Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Past Creative Acts and Present

In 1999, five years after our loss, my book Creative Acts of Healing: after a baby dies was published by Paseo Press.
Dr. Michael Berman OB/GYN wrote the foreword. In those days I often posted messages on the story board of Dr. Berman's informative site www.hygeia.org.

A friend in the Netherlands sent me the address of a Dutch support group for parents whose babies had died. Writing in Dutch about our loss was a new experience for me. I was astonished by the impact, telling the story in my mother tongue had on me. Before long I corresponded on a daily basis with other bereaved parents.
Since our loss had occurred five years earlier, I was able to offer others some perspective.

PHD called me the Ann Landers of Grief.

Around the same time I discovered Ouders Online, a Dutch internet magazine for parents. Women as well as men participated in daily forum discussions, some of which dealt with loss, grief and recovery. Inspired by the discussions I started writing a column for the magazine.

In the 2000 archive of Hope Filled Jars I'll be posting some of the Dutch entries I wrote back then.

I'll —now and then— write in retrospective about that time, five years back, in English in the present day blog.

Hope in 2000

Look at the date and look again.
The following entry could have been written on Januari 1, 2000.

Imagine it was. There may be more in the future. Posted today, written or imagined five years ago.
A memoire of hope, and life after hope.

Pleasant Street, Willimantic, CT, Januari 1st, 2000

You can argue that today is not the first day of the new millennium, you can say that the last century ends with 2000. Even so, this is the first day that we no longer write that we live in the nineteen hundreds.

Today I cut my neighbor's hair and after that, she accompanied Pleasant Husband Dearest (from here on revered to as PHD) and me to New York City. We celebrated the beginning of the new year with a meal in Little Italy. The three of us shared our New York stories. PHD told us how ages ago, he had rented an apartment above the very restaurant we were breaking our bread, and toasting to the new year. All three of us talked about the things that happened the past year, our hopes and wishes for the future.

My book Creative Acts of Healing: after a baby dies was published by Paseo Press in July of 1999. Shortly after that, PHD and I moved from the Pacific northwest to the East coast. We combined our trip across the US with a book tour. Between Seattle, WA and Storrs, CT, we made stops at bookstores and a church. I read, sold and signed books. Most of the people in my audience were bereaved parents, some were care givers, some were people who mourned the death of a loved one, more mature than an infant.

Not long after our infant daughter was born and had died, I learned that the language of grief speaks to people of all walks of life, to every single person who has lost a loved one. And that sharing our stories is one of the most healing and helpful things we can do.

I hope people who need to read my book, will find a copy. In their library, in the mail, in their support group. How I searched for reading material I could recognize my own situation, our ordeal in. I hope reading my story will help others.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Mother Tongue

Writing for the International Examiner has opened a new world for me in Seattle. A new world, which at the same time is more familiar than other neighborhoods where PHD and I lived the past eleven years.

Since the IExaminer caters to the Asian Pacific communities, people of color and immigrants, I finally wound up in society more reminiscent of the colorful mixture of people I was used to in Amsterdam. On top of that, the International District, with its 3-5 story tall red and dark brown brick buildings, reminds me of certain parts of Haarlem, or The Hague, or even the Nieuwmarkt, Amsterdam's Chinatown. I feel at home in the ID. Yes. How about that.

Major perks for a freelance reporter are the complimentary tickets. Combined with volunteer opportunities during events at the Seattle Central Public Library, the IExaminer's assignments got me to attend more functions in one year than in the previous ten.

The other night PHD and I attended a pre-concert reception at Beneroya Hall for David Diamond. The nearly 90-year-old composer, who in 1995 was named Seattle Symphony's Honorary Composer in Residence, received his guests on the Promenade in the Grand Lobby.

He gracefully agreed with me when I suggested that the acoustics in Amsterdam's Concert Gebouw (Concert Hall) might be among the best in the world.
"I wish Dutch composers would write more in their own language," he said, "I mean they always have to write in English or German."

