Momentary Lapses

This blog was created during a momentary lapse, a period when I'm stuck in my writing and trying to jog something loose in my brain or push myself so close to deadline that I can kill, without remorse, the beloved opening or headline or quote that is keeping me from moving forward. Most of my posts here will have to do with writing, including occasional Favorite Writing Quotes (FWQs). Please share yours, and your comments, too.

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Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Thrill of Hope

Our snug little house glowed with light and color, but there was no holiday cheer in our hearts in December, 1985.

The Christmas tree spread its festive branches in the corner where a crib had stood two months earlier. The garlands and candles adorned surfaces once cluttered with diapers and baby toys and medical supplies. And the silk poinsettias and mistletoe brimmed in baskets left over from the sympathy bouquets for our precious Ellen Marie.

We were weary, drained by our little girl's death as we had not been by the challenging fifteen months of her life. No more intensive care, no more surgery, no more night nurses, oxygen tanks, and sudden returns to the hospital.

No bright-eyed little girl with the silent, joyous laugh snuggled trustingly in our empty arms.

We plunged into the bustle of the holidays, tramping the shopping malls, grateful for the busy-ness of the season that made it easier, for a time, to fill the empty hours and spaces. But Christmas day itself loomed bleak and joyless for our small family circle. There would be no children, just a star on the tree from Baby's First Christmas, her last.

But just as the coming of Jesus transformed the world, another child came to us on Christmas Eve, bringing comfort and hope and joy.

The first hint of his presence was a faint blue tint on a strip of plastic that should have stayed white. The doctor at the hospital wrote down dates and shook his head, but ordered the blood test out of pity for us on Christmas Eve. And late that afternoon, the good news came from a calm voice on the telephone, without trumpet blasts or angel choirs--but we heard them just the same.

That night our snug little house glowed inside and out. And the next day, there were smiles and tears of joy mingled with the sadness. The talk around our Christmas dinner table was of the future as well as the past and the might-have-been.

In our rejoicing over our own Christmas Child, we knew the wonder and beauty of the coming of the infant Jesus. For what speaks so much of hope and promise and boundless possibilities as a baby, a new life that changes the lives of others simply by being?

"A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices!" The great gift of Christmas came to our sorrowing family in the unseen presence of a little child. On that day and through the dreary winter months, his life renewed ours.

It was to be his great gift to us.

In the spring we learned that our Christmas Child would not live long after birth. Brian David was born on the evening of September 6, 1986, and died forty minutes later. We held him close and spoke to him softly, words of comfort and love and gratitude.

It has been more than twenty years since that Christmas of deep despair and redeeming hope. Kevin and I have been blessed with Dennis, Tim and Greg--three boisterous, beautiful sons who enrich our lives immeasurably. Our house is decked with lights and decorations and alive with young voices.

Christmas is indeed a time of joy, but it is also the season of hope, of God's love coming to us in human form.

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Blogger Rosemary Harris said...

Dear Mo,
Yesterday my house was overrun by friends including 6 small children. After they left, I unstuck the cranberries they'd ground into my rugs, cleaned up the chocolate icing that seemed to be everywhere, fixed my husband's computer which they'd messed around with, and swept up the few remaining shards of glass from the items they broke, and I found myself thinking why do people have so many kids? Your post made me love them all over again. Thank you for sharing and Merry Christmas to you and all the guys in your life!

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Jan Brogan said...

I had chills, first, then tears. I'm so sorry you had to suffer these losses, but this is a beautifully written memory of what must have been excruciatingly painful experience. A lot of us have had to deal with losses, and its always worse during Christmas. I'm sure this piece, full of insight as well as pain, will help a lot of people. Thanks for sharing it.

Merry Christmas!

9:07 AM  
Blogger Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Thank you so much, Mo.

9:52 AM  
Blogger AliasMo said...

Hank, Rosemary, Jan - Thanks so much for your response. I guess this is my big "tag," the thing my friends all know about me that's really shaped my life. The more people I talk to, the more I find everyone has some deeply moving experience they hesitate to share. but we're all richer for it when they do. I've had those "cranberry moments," too, (one of mine involved a litter box, a traumatized babysitter and two little boys who knew they were in very big trouble). Perspective is good. Hope you're with the ones you love tonight. - Mo

6:49 PM  
Blogger Cathy C said...


This piece is heartbreakingly beautiful. I cannot imagine how you got through such devastating losses. You are so brave to put it all down in words. Thank you so much for sharing this and reminding us that we can get through anything as long as we don't lose hope.

Merry Christmas to you and your very precious family.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Jeanne said...

What a lovely story---I'm in tears. It makes me feel guilty for griping about my kids (kids? Hah! 25 and 31 and still here...) But how wonderful that you can look back at such losses with hope. And how wonderful that your hope was rewarded. We have had many years' experience with childhood cancer, but our daughter is one of the lucky ones. Happy New Year. Jeanne Munn Bracken

8:59 PM  
Blogger AliasMo said...

Thanks Cathy & Jeanne and everyone who read and was touched by our Christmas story.


3:00 PM  
Blogger J.A. Hennrikus said...


That I am just reading this post speaks to my December. I am so glad that I remembered to do so--you are so brave to share these memories (so beautifully written). This journey of life is so wrought with a balance of loss and joy. Yours is a great reminder to people about that journey.

Happy New Year to you and yours!

10:54 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

I sit here crying. Not only because our daughter, 15 months passed on January 8, 2008 but because we too had the gift of another baby to bring joy back into our lives. He is, thankfully, healthy and well.

But, it sounds like your daughter might have lived the kind of life my little one did. She had a severe brain injury that left her without the ability to swallow and therefore made her breathing terrible. But, she was strong and brave and we loved every minute we shared with her.

Now, I am left with this emptiness, that will never go away. Not in 20 years, not in 100 years... For me, the loss is still very raw.

I found your blog through nycmidnight. Congrats on your story doing so well!

5:10 AM  
Blogger AliasMo said...

Dear Maya,

Thank you for sharing your story. Your daughter may only have had 15 months, but she knew every moment that she was dearly loved. I won't tell you that the pain goes away, but it changes constantly over time. The things you think will be hard (anniversaries) sometimes slip by and you can even welcome the opportunity they give you for a formal remembrance. Then something else sneaks up on you and Wham! For my mother-in-law, it was a toilet paper commercial that showed babies with wings. It hit me when I heard the song, "I Loved Her First."

One of the wonderful blessings of children is that they won't let you dwell in the past or even linger too long in the present. You have to keep moving on with them. I'm so happy you have your son to bring you joy every day.

I'll send you my e-mail address. Please contact me any time.


9:17 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

This is so true, how children (especially those who are just 3 months old) keep you in the "now". Their needs are so immediate, they give little time to dwell. Which has been a good thing. I know my daughter would not want me to dwell. We lived the time with her that we could to the max.
The other day someone mentioned leg warmers and I lost it (she had these super cute ones). But, I would rather talk about her. People have such a hard time when I tell them (see, I get the "is this your first" question a lot, and what do I say. Yes...? Well, no! But then people are taken a back, and I end up apologizing for upsetting them! Thanks for the email suggestion. I would like that. Sorry I've gone on for so long here. Good luck with your next assignment. I'm not so inspired this round... we'll see what tomorrow brings.

8:02 PM  

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