Saturday, February 27, 2010

Jane's Train

Meet Rosie!

Sarah's classmate Gavin and his parents donated Rosie to the library train table in Jane's memory. How awesome is that?

Sarah approves. She even let other kids play with it. This, my friends, is the height of altruistic behavior from an almost-four-year-old.

More awesomeness:

"Jane was here" on Horton's speck! This was made by Amy Ambroult, a friend of one of the teachers at my sister's school. She learned Jane's story and made pins for me and Jenny. People rule. (UPDATE: Melissa, my sister's friend, actually commissioned the pins. Sorry for the confusion. Melissa, you rule!)

Not a day has gone by since Jane died without a card or note or token arriving at our house. One day we got NINETY. One of these days I'll figure out a way to show them to you. It's wonderful. Cards and notes have come from 46 states and a dozen countries. I know the day will come when the influx will end, but until then the mailman's arrival is one of my favorite parts of the day, thanks to you all. People totally rule.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Exasperation and Yay!

Fine, Today! YOU WON.

I didn't get to eat a single bonbon (the cleaning lady showed up just as I was settled in [yes, we have a cleaning lady come in once a week because I hate doing floors, don't judge me], and I couldn't sit there and eat chocolates while someone else cleaned my house -- I just can't pull off Marie Antionette) so I went to the post office and forgot the note that went with one of the packages, and everything just kept not quite coming together.

But the day was not a complete disaster. Guess who came to lunch? Awesome [Nurse] Angela.

It was lovely to see her. We grabbed burgers, she got me caught up on the goings on at the hospital (where apparently everyone is pregnant) and we cried about Jane and just had a really nice time. It was so good to finally have the chance to just talk over the last six months. There simply aren't that many people around who lived the whole thing with Jane the way Tom and I did, and god did it feel good to be able to get into the minutiae and rehash the way things happened and sort of get some of that out of my system.

And she brought up the best shirt for Sarah. She and Jackie (that's Awesome Nurse Jackie to you) discovered it at the Dartmouth co-op, and it is PERFECT.

Can you see that? It's a Horton t-shirt!

She may never take it off. I figure as long as she bathes in it, it'll get clean enough, right?


And doesn't it just figure that after writing last night about being worried about being unfeeling that I'd lash out at Tom this morning over NOTHING, and then stomp around the house yelling at the top of my lungs at no one?

I found some stuff I've been looking for, put together two boxes of stuff to mail out, scrubbed the crap out of the carpet in the office (and in this house, that's both a figurative and literal statement), and superglued a broken bowl AND the top joint of my middle finger -- although not together, which is why I'm still able to type.

So now I'm defiantly sitting in my living room, catching up on Big Love and eating bonbons at ten o'clock in the morning. YES I AM.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Getting All Thinky About the Feely

A friend asked me recently how I was doing handling what must be an overwhelming emotional experience. And the truth is, I... haven't been overwhelmed yet. I assume it's because I'm so good at compartmentalizing (it *is* one of my talents -- along with packing; I'm particularly good at packing the car, a genetic gift from my father); or maybe I just have a gift for forced-march Zen. I told my friend I kind of feel like the little Dutch boy at the dyke, but instead of holding the ocean back with my thumb, I'm slowly letting the ocean leak through in manageable (so far) amounts. But I have to tell you, I'm a little worried that there isn't a tidal wave of emotion waiting to crash down on me. What if I'm just, I don't know, lacking?

I finished up boxing Jane's things today. And it wasn't horrible. Oh, I had some serious heartpangs over packing outfits she never got to wear, and trying to figure out what to do with the fancy-pants baby shampoos and sweet almond oil and tiny hair clips, but it was all... manageable. Dealable. Am I just that cold? I miss her terribly, I feel off-balance not having my days occupied with her. But, at least for now, I'm able to cope with it all. I don't quite know what to make of it.

Maybe it's that our lives are (SHAMEFUL CONFESSION) simpler now. Easier. Logistically, anyway. And she was never here, never home with us. She was, in a way, never just ours. Or maybe it's just that we paced ourselves for the long haul, not knowing that we only had a short haul to contend with. It turned out that coping with Jane's life was training for coping with her death. Or something. What do I know?

You know what I hate? That her name died with her. She had an AWESOME name. Seriously. I loved her name. And now... it's gone. Dammit.

