A Good Day

She’ll be part of every good day. No matter what.  — “The Book of Polly”


I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do on the anniversary of your child’s death. It’s not just another day, and it’s impossible to ignore.

It’s like a great, looming cloud. It feels unsettled sometimes, and you wait for the storm. There should be a massive storm, you think — something that breaks things open and shakes the earth.  Something vital was ripped from the deepest part of me, and it needs to be acknowledged.

But there is no Zeus, and I am not God. I don’t control the weather, and I couldn’t cure her disease: acknowledge that, and everything changes.

Sometimes, the answer doesn’t come in words. We lack the language, I think, of a higher truth. So we listen, and we wait. We plan, but we do not control. It’s maddening sometimes, but it’s the best we can do.

Last year, I beat back the awfulness by writing something big (if you haven’t seen my CNN piece on hospice, please check it out. It’s so dear to my heart) and by taking a big trip.  

On Julianna’s second heaven day, I tried not to overplan. My goal was to see something beautiful and to honor her.

This was my something beautiful:


Even on a cloudy day, the Columbia Gorge is breathtaking. Julianna saw this river almost every day. (There are mermaids in there, you know. Her mermaid friend told her.)


I honored her by making something sparkly,


When yarn unravels, it’s easy to become a tangled mess. I spent a lot of time working out the tangles to make this piece. Metaphors abound.

and by going to her favorite place



Harper’s Playground, of course!



Along the way, there were a few surprises.


A lovely ice cream shop with fresh strawberry ice cream and a patio adorned by purple flowers.




A free postcard in an art store one block down from the lovely ice cream shop.




My family remembered her…how she would have loved all those babies!



Julianna’s dogwood tree turned even pinker. 



Alex’s piano teacher picked these flowers out of her garden for us.



J would have liked this…


A friend (J’s best friend, in fact) shared a memory — this is one of Julianna’s “secrets”

J — My legs can come off.

J’s BFF — Really? What do they do?

J — They’re wild!

And her eyes just sparkled…


And another shared a picture that I forgot existed.  Pure treasure.



There were tears —  believe me, many of them. But it was a good day.

…And someday, there is going to be a good day that we are all part of. I’m not sure where that is, or what it looks like, but I believe in that day. — “The Book of Polly”

Two Years

The second year is harder than the first.

I heard it many times during that awful, surreal, first year, from many different members of the “club.” I didn’t believe it, though. How could I? How could it possibly get worse?

But it was. For me, year two without Julianna was most definitely worse.

The new normal has become…life. Our house is quiet. There’s no reason to walk through the girl’s section at Target. I make travel plans for a family of three.  I’m getting used to the fact that she’s gone – and I hate it. ( I recognize that it’s necessary  — “healthy”, perhaps — to accept reality, but I don’t have to like it. We live in a messed up world, and it hurts.)

I miss her most in the evenings. She needed someone at her bedside at all time. It wasn’t a burden: how I loved sitting there with the familiar lullabies playing in the background.  She was usually chatty and often profound: the best conversationalist I will ever know. She didn’t like to sleep (“God says Julianna is not tired.”), but no one can defy physiology, not indefinitely. So she’d drift off and I would watch…my lovely girl, finally at rest.

It was the best part of my day. I’d be exhausted but grateful. We had gotten another day and she’d be there again in the morning.

Two years ago, she drifted off for the final time. The mornings have come – 730 of them –without her.

On that first morning after she died, I wrote this:

Today, I just want the world to know that there was a girl named Julianna.

Such a strange, simple thought.  But it has stayed in my heart, even as words have failed me.


She made me better.

I miss her – so much.

She asked me about angels, and she walks among them now. No, she runs, and I think she even soars.

Her imagination was magical.  It was surpassed only by her heart.

She asked us to remember her always.

Remember her — please.

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2013. Photo by Jennifer Rialtos