Five for Ten: Courage

May 10, 2010 at 10:00 am | Posted in Family, Five for Ten | 44 Comments
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February. 1951. My grandparents.

One month after this picture is taken, my grandmother gives birth to a baby girl. The labor is too difficult, the Cesarean too late, her little lungs too weak. She dies two days later.

My grandfather arranges for her tiny body to be returned to their small town from the nearby city hospital. He chooses a simple grave marker etched with flowers. He buries his firstborn.

My grandmother must stay in the hospital, recovering. She never meets her daughter. Never strokes her soft forehead, nuzzles her smooth cheek, or holds her delicate fingers. Never murmurs I love you.

They return to their farm. Harvest the cotton. Try to make a living. Try to forget. But the bassinet in the corner of their bedroom reminds them. Their daughter is not here.

Within the year, my grandmother is pregnant again. She gives birth on February 29. A boy. A Leap Year baby.

He dies the next day.

They name him after my grandfather. They bury him next to his sister. They can’t afford a second gravestone, but their minds are marked. Indelibly.

Your children will never survive. That’s what the doctors say.

They try to understand, try to keep moving. They cry for their babies: the two they’ve lost and the others, just whispers in the life they thought they’d have.

They try to adopt. At the last moment, it falls through. The bassinet in their bedroom is empty, still.

They try again. And my mother becomes their daughter in the spring of 1953. She has blue eyes and blond curls. She lights the dark corners of their home, just as she soothes the sharp edges of their souls.

Two years later, my grandmother is unexpectedly pregnant. She carries the baby with quiet resolve, already anticipating the emptiness of loss even as she yearns for new, thriving life.

She gives birth to a baby boy. He struggles. But he survives.

They bring him home. They are a family of four.

They are four. But, also, they are six. Always, they will be six.

Because they have courage.

The courage to look back. The courage to look forward. The courage to remember.


Read more about courage at Momalom’s Five for Ten.



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  1. {wiping back too many tears for a Monday morning….}
    This is the ultimate courage. To face the loss of children and to keep moving. What a beautiful love story of parents and children.

  2. Thanks for the loving tribute to your grandparents. Very touching.

  3. Wow. What an emotional post. I can’t imagine the sorrow at losing a child, let alone two. But how wonderful that life and fate brought them two other children. It could never erase the memories or the what ifs, but at least their dreams of raising children came true.

  4. This made me cry as well. Simply beautiful. What people go through for the joy of family. The courage it takes. Lovely. Thank you.

  5. Made me cry, hon. Happy Mother’s DAy to you…

  6. crying at this beautiful post. i can’t imagine anything more courageous.

  7. What a courageous, heartbreaking story. Perserverance incarnate!

  8. Beautiful. What an awesome story of courage!

  9. How beautifull, how sad, how couragious. How eloqently written. Very nice post.

  10. Wow. I absolutely cannot imagine what they had to endure, yet here you are with your own family – all because of their courage. Beautiful.

  11. Absolutely beautiful! Beauty in the courage and in the strength.

  12. My goodness..that’s all I have to say. Thank you so much for sharing.

  13. What an amazing story. A true tale of courage. I can’t begin to imagine what it was like for them to lose not one, but two babies and to have the strength to keep going. Very inspiring.

  14. Beautiful story in the strength of the human heart and what beautiful things come from having the courage to move on.

  15. I am crying and speechless. Beautiful.

  16. Sounds like my tears weren’t alone. Stacia, this is an amazing story – and incredible storytelling. What a legacy of work and love.

  17. Oh. My. Goodness. I truly cannot imagine the pain they endured and the courage they had to muster to move on. This really is the definition of strength. Of courage.

    Thank you for sharing – as painful as it may have been to write the words.

  18. This is the most amazing story I have ever read. COURAGE! I can’t imagine. But you are here because of their courage.

    Truly amazing. Tears wash my face.
    Thanks for sharing

  19. I wonder if I have that sort of bravery in me. Or if I would just fold into my life with unknown children wondering what was taking me so long?
    Your grandparents are remarkable.

