Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Here's a rare Jamesie with a hat picture. Before he was born Kara went on a hat buying binge, one for each outfit. I think hats were big that year or something. Of course, once he was born he had so much hair that hats were completely superfluous.

I still look at his pictures a lot. Probably more than I should. They induce a weird melancholy reverie that resonates for a while afterwards. This is not necessarily an exclusively sad emotion, James is very joyful in his pictures, we have a lot of good memories. I can place each to a time and a place when we were together and doing something much more fun than laying around in hospital beds. His newborn pictures- the picture on my bulletin board at work is from that shoot. In that one, I'm cradling him in my arms and the angle makes it look as though I'm holding him up. I remember posing for the picture, James lying down with me behind him and my arms awkwardly crooked forward to wrap around him, the photographer standing above us to create the effect in the picture where it appears that I'm dangling him stork-like into the frame. Different outfits he wore, from the polo shirt we buried him in to the madras shorts Kara bought for him in the spring. They all have a certain resonance. It was hard at first to look at all, but it comes easier now.

Yet I sometimes wonder if the pictures don't lull me into some kind of false memory. Each is frozen, a still life without context outside of memory. In real life James was never still. Taking his picture was difficult because he absolutely refused to sit still. We called him our little wiggleworm because he squirmed constantly and contorted himself into bizarre positions that strongly suggested he had a career in gymnastics ahead of him. Even in the womb, James refused to adopt the ideal position. A few weeks before he was born he was breeched and sunny side up, well past the point at which he was supposed to line up. Eventually, he grudgingly flipped around but remained stubbornly sunny side up, one of the complications along with the cord wrapped around his neck that would ultimately force his C-section. As a baby he moved around constantly, flailing his arms and aiming (unsuccessfully, fortunately) for barrel rolls at just a few weeks old. Shortly before he got sick he figured out how to inch-worm on the floor and made quick use of his new abilities. More than just his body moving his eyes were always probing, darting inquisitively from one item to the next. Except for sleeping (where he often tried to roll over) I honestly doubt that the boy spent even one minute of his life completely still.

But in the pictures he's always still. So I worry sometimes that I'm slowly displacing the reality of him with these piecemeal moments captured in photographs, played over and over in my head when I look over them. I worry that my memory of my son is calcifying into something static and untrue, the creation more of the present than the past. And I don't know what to do about that. How do you ensure the fidelity of a memory? How to you preserve all the moving parts on loop in your head, how many moments have I already lost to sleep and time? There's a very real element of fear there. I'll never forget James, clearly, but will I remember him as he was or will I slowly allow the pictures and still frames to replace the reality. On one level it's a ridiculous concern. How can I forget? On another it's frightening, yet another hallmark of just how long it's been. In the absence of new memories the preservation of old ones becomes ever more important. I say that. I even feel that sometimes. But I don't think it's true. You're not mourning simulacrum of someone you lost, not the specific way they moved or shook their head. You're mourning the sum of them, the package. That I think is harder to forget. Still, I worry. As is so often the case knowing and believing something does not necessarily translate into feeling it.

Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers.


  1. i understand. though for me it is very hard to watch videos of my son. i guess it's harder on my heart to see how active and alive he was and now he is gone. it seems more gentle on me to just look at pics of him being still and just remember the memories in my head surrounding that time. it just sucks that we have to remember them at all instead of them being here with us.

  2. My heart goes out to you Matthew. And also to you Tiffany. No words, just tears n hugs for u both. That picture of James is adorable. I love to look at his face, his precious eyes n mouth. I continue to pray, though I know it's not enough and wont produce what I whole heartily wish for...and that's for you to have your baby back. I still come back daily to see if u posted. I love to read about James, and your beautiful love for him. Please continue to share...we are listening. God bless you both.

  3. continuing to pray for you and Kara. beautiful, bright boy.

  4. Matthew,

    On April 12th it will be 44 years since my brother died at 6 years old after a 4 1/2 year battle with leukemia. Just yesterday I was scanning pictures of hime for my mama. Because all these years later she misses him and wants to see his stunning blue eyes and sweet, shy smile. She wants to see him because he was. He was real. He was here. He was loved. He is loved. There is no looking at pictures too often. There is only remembering and loving James. Nie remember James and his big blue eyes, lucuious lips, and wild man hair. As a complete stranger to you I remember James because of the pictures you posted. Pictures are wonderful.. Thank you for sharing James through pictures.l

  5. "I look at his pictures a lot, probably more than I should"

    M, if I were you I'd look at them 24/7 and nothing would be enough. You don't look at them more than you should- you look at them as much as you need to.

    That is a divine picture of James.

    In some way, reading this blog and learning about James's and your journey has really impacted on me as a parent. I am an older mother, and my son will be an only child. I had a long journey to motherhood and my son faced health challenges with his heart when he was quite young (this is when I 1st found your blog).

    I think of James often. Even tonight when I checked that my son (now 1) was sleeping ok, I thought of him and hoped that you and Kara were ok.

    I always felt grateful to have my baby but your story reminds me to be even more so.

    You continue to be wonderful parents to James and to inspire us all.

    So many people who you will never meet have been touched by your story and think of you all the time.


  6. I am so very touched by this blog. I too look for it often. Please know that you are in the prayers of this Mississippi girl. Blessing to you and thank you for an amazing testimony of love & faith.

  7. Yes. Thank you for pictures of your son and for creating ways for those of us who never met him to carry thoughts of him still. It's amazing how often I see giraffes....

  8. Thinking and praying for you and Kara still

  9. thank you for your honesty in sharing where you are today.

  10. Such a darling photo of your beautiful son. I catch myself savoring certain moments in honor of Jamsie. Still praying for you both.

  11. Hi Matthew and Kara. I've read your blog often and never commented. Never thought I could add to so many beautiful comments which have been made. But I wanted to comment today. 8 years ago my baby boy was stillborn and the thing that terrified me the most was that I'd forget him. Almost 3 years ago my little girl died, and I wasn't for a minute worried that I'd forget her because in the years since my son's death, I've never forgotten him. Time passes and things change, but the love, oh goodness, the love, that remains, and you may find yourself remembering different things at different times (although I wouldn't wish to presume anything about your grief). What a wonderful decision beautiful little James made in choosing you both as his parents. I love to check in now and again to see his cute photos and read your lovely words about him. I'm across the world in Australia but please know that I have thought and prayed for all of you often. Take care of yourselves and God bless.

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