Where there is hope.


October is stillbirth and infant loss awareness month.

I didn’t lose my infant. He died. He was 5 months old, and he was the most perfectly beautiful little boy that I’ve ever met. He isn’t lost. I know where he is. He’s buried behind my house in that muddy red North Carolina clay. His headstone simply reads “James Julian Ashe – Beloved Son and Brother.”

What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? We survive this tragedy because there is no alternative. I am not strong. I am not wise. I am a heartbroken mother with two daughters that rely on me to keep getting up every morning. I am wife to a broken husband who needs a hand to hold in the dark. I am daughter to grandparents that weep for their grandson.

You say that you don’t know how I do it. Neither do I.

You ask me how I’m doing, but do you really want to know? Some of you stay, reach out, keep reaching out, even when the text or phone call goes unanswered. Some of you “dissolve into the ether,” as if you never were.

The world turns on its axis. People are afraid to say his name. As if saying his name could somehow deepen my pain. Hearing his name only lessens the pain. It tells me that he is remembered, that others loved him, that others love him still. I say his name. You can too.

I am a walking, raw, hemorrhaging heart. I am his mother. Mothers, above all, suffer when their children die. We suffer so much that we forget others suffer too. We forget that others want to tell us that they are sad, that they miss him, that they weep for us in the dead of night.

I look at my friend, heavy with child, and I see beneath the surface for just a moment, imagine what it must be like to watch your friend lose her beloved child. I look at pictures of his funeral, and I am fascinated by the faces of those in the crowd around his grave. I try to read their expressions, as if they are messages from some other time and place, and if I just study them enough, I will find answers. I will find keys to unlock the vault of grief in which I’m trapped.

One year ago, he was here. Those were the best days of his life. Those were the best days of my life. I was home with all of my children, in the place that I love best.

Those days are gone now, and James is too.

What strikes me here, at nine months since his death, is that I can go on. I do go on. I still laugh, though maybe not as much. I still read books. I still write. I still exist in the world, even when I would rather not. Every morning, I claw back from the abyss. Every night, I slide back into it.

I will never be the same. My world will never be the same.

This picture is one of my favorites. It’s exactly 1 year ago today. James was supervising as I prepared a meal for our family. I miss my sous-chef.

And yet, I’m proud that he was mine. I’m proud that he was here and that we gave him so much love. I’m not sorry for his life, though of course, I wish he was still living it. I can’t be sorry for James. Every morning, I wake up and I keep clawing. And I’m still here. And every day, there are glimmers of hope.



6 thoughts on “Where there is hope.

  1. Catherine, I don’t know you personally. I know members of your husband’s family, and somehow through Facebook posts, I came to read and follow your Loving James blog. I’ve been reading your posts for months and am so touched and impressed by your ability to articulate your pain and your experience; to make it relate-able and understandable. This post though was so powerful and enlightening that I had to post a comment: People struggle with knowing what to say to someone who has experienced a significant life trauma. Afraid to dredge up feelings which might be just under the surface, we tend to veer too hard the other direction and avoid the painful topic altogether. I have not been touched by death in the way that you have experienced, but I have been the victim of a personal trauma, and I am experiencing just a small scale version of what life must be like for you, with people uncertain if they should ask what happened, how I’m processing, what it was like. Having just the smallest insight now into being on that side of the conversation, I feel so much for you and Jim. Your son, James, was such a beautiful baby with those big expressive eyes in each picture. He must have known an immense amount of love in his short life. I’m sorry you have had to suffer so much pain. I hope in time that the edge of raw grief will soften so the days don’t hurt so much.


  2. Catherine I pray that as time goes by the cheerful moments remembered will outweigh the grief. Although I also have not suffered the death of a child, my personal loss and grief seemed so enormous that I fully understand your feelings; the clawing along and continuing to strive and to be amazed that I could continue, that the world continued to turn, and that so many were unaware of my suffering. I felt like an automaton. I have been forever changed as have you.

    I think of you frequently, and I have been one of the silent ones that faded back into the ether. Your experience has changed my outlook on many things. Know that you and your family are remembered, and that James mattered, even to those who never met him.


  3. I love what you said about mentioning James’ name. People shy away from the awkwardness of it, as you say, to try and spare us more grief. But it truly is sweet to hear the name of our loved one on the lips of someone else.


  4. Thank you. I’m struggling trying to cope with the news of finding out my baby Samuel has trisomy 18. I’m 22 weeks along. It helps reading your blog. Samuel is my husband and my first child together. We have other children from previous marriages and that helps me get up and go through the motions that I know I need to, but I’m still in the stage of wanting to cry, scream and be mad at the world. So reading your blog helps knowing there are others that have gone through this.


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