By Irene Zion


It was two weeks past my due date.  My babies could hardly move anymore.  It was just too tight inside.  It must have been uncomfortable in there.  My doctor was on vacation; so another one took his place.  I saw him three days before my labor began and he said everything was great.  I was two weeks overdue with enormous twins. There were two separate heartbeats in there, nice and strong, everyone alive and ready.  He gestured with his hand for me to leave the room.  I was told to go home and continue to wait.  I wasn’t his patient.  He was just covering for my doctor.

When my labor began, I was thrilled.  I had been carrying the names in my wallet for two girls and two boys.  This is the paper with the names from my wallet:

I was in the labor room alone with the nurse.

I’m having twins! I said, laughing.

I was so happy.  I was so happy that I thought I would burst from happiness.  Finally I would find out who my babies were.

In the delivery room with me were Victor, my Lamaze coach, the covering doctor and a nurse.  There was another doctor in the room, but I did not notice him.

I pushed and I pushed and all the while I was puffing and I was laughing.  I was so happy.  My first baby was born and someone quietly said she was a girl.

That’s Lenore Emily! I was delighted!

No one spoke. There was no sound.  The other doctor was working feverishly with Lenore Emily at the side of the room and then he ran out the door with her.  She had never made a sound.

Where did he take her? I asked. Who was that doctor? I wasn’t worried, though.  Everything was going to be so great!

No one answered me.  No one said a word.  Then I was having contractions again.

I pushed and I pushed and my second baby was born, but again, there was no sound.  The doctor didn’t speak.  Victor didn’t speak.  No one looked at me.

Who is the baby?  Is it a boy or a girl? I asked.

Still no one spoke to me.  No one answered me.  I was delivering afterbirth in total silence.  Everyone in the room looked away from me.  Finally, my Lamaze coach walked to my side.

Your second baby is a girl, but she is dead, she said, already walking away.

Her name is Margot Eliza! I shouted, and then a noise began low inside me and got louder and louder.  It filled me up; it filled up the room.

A nurse brought Margot Eliza over to me all washed up and wrapped in a blanket.  Her lips were a deep, dark red.  Her skin was milk-white.  She looked healthy and beautiful.  She looked asleep.  I was convinced she was alive, but no one was trying to bring her back to health.  No oxygen.  No commotion around her of doctors and nurses.

Why aren’t you trying to help her? I cried out, over and over.

The panic was growing inside me.  I looked away from Margot Eliza’s perfect face.  I thought of Lenore Emily.  I screamed at Victor to go find her, to find out where she was, to make her be alive. He didn’t speak but I didn’t stop screaming.  He left.

The doctor was sewing up my torn flesh.  I couldn’t get up.  I was alone with the doctor in the delivery room.  He never said a word.

If it were true, if Margot Eliza were dead, then the doctors had to hurry to harvest her heart and her liver and her kidneys and her lungs and her corneas and her skin so that other babies could survive because of her!  I begged the doctor to get more doctors to quickly do this.  My entreaty was met with more silence.

I found out later that Margot Eliza had died before she was born.  Her parts couldn’t be used to save other babies.  Margot Eliza was more than dead.  She was too dead.

Then I was in the recovery room.  Victor came back to say that Lenore Emily was in the neonatal intensive care room.  She needed blood.  She had swallowed meconium.  She couldn’t breathe.  She was dead, but they brought her back. Victor looked broken inside.  He was so quiet.  Victor had to go home to the kids.

The nurse in the labor room had only heard one heartbeat, and it was weak. She hadn’t told me because I had been so happy, but she had called the neonatologist.  That nurse and Dr. Cohen saved Lenore Emily’s life. Victor and the rest of the people in the delivery room already knew that one of my babies was dead. They already knew the other baby was in trouble.  I was so happy, no one wanted to tell me.  No one knew how to tell me.  No one wanted to be the one to stab me in the heart.

Margot Eliza had her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck three times.  Three times. Dr. Cohen knew he couldn’t bring Margot Eliza back to life.  He was trained.  He knew the difference between dead and too dead.

I was alone in the recovery room.  My brain was spinning.  I no longer knew what was true and what wasn’t. A nurse came in the room.  She asked me if I would like to see my baby.  I jumped from the bed, but she said I couldn’t go into the neonatal intensive care room.  She took out a Polaroid picture and gave it to me.  Part of Lenore Emily’s head was shaved and an IV was inserted in her head.  She was in an incubator.  She was getting oxygen.  Tubes came in and out of her everywhere.  This is the picture.

I asked the nurse if Lenore Emily could survive.  She looked so frail. The nurse said that she probably would.  She needed O negative blood, but the hospital had run out of it.  They had sent for more.  The nurse said that the oxygen was helping her to breathe.  I wish I knew this nurse’s name.  I still hope to find out.  She knew how to speak to the grieving.  She was an angel.

Your other baby was beautiful, she said. 

She was exactly like this one, she said.

I asked if they were identical, because no one had told me, no one had spoken to me.

She said that they were perfectly identical.

I asked if I could see Margot Eliza.

I asked if I could touch her.

I asked if I could hold her.

Not right now, she said.