Also? I hate not having new pictures of her. Every day I had a raft of photos to pore over. I hate that I'll never see a new picture of Jane.

Damn it all.

Friday, February 19, 2010


A few days ago Sarah asked to see a photo (which doesn't exist) of me holding Jane the day she died. See, I had explained to her that day, when she asked how it happened, that Jane had died while she was in my arms, that she hadn't been alone. In classic preschooler fashion, weeks later she pulled her question out of wherever she'd been seasoning it and sprung it on me while I was helping her brush teeth. Or some equally meaningful moment. Anyway, there is no such picture. But I did take some photos of Jane earlier that morning -- I'm not going to post them here (honestly, people, I can't share EVERYTHING with you), but I didn't want to regret not having a last picture of her.

(After I took my impromptu photos, the hospital social worker stopped by and asked if I wanted a volunteer from an organization that does professional photography after the death of a child. At first I said no -- it just felt ghoulish -- but then I changed my mind. And it turned out there was no one available anyway. Which was FINE. I don't need a [for lack of a better term] death portrait. But so many families don't have the time with their children that we had; this organization could be providing people with the only pictures they'll ever have of their kids. It's heartbreaking.)

So I showed the photos to Sarah this afternoon. She wanted to know if Jane was dead in the pictures and I said no, but that she looked pretty much the same in the pictures as she had after she died. (I figured that was why Sarah had been asking -- she wanted to see if Jane looked any different when she was dead.) So Sarah's all, "Aww!" and making cute noises over the many pictures of Jane on my phone and then flipping to the good stuff -- pictures of herself -- while I'm looking at these photos of our girl from just a few days earlier, when she was awake and alert and herself, and the tears just wouldn't stop. Sarah asked what was wrong, I told her I was sad about Jane, then she said she was sad, too, and we cried a little. And then Sarah asked me to read Tomie de Paola's Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs, and I leaked some more surreptitious tears.

After dinner, Tom was putting Sarah to bed and I was doing the dishes and rocking out to the Emotions' "Best of My Love" (shut up; I learned the Hustle in grade school gym. I'm OLD) and the Go-Go's (SHUT UP), and it felt just as good to be doing my embarrassing white girl dancing as I cleaned the kitchen as it had to cry over the pictures I can't bring myself to delete off my phone even though there are backups on the computer.

I guess this is how it goes. Life and stuff. We keep on dancing even after the tears.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


So. It's been three weeks. Three weeks exactly since Jane died. How is that even possible? Didn't it just happen? Didn't it happen years ago? Time has gotten distinctly slippery on me. Every day feels like Sunday -- sort of bogged down and swathed in cotton. And yet the day is over before it feels like we've gotten halfway through it. It's Groundhog Day, except every day is a nondescript Sunday afternoon.

So what are we doing? How've we been? Well, mostly, surprisingly okay. Except when we're not. Basically exactly what you'd expect.

I don't know, invisible readers. There was a day at the hospital in Boston when Awesome Rabbi Susan was visiting. (She really was awesome. I wish I'd had more time to spend with her.) Anyway, she said once that there was something so Zen about the whole thing, Zen under fire, I think was her phrase. But the thing about forced march Zen, as I thought about it, is that there should be an end to the march, right? Instead, here we are, still marching, but without the hope of a destination with Jane among us.

So Tom works, Sarah plays, and I fill my time as best I can. I'm finding I either am a model of efficiency, cleaning out long-neglected corners of our house, or am unable to leave my chair, seduced by the discovery that the random cable channel Logo is running episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I love Buffy. Don't mock.)

One thing I'm having trouble with? This blog. Part of me wants to write daily, part of me never wants to write again. Efficiency me is battling Buffy-watching me, and I don't know which side is going to win. At this very moment, it's a tie. I've got Buffy on while I write. Win-win! Maybe that's the key to this part of our forced march. Zen, Buffy, and the art of blog-writing.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Memorial, pt 2

I should have written about this a while ago, because, to be perfectly honest, I don't know that I have much to say about it now. Which OBVIOUSLY means I will proceed to go on at length about it. The real reason I'm writing about it? Because I titled the other post about the service "Memorial, pt 1". PART ONE. I can't leave that just hanging there. If there's a Part One, there must at least be a Part Two. I can't have poor little Part One out there in the internets, alone and confused about its name.


