"Let me find a picture that shows her hair," she said, scrolling through the pictures on her phone. We were standing at the book table in the back of the event center. She scrolled through dozens of photos until she found one with her daughter's curly mop of tendrils. She turned her phone to show me. "See how pretty?"
"I sure do. What a darling little girl."
"Her name is Kennedy. She would be four years old. She died in a drowning accident last summer."
She paused for a moment. She was looking for another photo, and I was catching my breath. Then she said, "Some of my pictures are videos, and those are my favorites. I love the ones where I can hear her voice again. Can I show you the one with her bubble machine?"
"Yes. Yes, please show me."
I had been invited into the tender and sacred space of bereaved mothers who have lost their children. They came together - dozens of them - to be together. To remember together. They invited me into their sacred space during this tender week before Mother's Day. I brought a carefully and prayerfully woven conversation about the healing that comes with feeling. I brought love and words and freedom to feel how they feel.
The host of the event had talked about how beautiful and important it can be to say the names out loud. She lost her son, Ethan, when he was seven weeks old. She told a story of a mother who had triplets, but only one of them lived to come home from the hospital. The mother grieved the sad fact that nobody remembered the names of those two children anymore. They knew the name of the child who lived, but nobody said the names of the two she couldn't hold anymore.
Candice invited the women - the mothers - to say the names of their babies. And she reminded us, "A mother's love is not measured by the children she holds in her arms, but by the children she holds in her heart."
When I finished my talk, I took my place in the back of the room. I gave them books, I hugged them, and I looked at their pictures. I listened to their stories about the children they love. I learned the names of their babies.
I am a mother of four. My boys are Tucker and Tyler. My girls are Kate and Amanda.
On Mother's Day, let her say their names.