My father and my mother came into the room.  My father was in a three-piece suit and his tie was held with a gleaming silver tie clip; there were silver cuff links on his cuffs and his black shoes were shined. Tears were pooling in his eyes.  There was nothing he could say, but he had dressed formally to show respect for the dead.  My mother spoke.

You see, Irene Marie, I was RIGHT to not buy that double stroller you wanted, wasn’t I?  You just had to have it ready, didn’t you?  You didn’t even think of the inconvenience for me, did you?  I would have wasted all that money and then I would have had to go to all the trouble of trying to return it!

The keening began again; it arose unbidden from deep inside me.  It increased in intensity, permeating my cells, suffusing the room.  My father took my mother by the arm.  He took her away from me.  He knew she was poison.

Victor returned.  I had no sense of time. There was a knock at the door.  A woman came in with a clipboard.  She had red lipstick on and she had a huge smile on her face.

I was right!  Everything was a mistake!  My babies are fine!

She walked over to me in the bed and handed me the clipboard.  I just need your signature, she said.  She was smiling.  I looked down.  It was a death certificate.  I threw the clipboard across the room. The keening began inside me again, penetrating my muscles and my fat and my sinews and my organs.  It emerged into the room, pervading the atoms in the air, pushing forcibly at the walls and the ceiling and the floor.

Victor picked up the clipboard and signed the death certificate. He moved so slowly, as though he were moving under water.

She asked if we would be having a funeral.

Victor said no, not a funeral. It would be too depressing.

Just take care of it, he said, quietly.

I told Victor that Lenore’s middle name had to be changed to Margot.

Victor looked at me and spoke.

We were never going to have twins.

This never happened.

We have a daughter.

We won’t speak of it again.

Then he had to go home to the kids.

He never spoke of it again.

Everyone grieves in his own way.

I understood what had happened.  My middle is Marie.  Victor’s is Michael.  Sara’s is Miriam.  Lonny’s is Misha.  Timothy’s is Maxwell.  One of my babies died and the other was born dead because the middle names I gave them did not start with the letter M.  I killed one of my babies and almost killed the other with my thoughtlessness.  Both my babies would be alive if only I had given them middle names beginning with M. The guilt was paralyzing.

I wanted a funeral. I called the nurse.

I said that I needed to hold my baby.

I said that I needed to have a funeral.

I needed a headstone.

It’s too late, she said, she’s gone.

I understand that she is dead, I said,

but I need to hold her.


I’m sorry, she said, your baby has already been cremated.

They were very efficient.  No time for second thoughts.  No one had ever once asked me what I wanted.

They took care of it.

Someone had taken her little body with her paper white skin and her blood red lips and her perfect sleeping face down the back elevator to the basement incinerator.  Someone had slid her immaculate little body into the furnace where the fire was already burning with gangrenous feet and cancerous tumors. Her flawless little body was consumed in the fire of medical detritus, and I had never even touched her.  I had never even held her.

They could give me no ashes to bury.

There is really nothing left when you burn up a newborn, she informed me, they are so small.

Margot Eliza was the big one; she weighed close to eight pounds.  Lenore Margot was slightly smaller.  She was born first.  She was dead and then she came back to life because I changed her name.  She was safe now.  My live baby had a safe name.  Her middle name began with M.

The next day they put me in a room with another, empty bed.  My real doctor visited.  He was sorry.  Sorry didn’t help.  The room filled with flowers. The smell of the flowers made me feel sick.  It was the smell of death.  Flowers kept arriving:  flowers in vases, arrangements of flowers, and flowers in pots. Flowers of death overflowed the room.  The windowsill was cramped with flowers.  Flowers spilled out onto the nurses’ station.

I got a roommate.  The woman behind the curtain was on the phone complaining bitterly.  She had another boy.  She didn’t want a boy.  She wanted a girl.  She told all her visitors how unlucky she was, how devastated she was.  She had only wanted a girl.

I thought of ways to kill her.  I could smother her with a pillow as she slept.  I could stab her with the butter knife from the food tray.  I wanted to kill her, but I didn’t do it.  I was too tired.  I went home instead.

I had three little children at home and Lenore Margot in my arms, but I was no longer in my body.  I was on the ceiling.   I watched from the ceiling.

My body virtually never put Lenore Margot down.  It had to protect her.  My body was doing a good job.  It nursed Lenore Margot and sang to her and played with my other children.  It was a good mother.  It read to my children.  It helped the children with their homework.  It was a good wife.  It made wonderful dinners from scratch every night.  It slept with my husband.

I watched from the ceiling to make sure that my body did everything right.  We had dinner parties every other weekend.  My body prepared course after course of gourmet food.  I watched from the ceiling as my body’s hands folded the napkins a different way each time. It used the good dishes. It prepared it all while carrying Lenore Margot.  It served it all while carrying Lenore Margot.  It never put flowers on the table.  My body did not disappoint me.  It continued to function well, while I lived on the ceiling.

One day a friend came over.

How are you, really? she asked.

I returned to my body and I said,

I want to die.

She had to leave; she forgot that she had an appointment.

I went back to the ceiling.

