Saturday, September 1, 2012

Cherry Trees in Winter and Too Many Dead Children

Dear Cheyenne,
I haven't written to you publicly for several years. But, it's been a long hard summer.  And something about sending this out to the world feels right.

In many ways, this has been one of the hardest summers in almost a decade.

There are so many reasons why.

Your prom. Graduation. 18th birthday. College. Hit after hit. And then there are the families...

So many, many new families. Really, the past 18 months I've noticed a significant increase in the number of families who have come to us desperately seeking help.  I'm not even sure how we've managed to help so many. It feels a little like the loaf of bread that fed thousands.

Oh, how I wish this didn't happen. How I wish children didn't die. American children, Italian children, Romanian children, German children, Irish children, Latin children, Canadian children, African children, Asian children, Russian children, Australian children, Maori and New Zealander children, Native American children, Arabic children, Indian children, Greek children, Spanish children, Icelandic children, all the children of all the world...

We are all connected. Their children are mine, mine theirs. When one child dies, it affects us all, even through the generations. I know this now, Chey. You taught me this.

Still, there are so many things about child death that I don't understand. Some of the most beautiful families are faced with life's most incomprehensible loss.

A student asked me yesterday how I "handle all the stress" of working with grieving families.

I really believe that the answer to that is through my mindfulness practices. They help me to feel you and remind me that you are with me, you and I are the same. We are one. Remember the first time I hiked barefoot? I felt you with me then. The first time I meditated? Then, too. The kindnesses? All you, sweet girl.

It's taken lots of time (they call it "practice" for a reason) but I've learned to tolerate uncertainty even about the big, unanswerable questions. I've learned to lean into my suffering and the suffering of others. I've learned to willingly turn into the darkness when it calls, not fearlessly yet still with some degree of courage. I've learned that I can truly love strangers and not fear being overtaken by their grief. I've learned that their grief is my grief. I've learned that it is our connectedness and integration that can heal the world. I've learned that if I still my mind, I can hear you...

I know my feet are yours. That we walk together. That all the children who belong to all the families walk together.

And so yesterday I meditated on cherry trees blossoming in winter.

I still cry nearly every day, mostly for us all, and I'm thankful for that. I'm alive.  The beauty and the pain live together in the same house. They, too, are one.

I love you and miss you every second of every day of every week of every month of every year of every decade.



Unknown said...

((((((Jo))))), so many children, so much pain and so much love...

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...


They taught us that every moment is a gift. Didn't they? <3


Rambling Roads said...

I am a palliative care nurse, and a mother to a sweet 7 month old, born 3 months to the day after my dear friends precious son was born still(they were also born in the same room(completely unplanned)). Our sons were, are, and always will be connected. Thank you for sharing your letter and your journey. I know that you have helped so many understand what child-loss parents go through. You have given me greater insight into grief, which makes me a better friend, nurse, mother and person.

When I first read your story, I wept for your dearest Chey. Her spirit lives on in you and through all of us who have been touched by you!


Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you so much Hannah. Thank you for your open heart...

GrahamForeverInMyHeart said...

Your words make me weep.

I hope that I can someday feel what you wrote:

"I've learned that if I still my mind, I can hear you..."

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

((((Graham's Mom))))) I hope for you too <3


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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