Thursday, April 9, 2009

Madeline Alice Spohr

I am not what you would call a person of faith. More like a person of doubt. I was raised in a church but have spent most of my adult life struggling with the most basic questions. I am deeply envious of people of faith, since they seem to have something to lean on when things are difficult. But on this day, I am calling out to whatever is out there, in a prayer of equal parts gratitude and confusion.

About 6 months ago, I got a copy of Sleep is for the Weak. It was funny and touching and introduced me to this world of mommy blogs--that though I didn't know them personally, there was this whole world of funny, supportive, smart women who were moms, just like me, dealing with kids just like mine. And I started reading these blogs--the ones I link to from my blog. These moms are so honest about their lives, so caring of their kids and their friends. And they make me feel so much less alone, in this world where I really don't have that many connections with other women.

Tuesday I learned for the first time of a little girl named Madeline Alice Spohr. Unfortunately I met her too late. What an ungodly tragedy to meet someone when it is too late to know her. I read of her on Baby on Bored and on Mommy Wants Vodka. And though it is always horrendous to learn of the loss of a child, something about Maddie has touched me deeply.

Maybe it is her beauty. She is so vibrant in all the photos I see, so very present, that it is so heart-wrenching to think that she is gone. Maybe it is the way I see she has touched the lives of people who have touched mine. Becky, of Mommy Wants Vodka, insists that "Because Maddie Alice Spohr was here, dammit, and she mattered." Yes, she was, and she did. Maybe it is because my own children are driving me crazy today. And as I try to deal with them and all their minor dramas, I am torn between finding it hard to focus on who stole what from who, with my mind full of the loss of a beautiful life, and wanting to scoop them up and hold them tight, so grateful am I that they are here to fight and scream and complain.

And maybe it's because this doesn't feel like something that happened to someone else, someone so unlike me. When I first read about Maddie, I went to her mother, Heather's, blog, to get a sense of who she was and who she had been. And as I read down the posts, I got her April Fool's Day post. Every year, I read or see something that reminds me why April Fool's Day is just about my favorite day of the year. Google's annual joke, or someone telling me they just got convinced that the government is going to start subsidizing pet health insurance. It's such a delightfully silly day, and I enjoy all the ways people celebrate it, with such wonderful humor. Heather's post was one of the best. An April Fool's grilled cheese sandwich, made with pound cake and frosting. She describes it so simply, even including pictures of the process--and, of course, of her dad falling victim to the prank. She had me smiling and thinking, "I'm going to have to try that one!" And at the end of the post, a picture of sweet Maddie, enjoying the prank and the laughter. And that got me. No matter what I'm doing, I keep stopping to think of that silly sandwich. Just such a beautiful, simple moment, the sort of thing that wouldn't really stand out in a life over all--except that to me, who only got to know her after she was gone, this is Maddie. Surrounded by people she loves, who love to laugh, who are just so much like us.

So I am reaching out today, to whoever is listening, whether reading this blog or up in the heavens somewhere. Thank you, thank you, with my whole heart and soul, for the safety and well being of my family. I know that I am lucky. But why? Why must another mother suffer a loss I can't imagine? I don't know if this pushes me further toward faith or doubt, only that it makes me feel more like there ought to be answers somewhere.

And the final reason I may feel so deeply the loss of Maddie: her name. I have been nervous about what to share in a blog. How private ought we to be? I don't want to be unsafe, in a world where you don't who you can trust. So I haven't shared much in the way of identifying information. Sure, if you knew me and you came across this blog, you'd almost certainly be able to identify it as mine. But a stranger wouldn't be able to track me down using the information in here. I haven't even shared my kids' names. But in honor of sweet Maddie, I'm going to trust the world a bit more. My kids are Zachary (5), Ezra (3), and Matilda (13 months)--Mattie. And every time I look at my chubby, spoiled, loud little Mattie, my heart breaks yet again for a family that has lost theirs.

I wish I could do something to ease the pain, but I wouldn't know where to start. Instead I will send them a meal from a friend they didn't know they had--one they didn't have until just now. And I will pray--for guidance, for answers, and for grieving families.

(If you would like to donate to the March of Dimes in her honor, visit and you will find instructions. It is the most tangible way I know to help a little life.)

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