In my dreams Margot ages along with Lenore.  She is always just out of reach.  She is silent.  In my dreams, Margot now has tattoos of beautiful birds on her milk-white skin, birds in every color, birds landing, birds taking off.  Quiet birds.  Margot dyes her hair dark now.  Her lips remain red.  She is thin and beautiful.  She is silent.  She stands at the edge of the door.  She doesn’t come closer, but she is interested.  She watches Lenore and me quietly, in my dreams.  I talk to her, but she doesn’t answer although she looks right at me.  So far, for twenty-nine years she visits me at night.  So far, for twenty-nine years she has not spoken a single word.

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IRENE ZION has been married to the same curmudgeon for 40 years. She has 5 children, none of whom sufficiently appreciates her. The one you probably know is Lenore, who frequently gives her mother hives. Irene paints oil portraits and makes her own frames. She has been described as an outsider artist. Most of her paintings creep people out, especially her family. She finds this to be greatly satisfying. She writes non-fiction for TNB and loves every minute of it. She is writing fiction now too, but is too chicken to show it to anyone. She has two golden retrievers who will inherit anything of worth she leaves behind. Her kids will delight in dividing up her famous cork collection and her notorious stockpile of bubble wrap.

267 responses to “Nevermore”

  1. Zara Potts says:

    Oh God, Irene.
    This is just heartbreaking.
    I am so sorry. So so sorry.
    I need to go and pour a glass of water and breathe some air now.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Thank you, Zara,
      If you know someone who is grieving,
      go listen to him,
      hear him.
      That’s all.

      • Ursula says:

        I thought a long time about your story. Your wish to die because of your pain. But how worthwhile is was to live, see your other children grow and prosper and now have grandchildren and see them be happy and thrive.

        • Irene Zion says:


          In the middle of the ocean of loss and grief I was feeling, really, all I wanted an excuse that I could use. But you see, there wasn’t one. I had four beautiful children to raise and a husband who loved me. I had no choice but to swim and swim and swim until I reached the other side and could learn to live with the grief, rather than die from it.

  2. Christine W. says:

    I posted a comment but it did not appear.

    I love you.

    • Irene Zion says:

      I love you,

    • Irene Zion says:


      This is your Mom, isn’t she?
      She was a real beauty!
      Was she in the Armed Forces?

      • Christine W. says:

        Why yes, that is my mother. She was not in any forces that I know of. I think the Japanese thought the uniforms were cute during the war and she had one on. She may have been helping with nursing, that’s the only reason I can imagine why she wore something like that. I’ll send you the whole photo so you can see it. 🙂 I love her old pictures.

  3. Kathy Powell says:

    Irene, You are an amazing writer. Thank you for sharing your personal and profound feelings of loss in such an honest way. People really are afraid of discussing death. Or talk of those wonderful ones we have lost in our lives, like they never existed. I have to believe we have come a long way in handling death.
    If you would have had Margot today, they would have had you hold her, take pictures of her, dress her,
    get footprints……and more. So I’m very sorry you experienced your loss, but on top of that, the loss of the opportunity to hold and touch her. I felt honored you shared this with me. Thank you so very much.
    Love, Kathy

    • Irene Zion says:


      I am so pleased to hear that things have changed.
      To have held her, to have a picture, to have dressed her, to have her footprints, what I would give, what I would give, what I would give.
      Thank you for telling me that things have changed now.
      Thank you.

  4. Tim says:

    I agree. Your body did a hell of a job when you weren’t there.

    I love you.

    • Irene Zion says:

      It was a good body, Tim,
      it did what I told it to do.

      You see, Tim, it was a hard story.
      It took me a long time,
      but I wanted you to know.

  5. Judy Prince says:

    Irene, your writing of your experience is so moving, so sad-making. Only one person felt it was the right thing to do to talk with you about the tragedy. I’m glad you made that fact clear, so that many of us will now choose to be brave and lovingly honest by hearing out our family members and friends. We may not know what to say at the beginning or even at any point in listening, but our worry is of no matter; our having started the process will begin a healing. I’ve noticed that mental and emotional healing often come to those who commit to helping the aggrieved, as well as to the aggrieved themselves.

    There’s no doubt that your family, the medical staff, and your friends desperately wanted to help you, but that they felt it the worst thing—for your sake—to do. They were wrong, and many of us who want to do the right thing are persuaded by the behaviour of others simply to be silent. You make it obvious that this is the way to further drive the sufferer into further suffering.

    Throughout my reading this, I was struck by it similarities with Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”. It’s a short story, and, like yours, compellingly poignant. Here’s the URL to a source for Gilman’s brief explanation as to why she wrote the story; I feel that you and others will find it meaningful and significant: http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/dept/history/lavender/whyyw.html

    Thank you, Irene, for your help. We ALL need to be heard and to hear. We are humans; we need to tell our stories and hear others’ stories. We need to know that we are not the only person in the world who may be suffering. We need relief and release. We need to talk with those who need to be heard–especially at the times when it seems the hardest thing for us to do.

    All the best,


    • Irene Zion says:


      I didn’t have my wits about me for so long.
      How could I not have gotten this nurse’s name?
      I wish she could somehow read this and know that she made such a difference in my life.
      I didn’t even tell her.
      I didn’t even know it then.
      I didn’t have my wits about me.
      Now I do, and I do not know her name.

      What you say is why I wrote this.
      People who are grieving need to be listened to.
      They need a warm body beside them to listen
      and to hear them.

