Not How It’s Supposed to Be

June 6, 2009

Last fall, I went to L.A. to visit my dear friend Karen.  At the time, she was pregnant with twins – a boy and a girl – and I was thrilled to be able to spend some time with her before the chaos of two newborns kicked in.  I got to tool around Larchmont with her, meet her adorable little boy, and spend time lounging in their lovely new house (complete with guest house).  It was such a nice weekend and I couldn’t wait for a future date to get our families together.

Karen ended up on bedrest right after I left for the duration of her pregnancy.  She listened to her doctors and was able to make it to 35 weeks, close to full term for twins.  She delivered two healthy babies.  She had struggled with post-partum depression after the birth of her first child and so she left the hospital this time armed with medication.  When I talked to her soon after the birth, she sounded exhausted and overwhelmed but all right in the grand scheme of things.  They had help lined up.  She knew she was going to make it through that most difficult of first years.

A few months ago, I got an unthinkable phone call.  Karen’s mother called me to tell me that the girl twin had died.  A baby who I felt I knew but never got to meet died of SIDS at 8 weeks old. After a tearful conversation with Margaret, I had a brief and gut-wrenching talk with Kerry, Karen’s partner.  Then I hung up the phone and squeezed my children tighter than I ever have.

What can you do for a grieving mother who happens to be one of your best friends?  All I wanted to do was get on a plane and get myself in her kitchen.  I wanted to cook up a massive amount of nourishing and healthy food, enough to fill their refrigerator and freezer so they wouldn’t have to think about eating – the food would just be there.

As it happened, people flew in from all over the country.  I know Karen and I know the presence of one more person would have stressed her out and stress was not what she needed.  I stepped back.  I let them know I was here and would love to come down for a visit when they were ready for me.  I called weekly to check in but just got voice mail.

Then, she called.  She sounded good, grounded.  Thoughtful, introspective – all the things that you wouldn’t expect from someone who had lost a child.  They were ready for me to come.  Maybe I could cook for them, but what they really wanted was for me to bring my older son.  Karen had met him once when he was around 2 years old and he captured her heart.  (This is the same kid who hugged Dave Matthews.)  With all the sadness that had been in their house, and all the visitors, her older son had gotten a little lost.  Karen wanted a buddy for him for a couple of days.

So, we are going.  My son and I are getting on a plane this morning and heading off for the weekend.  Maybe I will cook.  I know I will watch two cute boys play in a lovely backyard.  I’m sure I will cry.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to go and give some love to people who need it.


  1. Dana, my thoughts are with you and your friend Karen. So sorry for her loss. It’s wonderful that you and your son going to visit her–I’m sure it will be good for both her and her son.

    Comment by HappyTummy — June 6, 2009 @ 10:37 am

  2. That’s so incredibly sad. Hope you and your son have a lovely weekend.

    Comment by lisaiscooking — June 6, 2009 @ 1:13 pm

  3. I’m so happy you can go and be with your friend. Sending lots of travel blessings your way.

    Comment by The Leftoverist — June 6, 2009 @ 2:58 pm

  4. What a heartbreaking thing for a mother to endure. I’m sure Karen’s glad to have your friendship during times like these.
    Some of your delicious food would surely bring some joy, too. Have a safe trip.

    Comment by Tammy — June 6, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

  5. That is so unbelievably sad. It is good that Karen has such a good friend in you and that she is able to open up to friends. It would be so easy to shut yourself away and shut down altogether.

    Comment by holler — June 7, 2009 @ 8:26 am

  6. Sorry to hear about your friend’s baby. :(

    Comment by Ashley — June 7, 2009 @ 5:19 pm

  7. So sorry to hear this. How unbelievably sad. Hope the hugs and smiles from you and your little sweetie pie brought some comfort.

    Comment by Mara — June 7, 2009 @ 11:13 pm

  8. A true frind knows exactly what the other person needs, cometimes it’s physical company, sometimes it’s spiritual support, other times a bowl of soup. Aside from knowing, a true friend knows when and how to deliver and fulfill the other person’s needs. You know what it beest for your dear friend and I’m glad you’re able to comfort her in her grief. You are a blessing for her.

    Comment by Marta — June 8, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

  9. Your post moves me to tears. I will read the follow-up about your visit in a moment…

    Comment by cheryl — June 9, 2009 @ 11:49 pm

  10. Ouch. I have twins, identical girls and they are now 23. I can’t imagine losing one so small and sweet. I am truly sorry for your friend’s loss. When friends of mine have lost their children, I have learned to spend time with them normally. What I mean by this is,we openly talk about loss, their lost child, how their flowers are growing, (usually not very well that first year) and the weather. The greatest gift you can give them is to treat them normal and not “Special.” Listen and love a lot. Good luck and blessings on Karen and her family.

    Comment by Dana Zia — June 12, 2009 @ 12:06 am

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