I am the Father of a Stillborn

I am the Father of a stillborn. There are times when we are powerless in our situations and find ourselves losing it, falling deeper and deeper into an abyss where there is little light and the feeling of being alone is quite overwhelming.

I am the father of three beautiful daughters, one of which was born still when we were mere teenagers. It has taken me 33 years to allow myself to even remotely think about dealing with it. Anger, frustration and the emptiness of not being able to at least hold her has haunted me for years. I suppose people move on, but the pain never goes away.

I grew up in a broken home. With no male figure to show me the ropes, I learned what I could from what limited exposure I had to my grandfather. The rest came from reading the encyclopedia, disassembling electronic components to see what made them tick, reassembling [some] of those parts to make new inventions of my own and lastly hanging out at the local natural science museum where I would find a passion for not only nature itself, but the details of what makes the cosmos go round.

Thank G-d for the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, NASA and an early appreciation for music.

Never being much for crowds, I was somewhat of a loner. Not necessarily an outcast, but perhaps by choice. I just didn’t feel comfortable around a lot of people. I didn’t get them and felt they didn’t get me. Though perhaps in their defense, I didn’t get me. I had no “group” to fit into and for the most part dissociated with society in general.

I never put much faith in political, business and religious leaders, much less anyone else in an authoritative role. Not as to be rebellious, I just saw contradiction everywhere.

Trust in humanity was not there for me. I watched, from a distance, and was confused at how people treated each other. To me, the world seemed a cruel and unjust place. I sunk further into my personal self and focused on the natural world. Animals, weather and the universe at large made more sense to me than the typical household union.

I saw patterns in everything from seashells to the planetary orbits and became intrigued by the notion that there was much more to life than what meets the eye.

I spent most of my early childhood this way. Doubtful most people who knew me even remotely knew the personal hell I lived with daily. I learned not to ask questions simply because I never received an answer.

By the time high school came around, I was a complete wreck. I was just sick and tired of society and was becoming more angry all the time. Nothing, if anything, gave me solace. What, if any, real relationships I had with people just seemed awkward. Spending any time in nature, even if that meant climbing a tree in my yard, was good. Music became my outlet and as soon as I could get a pair of headphones on my head I could just close my eyes and slip into a world of musical mystery. I learned the songs and replayed them time and time again, picking out an instrument to listen to at times, and at other times I just focused on the meaning of the song.

Indeed, between the melodramatic sounds of certain bands and the depth of the lyrics that seemed to ask the same questions I had, I had found a place where I could be alone in my thoughts and feel comfortable.

What came next would rock my world to its very core. I felt cold most of the time, emotionally. But when I first laid eyes on my future wife my heart and mind fought an overwhelming battle of wills. I didn’t want a relationship. But little, if any, resistance could be conjured up within me. It was if I had no choice in the matter. Once we talked, I knew we would never part. She was, in a sense, the female me.

Years later I wrote her a letter and said, “You were hauntingly familiar to me when we met. The closer we became the more I felt the sensation that this was not the first time. You were exotic, cosmic and strange, though somehow familiar as your soul, my soul, our soul, was reunited.”

However, as we would both would soon find out, life is full of curve balls. There are times when we are powerless in our situations and find ourselves losing it, falling deeper and deeper into an abyss where there is little light and the feeling of being alone is quite overwhelming. For reasons beyond our control, my wife [then girlfriend] was sent to live with her father out of state. Not long after, she called me and told me she was pregnant.

We knew what we wanted to do, but, being powerless teenagers we were told different. She was kept out of state, and I was told to stay away. I was 16, immature, clueless as what to do, felt I had no rights and certainly without support. She was in similar fashion. Nights and days went by and the walls began to slowly cave in on us both. If that weren’t enough, long into the pregnancy I received a call from her…our baby doesn’t have a heartbeat. It was born still.

To me that was the last link I would have. Somehow I just thought to myself, our baby was the only link we could ever possibly have, and now she is gone. We are gone. I am gone.

There are wounds so deep that forgiveness could never come.

I don’t recall much after that. Time came and went. Days, weeks, months passed as I sought further to dull the pain. I had turned to drugs and allowed myself to sink deep into an awakened coma. Lifeless, angry, numb and without any determination to care if the next day ever arrived, I maintained a very self-destructive pattern. I just didn’t care.

Did I do things I’m not proud of? Unfortunately. Would I go back and change some things? Who wouldn’t. I was young, immature and out of my mind.

The abyss I had sunk into was bottomless, dark and empty.

Every fear and concern that I had growing up for humanity had expressed itself in the most horrific way. I had nowhere to turn and no one to turn to. The only person I had ever given my heart and mind to was taken from me and our child had died. To this day I am jealous of my wife, if for one simple reason, at the very least she was able to feel our baby move within her, something I would never have the pleasure to know or see. Damn humanity for that, and for treating my wife in such a way.

I’m not quite sure how it even happened, but in time she did return and we did, somehow, get back together. We were both an intense train wreck of emotions, trauma and full of anger, pain and emptiness. 33 years later we’re still working on it. The pain never goes away, the intense feelings are still there as if it were yesterday.