      It’s late, I do not have it in me to read your link tonight.
      I will read it tomorrow, and hunt down the story.
      Thank you for that.

      • Judy Prince says:

        You just put it so well, Irene: “People who are grieving need to be listened to. They need a warm body beside them to listen and to hear them.” Perfectly put.

        When I first read that, it occurred to me that there are all kinds of grievings. We can grieve the “loss” of a goal, for example, or the loss of an opportunity, or the kind of future we’d planned, and we can grieve a relationship or friendship that has gone.

        You rest now, Irene; it’s well deserved, and you have a ton of fine, wise, loving friends that want you well and strong. We’re grateful to you for your courage.

        • Irene Zion says:


          There are different kinds of grief.
          Each of them are unique in their pain.
          But not one kind is not relieved by companionship,
          not by much, but some.
          Any relief for even a moment
          can soothe the tattered soul.

          Except for the folks on the other side of the earth, I must be the only one who goes to bed as early or gets up as early. I’m never on the same time as anyone else on TNB. If you’ve read my stuff about sleep, you’ll know that sleep is elusive to me.

          Oops, gotta run, stuff to do.

        • Gloria Harrison says:

          “The Yellow Wallpaper” is an outstanding story. I’d forgotten about that. I want to go read it again right now.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Thank you for reminding me, Gloria!
          Judy told me about it and we have guests and blaa blaa blaa.
          No excuses.
          Going to find it now.

  6. Melissa (Irene's Friend) says:

    Irene, I love you my friend.
    You know , we are so similar.
    I do not know your pain, but I feel it.
    Wednesday was the anniversary of my nieces death.
    April 1st will be the anniversary of my nephews death.
    It never gets better,time does not heal. That is a big awful lie.
    You my friend are an amazing person.
    Your body does an amazing job.


    • Irene Zion says:

      No, Melissa, time does not ever make the dead come back to life.
      There is no time when everything will be all right again.

      But still, we move on
      we do what we can
      to listen to others
      to hold a hand
      to make a difference
      to lighten another’s load
      just by the weight of a feather
      and our load is lighter
      just by the weight of a feather
      because of it.

      • M says:

        Yes, You and I do what we do, to try to help others through the unbearable pain.
        I have an extra rock in my chest now thinking of Margot.
        Another one because I learned that a friend of my daughters when they were very little , died two years ago.
        All the little feathers we rid ourselves of in the hospital will never get these pains.
        I am sorry for your pain sweet friend.
        This is why I never believe that saying, “everything happens for a reason”. What reason this?

        • Irene Zion says:

          Oh Melissa,

          The “Everything happens for a reason” comment.
          I got that one a lot.
          Tell me what reason you are referring to, because I just can’t see one here.

          How about THIS one:
          There was probably something wrong with her anyway, you wouldn’t want her like that, right?
          Seriously? You just SAID that to me?

          How about:
          God has a new angel in the sky.
          Well, screw that! I don’t want her in the sky with God, I want her here with me!

          Oh, and, the “some people lose both babies” line?
          That’s supposed to make me feel better that others suffer even more?
          I’m supposed to get comfort from that?

          Lord, Melissa, I could go on forever with the list of horrendously stupid things that people have said to me.

        • Gloria Harrison says:

          People say stupid, stupid shit. It’s because they don’t know the not-stupid shit to say.

          “Everything happens for a reason” is one of my least favorites. People always used to tell me “you’re a survivor.” I hate that one too. What does that even mean? That, should a war arise, I should be sent to the front lines? That my entire worth is that I can take a punch in the face?

          Yes, people say stupid shit in instances where their silence would be more profound. Eye contact and a hug is a million times more powerful than aversion of eye contact and a thoughtless platitude.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I forgot that one, Gloria!
          Who wants to be a survivor and go through loss to get the title?
          I’ll bet they get all these platitudes from hallmark cards!

          “She’s better off in Heaven!”
          And you know that HOW?

      • Melissa (Irene's Friend) says:

        It seems in every situation, people use those same words.
        I do not know why.
        When Rian died.
        When Tyler died.
        You look at them like they have two heads.
        I guess they do not know what to say.
        Just an ” I love you. I am so sorry” would do.
        I love you Irene, I am so sorry.


        • Irene Zion says:

          Back atcha, Melissa.
          I’ll send you no flowers.
          See you Tuesday.
          We’ll try to lift a feather or two.
          We’ll try hard.
          What else can we do,
          after all?

  7. My wife’s first cousin is pregnant with twins right now. She’s been on bed rest for over a month already. I know that kidney stones are supposed to be a man’s equivalent to a woman giving birth but I’ve had kidney stones. They were painful. Really painful. I felt like I was trying to piss Boulder, Colorado out of my uretha. I think urethra is the right word. And really, you women are tough creatures. A kidney stone is not the equivalent as painful as it was. Every time I see Allison’s cousin, I want to give her a hug. A big, big hug.

    • Wow, what a story. Takes great strength for you to put such an event like that out there. I admit when I first read the short description on the front page, I saw “twins” and immediately was reminded me of my wife’s cousin and responded. Now that I’ve read this in full, I just want to say that, my friend, hits deep.