The service, the whole day, was beautiful. Sun was streaming through the windows, and the room was filled with our, and Jane's, friends and family. I was feeling... okay about having to speak. I'd worked on what I wanted to say, and felt that it said what I wanted to say (and I still feel that way, nine days later). But then I walked in and saw that huge room filled with all of those caring, crying people and almost turned on my heel. Each part of my body was screaming "Run away! Run away!" like the krill fleeing the whale in Finding Nemo. But I ignored the little voices and kept on walking, holding Sarah's hand.

And it all went great. Tom did an incredible job as (what do you call a non-officiant who presides over a non-religious event like this?) whatever he was. Emcee. I would have biffed it miserably, but Tom rocked it.

Tom's sister Maura read a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley:

To Jane

The keen stars were twinkling,
And the fair moon was rising among them,
Dear Jane.
The guitar was tinkling,
But the notes were not sweet till you sung them

As the moon's soft splendour
O'er the faint cold starlight of Heaven
Is thrown,
So your voice most tender
To the strings without soul had then given
Its own.

The stars will awaken,
Though the moon sleep a full hour later
No leaf will be shaken
Whilst the dews of your melody scatter

Though the sound overpowers,
Sing again, with your dear voice revealing
A tone
Of some world far from ours,
Where music and moonlight and feeling
Are one.

It was lovely, and Maura's such a rock star that her voice was steady throughout. (Unlike, say, mine.)

Then Tom spoke movingly and well about Jane, and about the lessons learned from her, and about the DHMC crew (he made them stand and be recognized [and THANK YOU AGAIN for coming]) and he made people laugh and cry and even applaud (especially for the DHMC folks).

And then it was Tom's brother Dan's turn. He sang one of his own songs, "You Brought the Sun" accompanied only by his own guitar-playing. It was beautiful and perfect.

Well, what I saw was perfect. Midway through the song, Sarah had a moment of Pure Three-Year-Oldedness. I took her out, tried to reason with her (AHAHAHAHA) and then brought her back in and went up to the lectern because suddenly it was MY TURN OHMIYGOD and read my piece with her on my hip, she trying throughout to take the pages away. It went sort of like this:

Sarah (full volume): "This page is mine!"

me (whispering): "Uh, heh, no. You can have it later."

Sarah (full volume): "I want it now!"

me (whispering, with an edge of desperation creeping into my voice): "It's mine now. Just wait."

Sarah (full volume, and wiggling out of my arms): "I want to sit on this thing!"

me (nearly giving up): "Oh god..."

I was so distracted by her antics that I only lost it a handful of times while speaking. Of course, I was basically speed reading to get through it, so my posting my bit last week was as much a public service to those who attended as it was to you lot who couldn't make it.

And then my sister read from Horton Hears A Who, and her three-year-old, Molly, insisted on being held throughout, too. Preschoolers unite!

And that was it.

Everyone trooped down to our house, and suddenly it was a party. It was pretty great, actually, but ONLY because a few people made it so: in particular, Jenny and her husband Kevin, my brother Matt and his fiancee Esme, and my college roommates (who came in from New York, Ann Arbor and SAN FRANCISCO -- how awesome are they?) kept the food flowing, the bathrooms supplied, the empty plates gathered and the drinks table stocked. They ran the show and let me and Tom spend time with the people who had come to support us. Probably one hundred people passed through our house over three hours, and if it weren't for all that help I would have spoken to maybe three of them.

Then the crowds left, we got into more comfy clothes and we ladies went to Matt's bar while the boys stayed home with beers and Funny People.

And that was it.

We had a perfect send-off for our girl, and I'm grateful to each and every person who was there, or tried to be there, or wished they could have been there. Including YOU. Yes, you. I know you were thinking about us. Thanks.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why I Live Here

Invisible readers, THIS is why I live here. Every year, on the night before Valentine's Day, the Valentine Phantom goes through our town papering windows and doors with hearts.

Every year, a bedsheet-sized banner is draped from a prominent spot.

And this year, our house got some love:

And the fruit trees in the yard bore an early crop.

Can you beat it?

