Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Sun Magazine | Dawn And Mary

My writing group gathered for dinner here the other night. The "Sh*tty First Draft Writing Group" has five members, each of whom has suffered the death of a child, each of whom has a strong character and a love for the written word. We meet to encourage one other to write - even what Ann Lamott calls "sh*tty first drafts" - or ideas that are still in our minds, or scrawls on scraps of paper...any writing, in any form, is welcome.
You might think this is a depressing group, but you would be mistaken in that assumption. Yes, someone occasionally cries, but there is far more laughter, lively discussion and deep listening. We share ideas, whatever we are working on and books we have read; we drink wine. We share our stories. We hold space for each other, talk about what it is really like to walk this earth without our child, in this new landscape which is continually surprising us. We remember our children, and we hold those memories together, with love.

One of our members, Robin (author of the blog Grief & Gratitude), is a wonderful resource - she has read all kinds of books and essays, and frequently shares them with us. I love that quality in her; she's a bit like a personal shopper for good writing on interesting topics. This week, she shared an essay by the writer Brian Doyle - an essay about two of the women who died in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary (there is a link to article in The Sun Magazine at the top of this post).

The entire essay is brief and beautiful, but the last paragraph in particular struck a chord in me:
"The next time someone says the word hero to you, you say this: There once were two women. One was named Dawn, and the other was named Mary. They both had two daughters. They both loved to kneel down to care for small beings. They leapt from their chairs and ran right at the boy with the rifle, and if we ever forget their names, if we ever forget the wind in that hallway, if we ever forget what they did, if we ever forget that there is something in us beyond sense and reason that snarls at death and runs roaring at it to defend children, if we ever forget that all children are our children, then we are fools who have allowed memory to be murdered too, and what good are we then? What good are we then?"
As I prepare to attend the Ben Towne Foundation's annual BENefit this weekend, I look forward to gathering with parents, researchers, oncologists, hospital staff who treated Katie, family and friends who know firsthand that "there is something in us beyond sense and reason that snarls at death and runs roaring at it to defend children..."

I will be grateful to be in such company. We will hear stories of the progress made this year, progress in research and the treatment of cancer through T-Cell therapy at Seattle Children's Research Institute's Jensen Lab (the first patient is in remission!). I will join hands with others who are snarling at death - at cancer - and together, we will run roaring at it to defend our children - all children - because, in fact, they are all our children. 

If you'd like to learn more or find a way to get involved, follow the links to the Ben Towne Foundation and Jensen Lab.


  1. Thank you for the inspiring excerpt. The writing is beautiful and profound. Your group seems absolutely wonderful. You are blessed, and a blessing, to be sure.

  2. Big sigh, here, for your powerful, powerful words and images. I will hold them and join hands with you.

  3. Thanks for posting that wonderful tribute to Dawn and Mary and to all you kids cancer warriors-we salute you!!!!!!

  4. That was an interesting the insight.
    I'm glad your group has more laughter than tears; that is a great thing.
    Have fun at the benefit!