      • Irene Zion says:

        Thank you, Jeffrey.
        I wanted the writing to hit deep.
        If it hadn’t,
        I didn’t do it right
        and I really
        wanted to get
        this one

    • Irene Zion says:


      The pain means nothing. She will forget the pain in a moment.
      Your wife’s cousin will have the joy of all joys.
      She will be so tired, but she will be so totally complete.
      Perhaps you and some of the others in the family could buy her a double stroller.
      Put it in the hall.
      Let her dream about them,
      while she waits for them.

  8. Lorna says:

    So sorry for your loss. Men handle their emotions so differently. It must have been difficult to grieve the loss all by yourself up on that ceiling. So so sorry.

    • Irene Zion says:


      It really is odd how a person can deal with anything if she has to.
      A person finds her own way to push through the pain.
      In my case, I had four perfect children already
      and a wonderful husband
      who truly believed keeping me busybusybusy
      would make me forget,
      God bless him.
      Everyone does his best.
      It’s all anyone can do.

  9. Richard Cox says:


    I don’t know how to respond to this. Your writing is breathtaking and heartbreaking and poetic. I can’t imagine how it must feel to relive this, how it felt to live it. I’m so sorry.

    But still you have Lenore. Margot’s beautiful gift.

    You rock, Irene.

    So do you, Lenore.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Thank you, Richard,

      I worked on this one.
      I wanted it to be all that you said.
      She deserves that.

      Oh, and my Lenore, she’s a wonder, isn’t she?

      • Richard Cox says:

        As chance would have it, I was listening for the first time to a mix CD Duke made for me when I read this piece. The song playing was “Lullabye for Christie” by an Australian band called The Dirty Three.

        It’s a beautiful, magical, heartbreaking piece of music that only served to intensify the poetry of your words. You might download it sometime and listen to it while you read this. Quite unlikely and amazing that it happened to begin just as I started your piece. 🙂

  10. Anon says:

    I have no words but I do have tears. I’m sharing them now. We suffered two miscarriages but neither were to term. In a thousand years it will have happened yesterday. I’m so sorry.

  11. About the writing…

    Irene, I want to be critical because that’s what you asked, but I really did enjoy this. I thought there was a perfect balance of internal and external voice; of contemplation and event. I thought that the short, clipped sentences put across the feelings of hurt very effectively, whilst describing everything in a detail that made the sadness all the more difficult to bear.

    Anyway, you asked for no pity, so I’ll simply say that you’re a very talented writer and I always look forward to the next Irene Zion post.

  12. Jude says:

    Oh Irene… what a terribly sad story you have written. But one that needed to be written – not only for you, but for all the women who have gone through this pain.

    It is only through women like yourself talking about what happened to you and how it affected you that there has been a change in the attitude of the medical profession. And how it needed to change!

    I remember when I had Zara, in the opposite bed was a young Australian woman (about my age) who was unmarried and had come to NZ to have her baby in secrecy. She had intended to adopt the baby out. However the baby died in birth and she was then put into a ward with 3 other women who had their babies with them. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the nurses used to bring her the babies whose mothers for some reason or other couldn’t look after them at that time, to bottle feed and comfort… And then one day, a priest came into the ward to see her. He drew the curtain around them (as if that even gave a measure of privacy), and proceeded to tell her ‘this was God’s punishment for bearing a child out of wedlock’!

    But to go back to your writing… what a strong piece this is. It evoked so many feelings within me. I felt your joy at the beginning of the story – I was excited and happy as you were. I remember those feelings well. But then your story took a sharp turning and my initial feelings turned into shock, anger, panic and in the end, incredible sadness.

    I am so very sorry you lost your beloved Margot (what beautiful names Lenore and Margot are), but am so pleased to hear that she visits you every night.

    I hope one day you will come down from the ceiling – the world has changed and is ready to listen.

    • Irene Zion says:

      This is really creepy, Jude. I already answered your comment and it posted! But now it’s gone!
      Let’s see if I would say the same thing this time. (Since the other comment could reappear at any time.)

      I was very excited to hear from an earlier comment that things today are done far differently than they were 29 years ago. Three-quarters of the writers on TNB, I’d venture to say are younger than that!

      I feel really awful for that poor woman. She went through all she did to carry a baby to give to someone else, and yet all that ended so very badly. The priest should be shot, of course, and cut into little pieces and fed to your Tasmanian Devils. Maybe some good human flesh will help them with their disease.

      Thank you so much for telling me about how it read to you. That is just what I was after. You’re too close to it when you write, frequently, to see the forest for the trees.

      And please don’t worry about me. I’ve been down from the ceiling for a good many years now.
      Back with my feet on the ground. Thank you for your helpful comments.

  13. jmblaine says:

    You know when something really traumatic
    happens you feel this awful need to say something
    to make it better
    but there’s nothing to say
    nothing to say
    nothing to say

    I was tempted to rage
    against the thoughtless
    to say something
    about how much I wish
    I could travel back
    and knock on your door
    and sit still and say
    “tell me your story”
    & come back the next day
    & say
    “tell me your story”
    & again
    & again
    but i can’t

    it does no good to rage against
    the insensitive
    and though listening
    feels helpless
    it is the only thing one can do.

    there is a wisdom here
    & a weight
    that TNB has never
    seen the likes of

    this is brave
    & this is real
    Thank you for telling
    your story

    • Irene Zion says:

      I read this as I sat waiting for an xray.
      I’m sitting in the waiting room with dozens of people
      and tears are running down my face.