Try as I did, I couldn't come up with the names of any other Dutch composers beside Andriessen. And that while I vividly remembered several faces. In particular that of a composer who lived in the Nieuwmarkt neighborhood.

This memory problem may be the effect of integration. Before, I was a reluctant immigrant (after all, there was no Need to leave the Netherlands), now my ties with my home country are involuntarily loosened. This must be part of establishing a new life in a new world. Part of my memories hide in the deeper vaults of my memory bank, while new information is filed closer to the front…

There are times when I worry that when I'm old and truly forgetful, my second language will disappear in vaults of which I will have lost the key and that only my first language will remain. I fear that I will only be able to speak in my mother tongue. I fear that if or when that happens, I will have to return to the Netherlands.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Googled Speechless

Today some bad news arrived from Amsterdam, NL.
Can't believe what I read in the newsletter of www.joods.nl
Wanting to know more, I Googled, typing “Israel Medical experiments”, in the subject bar.

The first page of web site addresses included a URL for a site with info about Israeli restriction on animal experiments.

Then there was a URL for a site with news on the 2nd payment to Nazi victims, survivors of Dr. Josef “Angel of Death” Mengele’s gruesome experiments during the Holocaust.
No payment can make good the harm these people suffered, but I'm glad they'll receive some.

URLs at the top of the Google page lead to publications about present day medical experiments performed on demented elderly, infants and child patients.

What can I say?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Fools and I II (2)

Fools and I II makes three, a whole family.
Born in the Netherlands I'm a Calvinist, not by faith, not by conviction, but by default.
Confusion is my part (see Fools and I (1))
And I'm not the only one.

A Dutch writers' association I'm a member of states clearly about participation in an e-mail forum:
"Maak geen reclame," don't advertise yourself, don't, oh please, don't share your success.

"Doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg," "Act normal, that's crazy enough," is the curse and motto the proud Dutch have to fight all their life.

Anybody who sticks out his neck runs the risk to be decapitated or admired. Yes, admired. For the same person who's despised by his peers for taking center stage, will be hailed by the people. He who, in the eyes of his colleagues appears to be suffering from histrionic personality disorders, will be lauded by his audience. Loud and clear.

The effect?
Affected Entertainers (with a capital E, singing Mi, mi, mi, mi, mi), are invited to author columns and books.
The result?
Pleasant reading material, "lectuur", which sells better any way, and any day, than literature, wrought painstakingly by lettered (wo)men.

How different is the American environment. Advertising being part and parcel of society, sharing successes starts in Pre-School.
"My infant is potty trained, my tod's vocabulary matches that of our 12 year-old golden retriever, my kindergartner has published her first novel."
Peer groups form before elementary school is started. And everybody is a winner, everybody can exceed his parents wildest dreams. Those who don't wind up by the way side. Such is the flip side of course.

There's always a flip side.

Don't let the flip side discourage you, even on Skid Road, some logs slid faster to the water front.
I'm not kidding. In the days when early Seattleites clear-cut the hills around Puget Sound, the street, now known as Yesler was nothing but a log run.

Today every town has it's own Skid Row, a place you don't want to go to, or wind up. Nothing to advertise there. Unless you have a good story to tell. And who doesn't.

Good stories often are the bad ones.
The ones that make you think, "I'm glad I'm not in his position."

And yet, there's a market for the truly good stories as well. Magazines that print the good stuff, the encouraging stuff, the stuff that keeps you going, such as "Hope", "Ode" and "Yes". Then there's "The Sun" which gives readers a chance to share both good and bad experiences. There are places where people find inspiration in positive experiences of others.

Thank goodness for our places in the sun, for a spot in the footlight, for rays that bounce off the next person. Sometimes there's light in a dark spot. A place where even Calvinists can shine. All that's needed for that to occur, is reflection. A matter of sharing.