This cool September morning I took an early morning walk, and for a minute I closed my eyes and thought about where I was and what I was doing a year ago. The weather was so similar, a cool morning with the promise of a clear blue sky, birds singing morning songs, a slight breeze. Instead of in North Carolina or Virginia, twelve of us mothers whose story is part of Farther Along: The Writing Journey of Thirteen Mothers were at a beautiful old chateau in the Loire valley of France where we wrote, explored, exercised, rested, walked, floated on the Loire in a homemade boat and floated on evening breezes in a montgolfier, and—oh yes—where we ate wonderful food. And where we remembered our children every single day of the time there.
Lest that time and what it meant to us as a group fade away, I want to bring back and savor some of that experience.
It was hard to get there and hard to leave because we had come so far. It took years of writing together to get us to France where we had promised ourselves we would meet to write if we were still writing together after ten years. All of us had experienced the death of a child or children when we first met in October 2002 at an all-day writing session on writing toward healing. And one day wasn’t enough. We met again and again for ten years (and continue to meet 11 years later) to write. When we arrived in France at the chateau, the days passed too quickly.
I am forever imprinted with the need to measure the spaces between days. My grandmother’s trick for keeping me on task to break beans or shell peas was to make me memorize and recall all the dates of her children’s births, her children’s spouse’s births and their children’s birthdates as I kept my hands busy at tasks I did not particularly enjoy. I measured and remembered a lot of days while shelling peas: She had 12 children, 12 daughters- and sons-in-law and 26 grandchildren.
So today as I walked, I did some measuring and remembering too. I thought of Carol whose baby boy was born on a September day almost 31 years ago, of Betsy whose daughter was born on a September day 35 years ago, of Barbara whose son died this month 16 years ago on the same day that one of my sons turned 20. I thought of Aunt Lucile’s daughter Brenda who also shared that same birthday—and yes, my grandmother’s mnemonics serve me well—Brenda would be 71 had she and her unborn baby survived meningitis in 1965. I thought of Linda who faces the first anniversary of her son’s death this September. I recalled a host of September days that led me to thoughts of people I never want to forget, that I want to hold close.
So over the next few days, perhaps some of us will share memories of the days spent in France a year ago this week—measuring the days between then and now, today and always. Remembering our children.