      What I would have given
      if you could have gone back in time
      and knocked on my door
      and said
      “tell me your story.”
      what I would give.

      I really don’t believe that people were
      They were baffled as to what to do.
      They felt helpless,
      so they didn’t call
      or visit.
      They just didn’t know what to do.

      You see how far flowers got them?
      I know they were well-meant,
      I do, I know that,
      but I felt as if I were in a
      funeral parlor,
      but my dead loved one
      wasn’t there.
      Just me and the flowers
      and the flowers
      and the flowers
      and the flowers
      and the flowers

      what good can flowers do
      for someone who has
      had her child die?

      How could flowers possibly help?

      You are wise beyond
      your years, 11.

      No one has ever called me brave before.
      I’m going to savor that.
      Yes I will.
      Brave Irene.
      (That’s a William Steig book, you know, a good one, you know, for kids and their parents.)

  14. jmblaine says:

    I love you

    Such a difficult story
    but so many kind

    • Irene Zion says:

      I have to say that I was afraid no one would read a story that wasn’t funny.
      I was prepared for that.
      I’m glad that I was wrong to be afraid of that.

      So many people have taught me so much here.
      The comments are amazing me.

  15. Mama Z.

    I’m to choked up to write anything. I don’t know what to say.

    I’m here. I’m listening.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Thank you, Megan,

      You already listened
      and you already heard
      read it.

      You read my story.
      You read about my Margot.
      She’s alive in all of you now.
      I can’t bear for her to be forgotten.

  16. Slade Ham says:

    If someone had told you what was going to happen, and then asked you if you thought you could make it through it, you could never have imagined doing so. Yet, 29 years later, you are here. It really is amazing what we can get through when we have to.

    I would have attempted to kill that lady as well. And your mother I think.

    This was as definitely as saddening as you intended it to be.

    • Simon Smithson says:


    • Irene Zion says:


      I really wanted to kill her.
      I was just too tired.

      Oh, and my mother?
      I cannot count the number of times I was driving her somewhere and she was bitching and bitching and bitching and bitching and my car wanted to drive full-bore into the bridge abutment so often. Really, if you had known her, you’d understand. It’s a miracle I didn’t let the car do what it wanted to do to silence her.

    • Irene Zion says:


      I passed right over the important part of your comment and honed in on the desire to murder people.
      What does that say about me?
      No, don’t answer.

      I would never, in a hundred lifetimes, have believed I could have survived what I did. Never.
      But here I am.
      It IS amazing what a person can live through and still go on,
      and still find happiness again
      in spite of the black cloud that lives always
      in his heart.
      Think of someone whose loved one was fine and has been killed by a drunk driver.
      Think of someone whose family was shot and thrown in a mass grave in Bosnia.
      Think of someone whose children were sent to the ovens at Auschwitz and he himself survived by becoming a Sonder Commando, helping to shovel bodies into the ovens.
      How do THESE people survive?
      The list is endless and terrifying.
      I have no answers.
      I only have questions.

  17. Stephanie says:

    Very powerful story, Irene.
    Huge lump in my throat.
    Painfully beautiful!

  18. Tweet says:

    these things elude the memories of my elders.

    these things haunt the seeds of future generations.

    i appreciated the open and honest feel of this piece.

    i’m a reader of your gift.

    what a strange and interesting gift she is.

    thank you, irene.

    two gifts and counting

    • Irene Zion says:


      Thank you for your haunting words.

      What was the first gift, may I ask?

      • Tweet says:

        sorry for the confusion!

        Irene’s Gifts:

        1. the way you openly shared such a painful story.

        2. your honesty. a noticeable unwillingness to sugarcoat.


        you haunted me first 🙂

        • Irene Zion says:

          I appreciate your writing back, Tweet, I get confused easily, as you can see.

          There are times when it is appropriate to sugarcoat,
          but I rarely find that this is something I am comfortable doing.
          I suppose there are a good many people who find this off-putting,
          oh well.

        • Tweet says:

          oh well, indeed!

          i’m not sure you would be able to sugarcoat this. however, i found it refreshing that you didn’t shove closure down my throat.

          this is what happened.

          this is how i reacted.

          i live with it.

          i dream about it.

          irene, that is my definition of closure….thus far 🙂

        • Irene Zion says:

          Close as I’m gonna get, Tweet,
          close as I’m gonna get.

          I appreciate your kindness.

        • Tweet says:

          ya know, i wonder about that sometimes.

          the sickening floral scent recedes.

          the barrage of potluck is thrown out.

          time will heal all…

          my ass.

          i want to believe, i do.

          i appreciate your wisdom.

          gift number three.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Dear Tweet,

          People say things like that because they just don’t know what to say.
          To give them credit, which I haven’t been, at least they are trying to help, attempting to talk to you.
          Most people forget who you are while you are grieving.
          They vanish into thin air.
          They are “uncomfortable” so they conveniently forget about you and your situation.
          At least these people who say stupid things are trying to help, however they are bungling it.
          I have been too hard on them here.
          I have been thinking about it all night.
          I have been too hard on them.

