A heart made of gold

I post many negative honest things. I can’t help it. After losing a child, you’re quickly engulfed in a shitstorm of devastation and anger among other emotions. And, to make matters worse, so many don’t understand child loss or grief, so you’re also subjected to others’ insensitive words or actions.

It’s as though tributes from The Hunger Games are launching daggers at you, some of which you manage to dodge (barely), while others pierce straight through your heart. Except there’s no hovercraft to reach down, scoop up your carcass, and carry it off into the sunset. Because you keep surviving. And, sadly, you’re forced to carry on.

And then there’s those who not only prefer to forget your child, they prefer YOU forget your child. Because the mere thought of your dead child makes them uncomfortable. And heaven forbid they’re forced to confront some scary realities about life.

So they pretend nothing happened. They even cringe when you mention your child’s name. Which is more like being hit with an axe than with a dagger. And it makes you worry that, someday, you’ll be the only one who remembers your child and speaks his/her name.

You can’t predict the direction from which daggers and axes will fly. They could come from anywhere, even expected allies – family and close friends. These cut extra deep.

But, hopefully, there’s some good to counteract the bad – some miracle medicine (in vials, attached to small parachutes, dropped by the Capitol) to partially heal your gaping wounds. Hopefully some allow you to grieve in your time and in their presence. Hopefully some continue to speak your child’s name or listen compassionately as you speak it.

Or, maybe, a rare-type-of-someone does something so jaw-droppingly kind and moving that it brings you to your knees, reduces you to tears, renders you speechless, and takes your breath away. And possibly causes even the most avid Chicken Soup for the Soul (is that still a thing?)-reading, sappy-story-loving bystander to vomit into the nearest trashcan.

I’m lucky to know a few of these rare-type-of-someones. One is Matthew’s aunt, Kathryn (Mark’s sister).

Kathryn’s a special person with a heart made of gold. We’re extraordinarily lucky to have her in our lives. And boy is Matthew lucky to have her as his aunt. I’m sure, if Matthew’s looking down, he’s extremely proud of Kathryn and touched by all she’s done for him.

Kathryn lives several hours away but happened to be visiting when Matthew died. She was, I believe, the first person I saw, besides Mark, after I awoke from my emergency C-section and learned Matthew’s fate. She witnessed all the carnage of these first moments.

And she was touched by Matthew’s short life.

So much so that shortly after Matthew died, Kathryn began brainstorming ideas about how she could honor Matthew’s memory and help bring awareness to the stillbirth cause.

Kathryn’s eventual idea came from her job – she’s Head Girls Basketball Coach for Heartland Lutheran High School in Grand Island, Nebraska. And, on January 14, 2016, she’s hosting an awareness event called Shooting for the Stars (in conjunction with the basketball game already scheduled for that night). Funds raised benefit Star Legacy Foundation.

Kathryn’s done a great job with everything thus far, so I know the event will be a success. I’d talk more about it, but, if you’re interested, you can read more about it here. (Can I quickly point out how happy I am that the linked article decimates the lightning strike analogy?)

Kathryn has worked so hard and has already done so much to raise awareness in her area. The linked article appeared in last Sunday’s issue of the Grand Island Independent newspaper – on the front page!

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And Kathryn’s also managed to get the event publicized by a local news station. And the story was even picked up by other area news stations, including ones in Seward and Lincoln.

Talk about making an impact!

I know stillbirth is an uncomfortable topic. But it affects FAR more than most know. And research and awareness and education surrounding the issue is SEVERELY lacking.

Not only do I admire Kathryn’s talent in the areas of both dreaming up and executing this event, I’m also a bit jealous of her ability to live so boldly – that she didn’t let the uncomfortable nature of this topic stop her from making a difference.

And I’m also so touched Kathryn’s doing this as someone who isn’t Matthew’s parent. So often it’s ONLY parents who do ANYTHING to remember children who lived for such a short time.

So, Kathryn, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you!!! Mark and I, and Matthew, are so honored by all you’ve done. We love you, and we wish there were more people like you!

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22 thoughts on “A heart made of gold

    1. Thank you – I love The Hunger Games but, now, unfortunately, I always feel like I’m a character in it. An over-dramatization? Maybe it would seem that way to some. But I’m going with it. Because life is hard and painful and excruciating now.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Once again you have so suscinctly articulated the very personal and little understood journey that families like yours must walk. Indeed you are truly blessed by Katherine’s outpouring of love and energy to support you both and Matthew is a lucky little man to have her in his life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so amazing. Truly a heart of gold, your sister-in-law.

    I have never seen the Hunger Games but your analogy was perfect. There are so many times in this post-child loss world where the pain makes death feel much less scary, and at times, welcomed. But we don’t get that. We keep going and dodging and bleeding and we hope that others can see, always, just how much we love our babies. How it’s impossible to forget them. How that shouldn’t be an option for anyone.

