all."