Every year, every Valentine's Day, people walk around my town with a smile on their faces and a spring in their steps -- all thanks to the actions of a Phantom who takes no credit and seeks no recognition. Take that, February!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Edna St. Vincent Millay

I've got more to say about the memorial, and more I'm thinking about everything that I fully intend to write about at some point. I'm just not up for it at the moment. But a friend directed me to this perfectly perfect poem, which captures quite neatly how I'm feeling. Just drop in lots and lots (and LOTS) of expletives, and you've about got it.

Dirge without Music

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, --- but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Memorial, pt 1

For those of you who couldn't be with us yesterday at Jane's service, this was what I had to say. Well, this is what I wrote, but I did stay pretty close to the text, and I only lost it four times:

Hi, invisible readers. It's wonderful, and overwhelming, and just a little strange to see you all and speak with you directly. Standing behind a podium, doing public speaking... this isn't exactly my strength under the best of circumstances, so please set your expectations low so I have some hopes of meeting them.

Jane's story is a brief one. Her timeline is almost exactly one year long -- I became pregnant with her in the end of January 2009. The timing is so neat, so close, that it's hard to believe that this past year actually happened. Of course, it did. Seeing you all here is proof of that, if I were looking for proof.

She was born, as you know, 13 weeks early. We skipped the entire third trimester. I'd been on bedrest with her for seven weeks before she arrived and every single day was manageable, until July 22. There had been nothing to do in all that time but wait for a sign that we couldn't wait any longer. Every day during my confinement at the hospital (and isn't that archaic term just the most perfect word for being stuck in bed for weeks?) I was strapped to a monitor so we could check on Jane's well-being, and every day (and night) she was just fine until suddenly, on the 22nd, she wasn't. Her heart never faltered, but she wasn't moving, and then I started having contractions, and then there I was, being wheeled into the operating room for an emergency c-section. Jane was delivered at 1:40 in the afternoon, 13 inches long and weighing a whopping 1 pound 14.5 ounces.

And this is where my appreciation for technology begins. Jane's life was saved in her twelfth minute. I still don't know exactly what went down in the place off the surgical suite called the Panda room, but I do know that the actions taken then gave us six months in which to know and appreciate and love our girl.

For two weeks we drove to the hospital every day, and every day spoke to a good percentage of everyone we know to update them on Jane's progress. On August 6th, when Jane was fifteen days old, I started Jane's blog. People have been saying some awfully nice things about it, but honestly? I started it because I'm lazy. I was tired of making phone calls and writing emails to everyone so I just dumped all the information in one place and left it up to you folks to stay informed.

And, unexpectedly, you did. Lots of you. This is where my appreciation for technology really takes off. To my unending surprise, people I love, people I barely know, people I don't know at all, became invested in Jane's story and her welfare. What might have been a private family struggle became a community experience. It was important to all of you, and to many others who couldn't be here today. I'm not going to name names (Mom), but some people have said some very nice things about my writing, but I think the reason Jane's story was so compelling is that Jane herself was such a PERSON, you know? My words were extraneous. She pulled you in with her clear gaze, she sized people up. She had opinions, our girl, and never shied away from making them known. For a baby who couldn't vocalize, she spoke loud and clear about how she felt about her world through her eyes, and her body language, and through the monitors. Jane told her own story -- I just wrote it down for her.

Because you did follow along as her story unfolded, I don't have to tell you about the many ups and downs of Jane's life. About the obstacles she surmounted, the expectations she confounded, the hopes that ultimately were dashed, because you were all there with us, every day, companions on our strange and unfamiliar road.

Thank god Al Gore invented the internet!

Seriously. Because we are lucky enough to live in the time and place we do, you are all familiar with Jane's skepticism, her directness, her deep love of Birdie and her pacifier addiction. Most of you were never able to meet her in person, but you've seen her delicious thighs and outrageous cheeks, the knee dimples and Big Boy hair flip. You cheered us through her accomplishments and agonized over her declines. You became a part of Jane's community. You became part of her story. You lovely people from Dartmouth-Hitchcock became family.

But in the end, when the end finally came, Jane was far away from most of her family. In the end, it was just Jane, and Tom, and me, and my incredible sister Jenny and brother-in-law Kevin.

