There is a tree. It is an Oregon White Oak. The only Oregon White Oak planted at our favorite Portland Park. It is Levi’s tree. We planted it in his memory with the help of the park ranger. I wore my red wool peacoat on that late October day. We gathered in a circle, Jason and I, my parents, Grandma, and Scott, Winter, Kyzen and Billie, around the freshly planted tree and sang the same song we had sung in the hospital room: You Are My Sunshine. The pitch was too high for me. My voice sounded hollow and shaky. But Grandma’s voice rang clear and true, and I followed along with her. Dad harmonized, as always. Mom was the one to arrange the whole thing. She made many phone calls and got special permission. No engraved memorial was allowed, but we all knew who the tree was for. Later that week, Jason and I went back and secretly spread Levi’s ashes there. Dad carried water, 2 buckets of water balanced on a broom stick across the back of his shoulders every few days to water the tree during the first two summers of its life. He did this without being asked or thanked.
Levi, my firstborn son, had a very short life, but he was greatly loved.
My friends are sending their kids to college this week. Posting pictures of dorm rooms and campus signs. Their kids were born around the same time as Levi. He would have been going to college this week, I realize. I have held him in my heart all these years. I am ready to release him to the world, too. The time has come to write the story and share it.
Have you ever seen an alive baby at 17 ½ weeks gestation? Do you know how small they are, but how perfectly formed? I could show you a picture of Levi and you could see for yourself. You might be distracted by the slightly “off” coloring of his skin though. He didn’t have any fat yet. Maybe that is why he looked a little purplish in the pictures; the blood sort of changing the color of his skin. He was beautiful. He looked like Jason. He had perfectly formed hands and feet. A perfectly formed body. A beating heart. Lungs that expanded and contracted as he breathed. So quiet and peaceful. And alive.
That was his whole life. 45 minutes in our hands. But what an amazing 45 minutes it was. The most timeless 45 minutes of my life. Holy. He passed through our lives. And as he did, he cracked me open. I birthed him, and then that experience birthed me.
There is no name for the parent who loses a child. Not an orphan. Not a widow. I am simply, Mother.
Hi friends and family! This is where I'll share excerpts of my writing and bits about my writing process as I bring it all together into a book . Thank you for sharing in this process with me! Fellow writers, I encourage you to share your words, too. Sharing our writing is an important and generous act. We humans find our way together as we share stories from the heart.