          I need to work on appreciating the intent of a person’s words and block out the words themselves.
          and, it’s true,
          they want to believe the pablum they natter about
          and, Lord Above,
          I wish I could believe it too.

        • Tweet says:

          i didn’t mean to send the guilt fairy. 🙂

          you wield an interesting point.

          people react differently to trauma on both ends of the spectrum.

          be accountable for what you can swallow.

          as they should be accountable for what they feed you.

          that could be the answer.

          not that time heals all…

          that it allows us to meet in the middle

        • Irene Zion says:

          Oh now don’t you worry, Tweet,
          I was up last night thinking about this already.
          I think I have to try to see things from the other side more often.
          Helps me to understand things better.
          Still working on being the person I’d like to be.
          Hard work for me, for some reason.

        • Tweet says:

          don’t be so hard on yourself.

          grief has no excuse.

          some reason.

          no rhyme.

          we experience.

          we expect people to understand.

          they don’t.

          we want to see things from their side.

          we can’t.

          we are all a work in progress.

          this shows a great deal from your prospective.

          take stock, irene.

          a long way proves many waves.

          i hope i’m smiling at the end.

          unwavering pain becomes adrenaline.

          i can see it.

          what i couldn’t see then.

          is this your artistry?

          did you paint the work you posted?

        • Irene Zion says:

          “a long way proves many waves.”
          That is really thought-provoking, Tweet.

          Yes, the painting is mine.
          Actually it’s the first painting I ever painted.
          It is also the story of the twins’ birth.
          (Not that I’m obsessed or anything….)
          One year Victor bought me oils and an easel and canvas
          and said “Paint. You’ll be good at it.”
          Surprised the heck out of me,
          never had any training and never once thought of painting.
          I guess he knows me better than I know myself.
          I’ve painted zillions since,
          although I’d like to find time to paint more.
          the last one I painted was the Zimbabwean Aids Orphan
          which is in one of my stories.

        • Tweet says:

          a long way proves many waves.

          wait a minute…

          there’s more? 🙂

          your painting is amazing!

          give me some time.

          i will certainly catch up.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Tweet, here is my “archive.”
          (Does that sound fancy, or what? Oh yeah, I’m fffaaaannncccyyyy!)


          I’d only read the first two lines of 4, 8 in all. Those are the new TNB 3.0.

          The ones before are from the earlier version and the photos were not included. That is being remedied within the month, after which the stories will make sense because the photos will be there, since they are integral to the stories. Hold off reading those till the photos arrive, K?

        • Irene Zion says:


          The bio picture of me is a detail of my “Self-Portrait with Noise.”

  19. Simon Smithson says:

    Ah, God, Irene.

    I’m almost in tears here.

    Jesus, I’m sorry.

    Wiser tongues than mine will say this better.

    • Irene Zion says:

      so Simon,
      could you just tell me
      so many of you
      are brandishing
      light sabers?

      • Simon Smithson says:

        That, I can do.

        It started, as far as I know, with Rich. He changed his golfing Gravatar to himself holding his evil red lightsabre over his shoulder – whether as a direct result, or just by cosmic timing, Slade did the same thing at the same time. Then it turned out that the two of them were happy to do the same for other people who sent in a photo. Before I knew it, Zara was jumping into the air with a lightsabre too, and I just had to get one too. The avalanche had begun.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Simon, I think my gravatar’s ready for a gorjus purple light saber. How do I get it added?

        • Irene Zion says:

          I think you have to fly to Australia, Judy. I hear it’s nice this time of year.

        • Gloria Harrison says:

          Richard made my gravatar for me. I will never, ever, ever change it to anything else because it is so wonderful. I call it Salome in Space.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I totally feel left out.
          Which Richard?

        • Gloria Harrison says:

          Cox. He made one for Tawni, too. I’ll bet he would totally make you one.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Could he stick one between my teeth like a toothpick?

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Irene: That would be quite the feat of dentistry!

          Judy: Slade and Rich are the go-to guys on this front. I don’t have the know-how.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I trust my teeth to Slade and Rich any day, any time.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Hi Irene,

          Send me a pic you’d like to use and I’d be happy to make you one. I could put it between your teeth in this pic, but then you wouldn’t be able to see it. Hahaha.

          You, too, Judy! Just something that looks vaguely like you’re carrying, swinging, brandishing a light saber.

        • Judy Prince says:

          You’re so kind to volunteer to light saber us, Richard. Irene has a great idea that I wanna borrow. I’d like my gravatar (who’s a cat named Vile Boris) to have the light saber between its teeth—a wonderful purple light saber that would be horizontal in the photo. Possible? I do love my sweet VB gravatar.

        • Richard Cox says:

          I can do that. I’ll work on it this evening and sent it over tomorrow. I’ll need your email address to send you the photo. Can you get mine from this reply?

        • Judy Prince says:

          That’s great, Richard! I clicked on your blue name, and got your website—which is wonderful. Prob is that my computer – oh rats, it’d take a long paragraph to explain the prob. Anyway, how about you click on my Frisky Moll Press website contact page and leave your email address; it and any message you leave will be seen only by me. Then I can email you my email address. Here’s the FMP contact page URL: http://judithprince.com/contact.html

          Re your novels, THE GOD PARTICLE and RIFT: do I need to keep a “Physics for Dummies” handy whilst I read them? Both books sound fascinating, from the recommenders’ descriptions and assessments.

