Wednesday, March 9, 2016


C.T. crawls onto my lap every morning, when he's three-quarters through his breakfast.  It became ritual after Zachary died.   

He wraps his arm around my neck to hoist himself up, one knee at a time, and situates himself sideways so that he is almost laying on me, his head under and to the left of my chin.  I cradle him awkwardly, my arms not nearly long enough to wrap all the way around his body like they used to.  At eight years old, he is so big, so long. 

He talks to me with no awareness that I'm studying him, greedily, with all of my senses.  He pops a strawberry in his mouth, and I feel his chewing, the seeds grinding, in my ear.  Bath or no bath, his hair smells so fresh and clean, I can't resist kissing him again and again.  He wraps a hand around my forearm while we talk.  He laughs and throws his head back in the crook of my arm, daring me to tickle him, mouth clad with milk moustache. 

I close my eyes and try to grasp how I might have had this with Zachary too.     


Over winter break and into the early part of January, C.T. read the fourth installment of Harry Potter, on his own.  All 734 pages. 

When he brought it home from the school library, declared he'd already read two chapters, I had no idea he'd actually get through the entire book without me.  Surely he wouldn't have the endurance.  He'd need my voice inflections, my explanation of mature themes, my help to understand tricky words and the subtleties inherent in the conversation sections.   

I made him read a chapter aloud, testing for his understanding.  Using context when he needed to, he was able to explain and understand everything.   

We read the first three books together, C.T. and I.   


C.T. reaches into the silverware drawer and pulls out four forks for the table.  He notices his mistake almost immediately.

Mom and dad, look: I wish I was setting the table for the four of us. 

Of course, sweetie.  The fourth for Zachary.  We wish too. 

After his own name, he masters Zachary's, in cursive.  I find Zachary's name written, in newly minted handwriting, all over the house, doodled on the papers C.T. brings home from school.  He loves the connecting letters, the way the Z looks a lot like a fancy 3, the fact that cursive writing is a big-kid thing.  Like us, he looks for every chance to use his brother's name.


I am crying on the way home from a ride along (with B) to pick C.T. up from a birthday party.  My nerve pain has flared up badly, and although I've been cooped up, and in desperate need of a change of scenery, I regret leaving the comfort of home.  He hands me a tissue from the back seat and tells me,

Mom, you are still doing such a good job of being a mom. 


This boy of mine - C.T. - he is so inexplicably magical. 

No one knows it, none of my stories can even begin to convey or describe it, but Zachary was equally magical. 

The world thinks what's done is done, that what and who I've lost has been accounted for. 

It is not so.  Every day, I calculate his loss.  Every day, I wonder at the growth and brilliance and unique tenderness I witnessed in that specific little person, my Zachary.  Every day, I'm bewildered at what I have, the one of the three that I can see and feel and touch, and equally bewildered by what has been stripped from me.  It would take forever to measure. 



  1. This was so beautifully written, Gretchen. I am so sorry for your losses. I completely understand your constantly thinking about what you might have had with your boys, trying desperately to imagine what life might have been like with them. I know that I seem to feel the loss of my son more and more each day as I realize more fully the extent of what has been taken from me. It feels like everything has been stolen from me. It truly is incalculable. ~ Megan (

    1. Thank you, Megan. It's like a bait and switch, you know? Here is this incredible, unique person you made. You love him with your whole heart... you'd give your own life for his. You are anticipating a full lifetime of experiences and memories and loving this person. Then, poof, he's gone.

  2. Gretchen- I just wanted to comment here and let you know how much your writing speaks to me. I read Glow and found your blog that way. I lost one son at birth. I think of you and your boys often and just wanted to let you know I'm reading and thinking of you. KM

    1. Thank you, KM. I'm so sorry to hear about your sweet boy.

  3. Oh, Gretchen. My heart aches for you. I’ve thought of you often since I read your blog a couple of days ago, and have cried a dozen times since. It always takes me time to get my thoughts down on paper.

    Of course, every day you calculate Zachary’s loss. You held him, you gazed into his loving eyes, and he into yours. You admired his strength and courage. Your beautiful baby boy. You will never forget him. You will never stop loving him. He is part of you, and he has taken part of you with him. He felt your immense love for him. He will never be far from your thoughts.

    C.T. calculates his loss every day too. C.T. should be reading his Harry Potter book to his little brother. Zachary should be here wanting to be just like his big brother. It is so painful. It’s not just your loss. It is so hard to see the grief and pain in C.T’s eyes too. I know for me it is.

    Sophie had a playdate with one of her friends today. Her friend’s Mom came to pick her up with her twin brother. After Sophie’s friend left, she said, “I wish I was Clare. She has her brother.” She was quiet for the rest of the afternoon…angry….usually when she is angry, she is sad underneath. After some probing, she finally came up to me and sat on my lap and said, “when Clare (her friend) and I were running my heart was racing. Thomas’ heart isn’t beating anymore”. And, I said. “It isn’t sweetie. It’s very sad. You miss your brother and your sister. Were you thinking about Daphne and Thomas today?” She replied, “I think of them all the time, Mommy.” And, so do I. Our loss is immeasurable too.

    Gretchen, I’m so sorry that you suffering so much, physically and emotionally. It breaks my heart. None of this is your fault. Zachary being gone. The incredible physical agony that you are feeling. NONE of it is your fault.

    The affirmations that you wrote in your reply to Kim are so true. I wonder if picturing Zachary say them to you might help.

    I know how much you love me.
    You didn’t cause my death.
    You did EVERYTHING you could to get me help.
    I wanted to stay with you.
    Your love made me suffer less, and gave me the strength to leave this world.
    Mommy, I hate to see you suffer so much.
    This is NOT your fault.
    You deserve to feel physically well again.
    I want you to feel peace.
    I love you, Mommy, and I always will.”

    I hope I didn’t offend you with these thoughts about Zachary talking to you. My heart breaks for you, Gretchen. I am with you across the miles. You are such a strong, courageous and loving mother. Your children are loved by you deeply. You deserve some relief and some peace.


    1. Yvonne - You are so incredible. And your Sophie, sweet, sweet Sophie, who deserves to have both her brother and her sister here with her. Or..., even just her sister, damnit. It's too much, my friend.

      I'm in awe of the support you lavish on me, Yvonne. It truly warms me heart to know how much you care.

      I love thinking of Zachary talking with me. I'm going to try that out with my affirmations.

      I think about C.T. reading to Zachary all the time. Especially when he reads aloud to me, expressively, and I just think back to the time he tearfully read to Zachary just before he died. To think that we should have laughter while reading to him - it's insurmountably painful. C.T. was such a tremendously loving big brother, and I just know he would have taken time each day to read with Zachary. The thought of the 3 of us, reading together on the couch or a chair, is almost too painful to conjure.

      Many thanks, Yvonne.

    2. Gretchen,

      Thanks for your support too.

      One last thing I wanted to mention...C.T. Is thriving and this is because of you. I know you are hurting deeply. Don't forget that you are amazing! C.T. told you in his own little sweet way.


  4. This was beautiful and painful to read. Your last paragraph especially rings so true to me, so close to my experience of loss and parenting after loss (although i know having to go through this type of loss twice must be that much more cruel and inexplicable).

    C.T.'s thoughtfulness and care transpires through your writing, and so does your immense love for all three of your sons. I am so sorry you are left calculating this immeasurable loss.

    Many many thoughts to you and your family.