Happy Birthday Lucy Garland

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


there’s a fair amount of awkwardness in grief. learning what you want to share, whom you want to share it with–i’ve fumbled, i’ve regretted being vulnerable; i’ve wanted to close up. i fill journal pages and i wonder if i’ll ever want to read them again, splattered with tears and sloppy angry words. i fear being known as the girl who lost her baby. and yet, i want to tell my story–i want to scream it. THIS is what it’s like–this is a taste of what the past 9 1/2 months has forced me to know; this is a taste of what the week before my dead daughter’s third birthday is like and how i am coping.

in november i had to choose whether to embalm by baby, or cremate her. do you know what that really means, what those processes actually entail? do you know what it’s like to know your toddler is over two hours away from you, getting an autopsy? to think it was hard for me to watch her get a shot when i took her to get her 2-year well check.

i had been to like three funerals for older individuals before last november, so i had no idea how it all worked. that there was a cement vault the casket rests inside underground, safe and enclosed. hence i had to ask my therapist, almost embarrassed with horror, “can snakes get into lucy’s casket? can bugs? how long will her body stay preserved before she starts to…” and i couldn’t say the word.

i had to choose a monument by myself because jonny couldn’t bear it, and i could no longer bear lucy not having any kind of memorial over her plot. i felt like i was neglecting her. my best friend laura stood by my side and we wept together, by the tiny temporary marker with lucy’s name. we walked the cemetery, measuring and looking at different shapes/fonts/designs. and so the week i should have been designing a third birthday party invition (last week), i was designing the very opposite.

and then, this weather. this summer to fall transition i wrote about in lucy’s birth story. overdue weather. waiting weather. i look at pictures of myself pregnant with her and wonder–if we knew the future, how could we bear it? i think of myself taking fish oils, stacking tiny cloth diapers, washing organic onsies, immersing myself in peaceful birthing books. i think of wanting so badly for her to come OUT into the world, so that i could hold her and know she was safe; now, i want her back inside my womb. sharing blood, feeling her flip and hiccup, protected from germs and all the imperfections life throws at us as soon as we’re home from the hospital. (or sooner for many of us, however i personally loved every second of the hospital. the fuzzy blankies and baby hats, the skin-to-skin, the room full of flowers and balloons, the flood of beloved faces coming in between my naps with honest abe’s and homemade granola bars and juice stop smoothies. her birth day and the days following were the best days of my life.)

this weather reminds me of lucy’s two trips to the pumpkin patch, of the halloween party we threw for friends and she wore her favorite penguin jammies the whole time, of her beloved $1 trick-or-treat basket full of “tandy”. the pink chuck taylors under the tulle of her mermaid costume.

it’s weather towards a dark tunnel, already a respiratory virus going viral (ha) on my news feed. months of cold and dark. november 22 rolling around again.

after a pretty charmed life i had all my teeth knocked out by death’s blow. i’ve learned that i am strong, but also that i am weak: i can be numb and distracted which is miserable in its own way. or i am an agony spiraling and spiraling, not able to rest or rally…exhausted, ragged, crazy, pushing everyone i love away.


i needed something more to get me through this month. before this time, i haven’t been ready to administrate anything in lucy’s honor, but honestly i found myself so desperate to know we aren’t alone and that she hasn’t been forgotten. desperate to honor her with something nurturing and happy, something reminicent of her spark and her fun and her LIFE. and so this whole idea, Happy Birthday Lucy Garland, was born.

a few years ago i met a girl named kori rider on a trip to california. she was tiny, blonde, and freckled, with the cutest constant smile and dimples. she’s a crazy runner/surfer/go-getter; she teaches spanish in santa barbara; i liked her instantly and never forgot her bright energy. we have been facebook friends, then not long ago she joined instagram under the name @nikacollective which i vaguely remembered was the charity she had started. as the wheels in my mind had started spinning for lucy’s upcoming birthday, i decided to check it out. i scrolled through kori’s feed and then looked at the nika collective website. i had to act fast if i wanted to pull something off, and i knew in my heart this was it–i didn’t want to connect to a huge charity and feel like a face without a name, i trusted kori, and nika had a fresh, fun vibe, bright like lucy’s. i knew that helping kori’s charity would allow me to nurture children who exist in real life, with dirty feet and tummies that get hungry, who sleep at night in their own little beds: children like my children, except in conditions i would never accept, because of poverty. (add poverty to the list of things i hate. a wretched ripple effect of brokenness.) and so i am asking all of my friends, and my friends’ friends, and really anyone touched by lucy’s life, to join me in supporting nika collective in lucy’s honor.

nika works with a community called nueva vida, in ciudad sandino (a district of managua.) many of the homes there do not have windows or doors. mothers not only face limited economic opportunities, but they also have no safe place to leave their children even IF work was available. if you haven’t had a chance to check out nika’s website, here is a copy of what they’re about:

The word Nika is short for Nicaragua.  Being the poorest country in the western hemisphere, it is all too easy to allow ourselves to imagine a people and landscape void of hope and full of sorrow, which is far from the case.  It is a country rich with deep smiles, joy and laughter.  We have fallen in love with its people, communities, faith and sincere way of life.  We have not fallen in love with the extreme levels of poverty and need, nor the incredibly high rate of neglected and abandoned children.  In Greek the word Nika means to conquer or to be victorious. We are a collective that is passionate about combating child abandonment and neglect by working with women in Nicaragua to conquer the inequities of poverty and emerge victorious.  By employing women to create Nika Products, from hair ties to bikinis, we create new income streams so that they can feed their children, while also using the proceeds from your purchases to: 1) Give micro-loans to start businesses through our news Micro-Finance Program; and 2) To help children holistically through our children’s programs (We hope to start Nutrition and Daycare Programs as funding allows, through our Casa Nika program.)