    Once again, I thank you for your words, your insight, your friendship. And I thank you for sharing such a positive, warming, inspirational story to light my morning. There are beacons out there, and I’m just so glad you have such a bright one in your family.

    xo,
    Nora

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Christine,

    First, I am so sorry Matthew died. It is so incredibly heartbreaking to lose your child before they’ve even really began living outside of your womb (my son, Alfy, was stillborn in April 2012). I am so glad the Star Legacy Foundation, and Kathryn, and you are doing so much in the state of Nebraska to raise awareness of stillbirth. I, myself am in Omaha and work in Lincoln. I am just amazed at what you and Kathryn have been able to do in such a short time. For me, it took years (literally) before I was every able to do anything that I felt may make an impact. Anyways, I’ve shared the information about the game on my FB page as I have several close friends who live in the Hastings/Grand Island area. I’m hoping they will come out to show support. I would make the trip as well but will be heading out of town that day.

    I also loved this post. I am actually in rereading the Hunger Games, just this week, and got the third book last night (started on Saturday!). The Hunger Games Trilogy were the first books I read after Alfy died, a kind of escape for me from the intense grief. Everything you have said hits so many things in me, and you write it so eloquently and honestly. Thank you.

    I am not sure where you are in the Midwest, but I am here, close by, if you need me, or if Kathryn does.

    Much peace and love to you, Matthew, Mark and Kathryn.

    Shannon

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Shannon, Thanks so much for your kind comments and for sharing this with your friends! I am so very sorry about your Alfy – it’s just heartbreaking. How crazy that you’re reading The Hunger Games this week too. I’m always comparing my life to the series now, so I’m glad (and sad) the analogy resonated with you too. I am in St. Louis, MO, which is a bit of a hike to NE, but we try to make it there every so often to see Kathryn. Xoxo, Christine

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  4. For me, being speechless is rare. 🙂 (Christine knows this 🙂 ) But I am. Of course now I have thoughts though. Thank you, Christine and Mark, for the love you show, from the bottom of my heart.

    *I am also a fixer (Mark and I have one thing in common). Yet Christine and I also have similarities.

    Christine and Mark’s ability to love is unexplainable. This is such an honor to do for your son. Matthew’s life mattered.

    When I first presented it to my administrator, he was fine with the idea. I suggested it would be “just like Aces for Grace”, which holds similar events (Aces for Grace is a foundation that supports a new cancer patient a year. http://gracefoundationgi.org/about/mission/). And, I was ok with it being small.

    But honestly, I am a dreamer (might be an understatement-Christine and I have some jokes of the things that once came out of my mouth. But maybe some of my crazy ideas probably helped spark me to do this event, “Shooting for the Stars” who knows 🙂 ). I think of Matthew, Christine, and Mark all the time. So, I kept asking, “What can I do? How can I make a change?” Ok, God, what is the deal on this one? Really? Why this death, of all ones. Why this? I have no right answer. By the grace of God, and with the support of my family (husband, parents, brother and sister-in-law), I thought? BASKETBALL. (Not very insightful, but I thought, lets give this one a shot!(literally) 🙂
    I started spreading the word once receiving information from Mark and Christine. (Actually I started doing research of TV, radio, and the paper long before that-Pretty much when we started school in August.)

    The event hasn’t happened, but like I said, who knows how it will turn out. If it’s only the team I coach, and a few supporters, it will still be worth it to me.

    I find it ironic you used the Hunger Games analogy because I told Harvey one of my biggest prayers has been, “Maybe this “Catches Fire” for all stillbirth tragedies.” And if I am the person who has to get it started, then why the heck not.

    There have been many people who have been so supportive. And I am still a dreamer. Sometimes I think, “What if this story ends up having its own “Shooting for the Stars” website? And lots of people are “Shooting for the Stars” when it all started with my first born nephew, Matthew, a life that was short, but could potentially impact more people in those brief moments, than some do for lifetimes!

    Love you so dearly. I am just a small voice, with a big story.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Kathryn is precious, and she spreads sunshine everywhere she goes. I’m so grateful for what she has done to honor Matthew’s memory, bring awareness to stillbirth, and support the Star Legacy Foundation. Love her so! 💓

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a true gem! Such incredible work from Kathryn to spread awareness in Matthew’s memory.

    And boy, does that Hunger Games analogy resonate with me! My experience has definitely felt that way. It’s like a minefield.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Christine,

    You are a woman of great courage. Thank you for shattering the silence of stillbirth and for having the strength to be an understanding voice for many. You are also helping me.

    Confronting the evil in Matthew’s death, and the deaths of so many other children, requires the good gifts and talents of so many: your honesty and intelligence; Mark’s optimism and hope; Kathryn’s passion and faith; your dad’s thoughtful analysis and knowledge; your mom’s loving support and insight; Dr. Collins’ persistence and wisdom; your readers; loss moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles; friends; supportive co-workers; Star Legacy’s commitment; and many others, even many you do not know.

    Thank you for being a light even through your darkness. It is an honor being one of Matthew’s grandparents.

    You are not alone in your feelings Please know that you are never alone and always loved.

    xoxo

    Liked by 2 people

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