I didn't say much about what happened when I wrote about that day, but I think I should now. Jane's time at Boston wasn't what we'd hoped for. She became very ill shortly after arriving, but she was slowly recovering. And then on Sunday, she was nearly undone by something as insignficant, as lowly as a mucous plug. Something she could have coughed up just two weeks earlier nearly killed her. And this is where my gratitude for technology reaches its apex. Thanks to the heroic efforts of the team at Children's, we were given three more days with her, days of the most fragile, tenuous hope. Days in which we waited for a sign from her about how it was going to go. And on that last day, when it was clear that she was slipping away from us, we didn't have to wait for signs anymore. My sister and I bathed her, and I dressed her. And at last, the machines were turned off. There was no frenzied crisis, there were no desperate acts or shouts for help. For the only time in her life, Jane was surrounded by quiet. And it was good.

There was no dramatic last drawing of breath. Her heartbeat, which had scarcely faltered throughout her life, simply faded away, like the last chord of a song.

I don't think of Jane's life as a six-month struggle for survival. I just don't see it in those terms. Her time was not spent fighting. It was spent growing, and learning, and watching, and doing the things a baby should do. She lived and it was my great good luck that I was part of her life. Jane spent her days surrounded by machines and monitors, but she lived a good life. She played, she nursed, she held me with her gaze and with her hands. She played pat-a-cake and Row Row Row Your Boat with Thea, and listened to the Beatles with Tim and had dance parties with Angela and Meg. She LOVED her sister Sarah. No matter how she was feeling, she always did better when her sister was there to help take care of her and hold her hand.

Our Girl Jane's life mattered to more people, had a further reach, than many people attain in the hoped-for three score and ten. And for that, I'm incredibly grateful.

So! "Jane was here", the concept. Want to hear about it? A very good friend asked toward the end what she could do to help, if I wanted or needed anything. And I told her that the thing that would make a difference would be notes or postcards from people who had been watching all this unfold and whose lives had been touched by Jane's. Not sympathy cards, just a hello. Sarah is a BIG FAN of Horton the elephant, so what I was thinking was sort of the reverse of the Whos in Horton Hears A Who -- not 'We are here!" but "Jane was here, too!" Does that make sense? I just was hoping to hear from a few people that Jane's story had reached them, and mattered. We've heard from over 400 people so far. All over the US, and Canada, Germany, London, Paris, India, Norway... Jane's story reached farther than I ever imagined. From all over the world, we've heard the YOPP that tells us, yes! Jane was here. And what I keep hearing from you is that she will always be part of us all, forever Our Girl Jane.

And now, my sister, Jane's Awesome Aunt Jenny, is here to read a bit from Horton Hears a Who.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Seen On College Street

Thank you, Scott and Jennifer. We love you guys.

Well, invisible readers, we're busy working on Jane's memorial service. We have most of it settled, I just need to finish writing out what I want to say. That's right, I'm planning on SPEAKING. Gah.

Mental note: bring a box of tissues for the podium.

There's almost too much to say, you know?

Anyway, for those who haven't found out elsewhere, the service is this Saturday at 2 pm, in the Chapel at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier.

And if you're moved to do so, instead of sending flowers, please consider making a gift to the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (CHaD). You can get more information on making a gift here. Please remember to include "In Memory of Jane Greene" with your donation. They do incredibly good work there, and I'd love to think Jane can make a difference for the hopes of families like ours. Thanks, everyone. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Feeling the Love

Tom stopped by his office today.

People rule. It makes me so happy, so relieved to know that for every awful story in which we learn again about the endlessly creative ways people are cruel to one another, there are moments like these, replete with kindness.

Jersey in the House

From my sweet niece Julia, who somehow knew exactly, I mean EXACTLY, what I wanted to do for Jane this spring:

Those are seed packets of forget-me-nots. I opened that card Saturday when we got back home and just lost it. Julia, you sweetheart! Your card couldn't have been more perfect.

And yesterday, from my dear friend Allison and her family, a comfort-food picnic filled with love and LEMON SQUARES! (my all-time favorite dessert/cookie food):

Is that just gorgeous? Balm for the soul in so many ways.

When the mail came yesterday, Tom and I couldn't believe it. 87 cards arrived. EIGHTY-SEVEN. From you fabulous people. And thirteen of them came from New Jersey. I have exactly NO family in New Jersey. Allison, however, does, and it's clear that her loving nature and thoughtfulness is no anomaly in that group. Thank you, all of you.