100% of the proceeds donated for the Happy Birthday Lucy Garland event will be utilized towards developing casa nika. a space for this purpose been purchased, but there is still so much work to be done before it can become a daycare for children whose mamas need to work, a refuge for orphans (they’re working with the group Mi Familia to become a government-certified safe place), and an environment where children can be nourished with healthy food and love.

if we could raise $100,000 between donations and trucker hat sales, lucy’s name would be put on the door of casa nika. her favorite things would be incorporated into the design (think yellow walls, etc!) in addition to letting yellow balloons go/giving them away/using them in some way to spread joy THIS SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 14 (or planting a yellow flower if that’s more your style!) will you help me make this happen? anything we can do will help nika and i am so excited to see how people are moved to give in lucy’s honor. remember to share your balloon/flower photo on facebook/twitter/instagram and hashtag it #lucygarland #vivetusueno so i can see each one, and so that we can raise awareness for this amazing non-profit.

instead of being lost in darkness this week, i have had the sweetest bright graphic of a yellow balloon in my mind. there is life in this. there is joy. i don’t speak trite words about heaven because it’s everything to me: if it’s real, she is there! she is very much alive and aware and knows what we’re doing out of love for her. i think she sees the beauty she’s immersed in reflected in our fight against brokenness, in our desire to do something GOOD for the women and children of nicarauga. hopefully soon she’ll see her mama meeting all the nicaraguan children in person, who were blessed because of her short time on this earth.

thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me fight the dark. thank you for reading my thoughts even when they’re hard for me to share, hard for you to read. thank you for celebrating lucy all across the USA.

happy birthday sweet baby. you love, you bright light, who said “i a blessing” the week before you died because we KNEW it and made sure you did too. so indescribably special. my soul prays that to you, if you can hear, or asks God to tell you for me.


yellow trucker hats can be purchased HERE.

tax deductible gifts in the form of a check can be written to:

 Pontis, Inc with Nika Collective noted on the check. (The people at Pontis are super loving, honest, good hearted people that serve selflessly in Nicaragua.) Checks can be mailed to PO Box 905 Summerland, CA 93067.
if you don’t care about your donation being tax deductible, you can click on the donate button HERE and the gift will go straight into nika’s account. kori is currently working with their fiscal sponsor to see if they can put a tax deductible option on their website!

  • Jordan Faeh

    You write so beautifully, Charlie. Love to see the incredible things you are doing for your sweet girl.

  • Bethany

    Thank you for writing, for giving us windows into the grief you carry. It feels like sacred ground…thank you for entrusting it to us <3

  • Timaree

    We are with you, Charlie and Johnny. I know that doesn’t count for much, but we remember Lucy even though we never had the privilege of knowing her. Especially this week you are in my thoughts almost constantly… not to sound creepy!! This a beautiful project, and your heart in this is beautiful too. So much love for you, dear friend. My heart screams and aches at your words, I desperately wish we could change things. Proud of you. I think this is amazing.

  • Meg Nicolet

    These words are resounding in my heart. Thank you for opening up, Charlie, so we can walk with you during this time. We are celebrating Lucy and excited to be a part of the Casa Nika project. I can’t wait to see you in Denver in just over a month – you are dearly loved.

  • Dana

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Charlie. This is a beautifully written post. I can definitely relate to it. My infant son Miles died earlier this year. I also want to share, share, share in my grief journey — while simultaneously wanting to hide under the covers and isolate myself from the emotional landmines out there (Facebook, baby showers, holidays, weddings). Some days, it seems impossible to be happy when a piece of my heart is missing. My older son Owen is what keeps me going. Without him, I would be a puddle on the floor. I thought planning my son’s funeral was going to be the hardest part. Now, I’m faced with having to decide on a memorial that will represent his life forever. And I’m not given much choice in the matter. For someone who is very particular about design and such things, not having the ability to customize his memorial is crushing. I didn’t want the stock teddy bear and balloon emblem that was straight out of the catalog. So many parents picked that one in the “Garden of Innocence” at Lincoln Memorial where he is buried… I’m sure out of pure exhaustion from grief and shock. I want something different. But I can’t have “different” because of the funeral ground rules and limited design options. I have tinges of intense regret that we chose to bury him there that snowy day in February 2014. But there’s nothing I can do about it now. So, here I sit, almost 7 months after Miles’ death and he still has the temporary marker that is put there as a courtesy by the funeral home. The longer I wait, the harder it gets. I need to just get it done and focus on where Miles is in my HEART — not where his body lies.

    Lucy is beautiful. I’ll be thinking of you and her on Sept. 14. This is a fantastic way to honor her life. Keep writing. You are an amazing mom.

    Take care,
    Dana from Nebraska

  • sharon

    ‘i a blessing’ seriously…that is the most special thing ive ever heard. i will forever remember that and be touched by that. every child needs to know that. you are also such a blessing. you are clothed with so much beauty and strength. thanks for letting us into your heart.