  20. We don’t talk about death enough, we don’t talk about lost dreams, hopes, loves. We don’t open ourselves up to this kind of grief enough. It would make us all a little healthier in our minds to remember. A beautiful, courageous story!

  21. That is beautiful And so courageous. Thank you for sharing such a remarkable story.

  22. Wow. You aren’t kidding about courage. I can’t even imagine carrying a baby again, and again, wondering if he or she will survive. I would have been so afraid to love again.

    Thank you so much for sharing, Stacia.

  23. The words “The courage to look back. The courage to look forward. The courage to remember,” says it all. What a wonderful post honoring your grandparents.

  24. What a story–such strong people. All the more reason to celebrate your new little one! I think of the little ones I have lost, and I feel I was spared the profound heartbreak of losing them later like your grandma. Bless her heart.

  25. This is absolutely beautiful, and a great reminder not to ever forget what has happened to you in the past is just as important as what happens in the future.

  26. What an amazing story. I just can’t imagine….

    …now please cheer us up with some baby photos!!

  27. What a courageous family. Wow. I don’t even have words. Thank you for sharing this. Yes, true courage.

  28. This is pain and loss as I have never known it. And every time I hear stories like these it is courage I think of. Brave, remarkable women who “pull up their boot straps,” as my own grandmother would say, and march on. It is not as though they don’t feel the loss, but what are they to do? I don’t know. I’ve never been there. But you are right, they were marked forever, indelibly. They were a family of four and a family of six, all at once, existing in the joys of the now and the future and the could-have-beens.

    Beautiful post, Stacia. Thank you.
    And I cannot say CONGRATULATIONS enough times. So CONGRATS, mama! Welcome to three!

  29. I have goosebumps.

  30. What a beautiful post about your courageous family. And I love the photo.

    I can’t imagine losing a child after carrying it for 9 months. I love the line “They are four. But also, they are six. Always, they will be six.” That line and your story will stay with me.

    Thank you for sharing.

  31. I love how you put at the end the courage aspect, of looking back and ahead. And I love that your family knows this story…that it was not a “secret”…which was so common then.

  32. This story gave me the chills. Especially this part, “They are four. But, also, they are six. Always, they will be six.”

    Because my family is four. But, also, we are five. Always, we will be five.

    Thank you for this post.

  33. Oh my. I’m stunned into silence with a tear in my eye. So beautiful. Such an amazing tribute to your grandparents – their pain, their joy, their loss, their memory. Truly beautiful.

  34. Courage to keep going against the odds. A haunting but beautiful story. (Beautiful in their courage.)

  35. Dear God. How she bore the loss of those children is beyond me. What courage, and belief. I love the picture. Thanks for sharing her story with us.

  36. So, so gorgeous!

  37. I cant even imagine the pain and loss she must of went thru. and to be able to continue on with life.

    Excellent post!

  38. This is beautifully written. The resolve to try again, and again. It’s courageous and loving and speaks volumes about them.

    This made me cry. And reminded me about what matters. And that it’s okay to have the courage to look back. It’s okay to remember and honor our losses. It’s okay.

    Thank you.

  39. I love the way you’ve written this.

  40. What an amazing story. What amazing courage.

  41. Wow. This is a beautifully written post. Thank you so much for writing it.

  42. Oh my. This post gives me the shivers. Your prose is simple and stunning like bare tree branches dark against a pale sky. You can write. You can tell a story. You have the power to shake strangers. And I am one such stranger who thanks you for sharing this.

  43. Stacia, what a beautiful, well-written post, Stacia! And what a picture. I know how devastastating loss is to people who have written about it in the present day, but to those in grandparents’ generations who didn’t write or talk about it, I do wonder. This continuing on in silent agony is really too much. My paternal grandmother also had some devastating losses before she had my eldest aunt. Ever since my mother told me about that I’ve been amazed because she had such an air of calm serenity about her.

  44. My heart aches for women like your grandmother, women who have lost so much and yet never give up. Your grandmother had the courage to love each and every baby that grew in her womb, despite knowing that the chance of nurturing those babies outside of her body was scarce. Your grandmother was (is) a testament of strength. This story will stick with me for a long while.

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