We named our baby girl Shira, which basically means [having a voice], something she was never given for the cruelty of man and their madness. To this day we have no reason for her passing. Being the father of a stillborn hurts, I mean it hurts bad. Being helpless is tough, being helpless as a teenage father is tougher. Being the father of a stillborn and watching your wife suffer emotionally is impossible…there are no words.

My wife and I have each other, we love deeply, have had two more daughters, have become grandparents and live out our lives as if there is no tomorrow. Some days are better than others, but the emptiness remains, it will always remain and our questions will never be answered.

I’ve been told talking about our daughter will help. Thus far it hasn’t, doubtful it will. That empty feeling will never go away, I am the father of a stillborn. It’s something I’ve learned to live with, and [slowly] talk about. One thing is for certain, we have given her a voice and her story, our story, will be heard.

I often wonder if she follows us around, walking the trails with us, holding our hands and lying next us at night.

Peace,

MAD

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Living in the Moment Where Memories are Made

Living in the Moment When Memories are Made

Living in the Moment Where Memories are Made

OK, maybe I didn’t have some earth shattering headline news event, but around here life happens, it unfolds minute by minute, and every memory is precious to us. Those silly little moments we have that don’t really mean much to most people, if at all, become our greatest life events. Why? Because it’s life, it’s our relationship unfolding one minute at a time, our memories being held close to our hearts about events that only matter to us.

Events that we can look back on years later and still laugh, still smile at one another, still feel the emotion of the moment all over again and continue living in the moment when memories are made, our memories.

Being mindful of our experiences within our relationship is paramount.

Perhaps this is the reason we live day to day, moment by moment, embracing everything as if today were all that we get. Life is short and fragile, take hold of each moment and keep it close. Indeed, all of the [stuff] that you’re supposed to do to make the technicalities of living day to day won’t matter, but all of those memories that we made, embraced and lived in will.

Every day we get up is another opportunity to run head on into living in the moment when memories are made. Without even knowing it, you sit back, soak in the precious space in time, laugh a little, smile a little and embrace a soul warming moment that you know will stick with you forever.

That being said, I had a few realizations this morning that will stick with me, with us, forever. I know it happened, it was real. I felt it. Then I shared it with Debbie and I saw the same reaction in her.

What a precious time for us both to live in the moment when memories are made.

1) Debbie thanked me for watching Anne [with an “E”] of Green Gables, I’m not sure why, I realized I love watching it [and all of the so called romantic comedies that we’ve seen over the years, and now own].

2) I had to laugh at myself when I realized [after questioning Debbie] that it was me that put the toilet paper roll on backwards. Sure, it’s subjective…our tissue rolls over the top!

3) Debbie and I have really been together for 33ish years! We were putting together a photo/video thing of us through the years and it just hit me, again.

Enjoy life! Laugh, love and live in the moment when memories are made.

Peace,

Miller

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Why We Are MAD – Our Keepsake Story

Miller and Debbie Harrell

This is our story, the story that made us MAD. It is very special to us, and we feel honored to have Project Keepsake share it, please read Why Are They MAD? A Keepsake Story.

Peace,

MAD

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How We Made it 30 years: A Letter From My Husband

how to make a marriage last

It seems that everyone else knows the secret to making marriages last—everyone except for us.

It seems that speculation abounds as to which relationships and marriages will last for any length of time, and for how long.

Everyone has ideas about what it takes to have lasting lifelong love, and what should and should not be taking place in a couple’s life for a relationship to be healthy.

But, what does it take to keep love and a marriage strong?

Now, I know there are a plethora of helpful books, articles and blogs written that discuss just this topic. I should know—I have been reading these since the beginning of our marriage. Well before that, if I’m being honest.

Countless references, I couldn’t even begin to guess how many, from every angle and perspective—religious, spiritual, psychological—and from couples that want to share how they made it to 10, 15, 20, or however many years. I have really appreciated all that they had to say, and I still read them, but from a very different perspective—one where I look to see if we live or have applied any of the suggestions they have made.

It’s dizzying to keep up with it all.

Yu know how it goes…the proper way of conducting yourself during the dating phase, best types of premarital counseling, making sure to stay in shape, always looking your best, saying I love you, not going to bed angry, having date nights, keeping sex alive, developing your own interests, having time apart to miss each other, learning each other’s love languages and so many other dos and don’ts.

Some of these things we’ve done and some we haven’t, and I know that some would definitely not work for us and that we understand some concepts entirely differently than another couple who reads them.

As I sit here, 30 years into a marriage with a man that I adore and love more than I adequately know how to put into words, I can’t honestly give an answer as to how we have been together all these years. All I know is that I love him with every fiber of my being: body, soul and spirit!

Love is more important to me than anything else that this world has to offer, it will be all that will matter to me in the end.

I asked my husband the same question: How have we been married 30 years after marrying so young? His response brought me to my knees, though I’m not sure it provided any clear answers. I’ll let you be the judge.

Click here to read the letter my husband wrote in response [published on Elephant Journal]

Peace,

MAD

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