Life After Death

January 25, 2013 in Uncategorized


They call it
this thin thing,
transparent as lacquer.
Its ghost appears,
hoarse scratches looped
on colored paper,
Restrained platitudes,
shaken out and reused.

Loss, Loss, Sorry
for you Loss.

They talk about time.
They talk as if they’ve done it.
They talk as if life burst
red from their uterus
has gone cold in their arms.
They talk
as if their throats
have split with howls
as grief fingers scrabbled
at insatiable ground.

They call it.
Bulged eyes dry with fear

We’re praying for you.

The subtext:

We pray we’re not you.

Wet hands stretch out,
impotent filmy palms,
a plea for absolution.
The hands clutch tighter
to their children
as they run.

as they run,
roll back like waves)

Loss, Loss, Sorry
for you Loss.

—Erika Quiroz


After Erik died, I took to the bed. I perched my computer in front of me on a portable computer table, and lay down. Through bootleg sites, I found movie after movie. I played them night and day. The horror from within was too much. I wanted to be go-go-gone. Deep reality scratched from inside my heart. When it broke through, I lost control.

Mostly, I lay on the bed. Rarely, I wanted to talk, needed to talk; I loathed to talk. I didn’t want to hear my own words exiting my mouth. I wanted to talk about caring for babies. I did not want to talk about grief. I told my sister that I felt like someone who had been horribly burned. The sensations in my mind and body were too much, and I had no medicine to take away this pain.

“I don’t want this identity!” I cried. For the rest of my life, I would have it. Now, I am “the one”. “O, she’s the one who…”. Two of my children, my only living children at the time, had died. I would be whispered about behind hands for the rest of my life. My real, warm, living babes had been replaced by a tag. It hung around my neck like a noose.

In early grief, I couldn’t control my body. I thrashed against the insistent rope with periodic, almost seizure-like spasms. Lying on the bed, I was gripped by near convulsions as the blackness of my situation broke through, over and over. Crazy, out-of-my-mind with pain, I would twist on my back and cry out, kicking walls and furniture, ache trumpeting with abandon. It was like being infected by a parasite, eating me from within.

I tried to be around people; but found that I couldn’t. On one of my first outings, I slumped in a chair in my aunt’s living room. Two of her neighbors were visiting. One of them declared, “I guess they just weren’t meant to be!”  A convulsion rumbled up from within. I stopped going out.

“You have an angel on each shoulder now!” others had proclaimed. “It was God’s will,” still others told me. Visions of angels and God deformed themselves into grotesque visions. Declarations of, “They are with God, now!” did not comfort me. God, with his uncountable collection of dead children, seemed ravenous and perverse. My Comforter and Teacher became a sickening, black hole lined with fearsome rows of bloody teeth. Behind me was oblivion, and in front an insatiable, sadistic creator. There was nowhere to turn.

I fell down and down and down and down. I heard voices in the darkness, snags that caught my shroud as I fell. Warm voices and hands left bruises and burns as the center of the earth demanded me. When I walked, I often fell. Convulsions would take me on my way to the bathroom leaving me writhing and kicking out in the hall. My world was black and nearly airless. My body was rejecting life.

Back in the PICU, when Erik was gone, I had stumbled into the arms of my friend, Heather. Her face broke with grief. “You are an amazing mother, Erika. I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but you will be a mother again. I know it. I know it.”

Her words rested deep inside of me. Near them lay the words of Dr. Joe. “We lost four before we had our fifth. Remember, we lost four before we had our fifth.”

I was single. I was fresh from horrific abuse. I did not want a man. I wanted a baby, my baby, my babies, my soft warm, endlessly needful things. My loneliness ate at my living flesh. Erik was everywhere. In my grief, I thought him lost amongst the blankets. In the dark of night, I was sure he was there.

When he was with me, I never turned off the light and never used blankets. Now, the lights still burned. My mind would turn on itself. He is here. He is lost in the blankets. By the soft lamp light I would spring up and begin to scratch. Where where where was my child? He was suffocating! I tore the bed apart looking for him. In the mess of blankets, I was alone.

Where was my child? His car seat sat empty in the extra room. The blankets he’d last used were in it. He was in there. I saw the blankets and I saw he was lost. I fell, again and again, on my knees beside it. My hungry hands dug for my baby. My search ended with a convulsion on the floor. No Erik.

In every corner and forgotten space, I saw him. My son. If I found him before I’d grieved too long, he could come back. This is magical thinking. I have learned, from being friends with other grieving parents, that this is normal. There is a period of time where the grieving parent feels that the child can be resurrected without disturbing the fabric of the universe. I prayed to a God that was becoming a fiction. Give him back. Give him back.

I made promises. Give him back and we will disappear. I will never see or speak to any of the people I know, again. No one has to know that you gave me back my baby. Give him back. We will live to serve you. We will disappear.

“We lost four before we had our fifth,” Dr. Joe had whispered. When he said it, he gripped me tight. It was not a doctor grip; it was a grief grip. It was a rallying cry. “Remember,” he told me.

My mind, insane with grief, began to reach.



this used to be our time
this very very late time
this middle of the night time
the hours before morning time
my fingers on your body time
excited little spiders
happy in their web

this used to be our time
whispers over diapers time
my face in your hair time
can’t believe your mine time
warm-warm-warm-warm mouth time
drawn out of my breast.

now this time is my time
can’t believe your gone time
how can I go on time
I think I’ve lost my mind time
where did I go wrong time
can’t we turn back time time
come and take me too time
can’t believe it’s true time
now there’s too much time time
I am just a ghost time
in an empty bed

—–Erika Quiroz