        • Irene Zion says:


          You are very nice to do this.
          Do I need to find the photo, or is this little thing enough?
          I want something neon bright, how about magenta.

        • Richard Cox says:

          Hello, Irene and Judy. Sorry for the delay. I was away from the computer all of yesterday, but I will get to work on your gravatars post haste.

          And Judy, you don’t need to know anything about physics to read my books. They’ll tell you all you need to know. Thanks for the interest!

        • Judy Prince says:

          Richard, thanks to you, my Gravatar (Vile Boris the cat) has had his light saber restored to its customary position. You can tell he’s happy bcuz of his illuminating smile.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Oops, looks like VB dropped his light saber!

        • Irene Zion says:

          Don’t worry, you are not alone. I will probably work all day to figure out how to change it.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Thanks, Irene. I won’t worry. Richard beautifully put the light saber in Vile Boris’s mouth, but (and VB doesn’t want you to know this, so I’m whispering) lacking recent practice in holding it, VB dropped the light saber. Fortunately, he didn’t really need that cat dish…..nor did we really need the kitchen floor.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Let’s see if VileBoris has picked up the light saber. He’s been fed, had a nap and clawed a few neighbours, so he’s in a grand mood. Testing….testing…

        • Irene Zion says:

          Beautiful, Judy!
          Richard is a Master!

          Mine is made, but Gravitar is thinking it over and deciding if it choses to post it or not.
          Stay tuned!

        • Richard Cox says:

          Irene, how did you get to Tatooine? Lovely shot of the binary sunset. It’s fitting you’re wearing a bathing suit since the whole planet is sand.

        • Irene Zion says:

          It was there! You saw it too!
          Why did my gravitar revert back?
          Stupid gravitar thinks it can make it’s own decisions, grumblegrumblegrumble….

        • Judy Prince says:

          You saw my new light-sabered Gravatar, Irene, but I didn’t. Nor have I seen yours. The Gravatar site says that it sometimes takes 5 to 10 minutes for the gravatar to show up, but I’ve noted in the past that when everyone gushed over new gravatars, I couldn’t see them for a couple days.

        • Jude says:

          Beautiful light sabers!

          Judy, you need to clear the cache or try this…press Shift and then the Page Refresh button (you might need to press it a couple of times, holding Shift) and it should update instantly.

        • Irene Zion says:


          Yours has been up for hours.
          You can’t see it?
          Mine went up about two hours after I posted it, but now it’s gone gone gone.
          Weird poltergeists wandering around the TNB site tonight!

        • Jude says:

          Irene – try my above suggestion ‘coz you’re there in full glory, looking as if you come from another planet.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I tried that for mine, but it just vanished.
          If it never appeared in the first place, I would have assumed I did the posting incorrectly, but it was here and then it wasn’t.
          Without a doubt.

          (I do like your baby gravitar cum light saber. is it you or Zara?)

        • Irene Zion says:

          It worked, Jude! I was just refreshing before.
          How did you know to hit shift/refresh?
          And why did it appear for me before and then vanish?
          So many questions, so little time.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Thank you, dear Jude! As you said, I pressed and held down “Shift” while clicking “Reload” (I have a Mac)—ET VOILA! I now see my dear Vile Boris holding his Michael-bestowed light saber! And even lovelier is Irene’s beautiful new gravatar—a splendid dream-like scene.

        • Irene Zion says:


          So strange, this is as close as I could get to you to respond.
          It’s a mystery!
          Not only did I get to Tatooine, but I am wearing an appropriate bikini for the climate and I travelled back in time to be young enough to wear a bikini!
          The enigma of the internet, particularly on the TNB site!
          (I think I have someone watching over me to do the computer things that baffle me because of my advanced age and dementia.)

    • Irene Zion says:

      I’m glad that you cleared that up for me, Simon!
      I was thinking it was akin to everyone on Facebook turning green to support the Iranian protesters,
      but I could not for the life of me figure out what light sabers
      could be representative of.
      (That there is a dangling participle.)

      • Judy Prince says:

        (Irene, that there is a “terminal preposition”, sez Rodent). I instantly criticised him for saying “terminal” instead of the simple, Anglo-Saxon’ed “end”. Ah, but his lexical bank contains riches that my poor stash has never seen. My dear “word hero”, the Rodent!

        Following is the skinny on the famous quote about ending a sentence with a preposition, oft attributed, apparently incorrectly, to Winston Churchill. It’s from linguist and lexicographer Benjamin Zimmer, whom the NYT has just named as its new “On Language” columnist:

        “The earliest citation of the story that I’ve found so far in newspaper databases is from 1942, without any reference to Churchill:

        The Wall Street Journal, 30 Sep 1942 (“Pepper and Salt”): When a memorandum passed round a certain Government department, one young pedant scribbled a postscript drawing attention to the fact that the sentence ended with a preposition, which caused the original writer to circulate another memorandum complaining that the anonymous postscript was “offensive impertinence, up with which I will not put.” —The Strand Magazine

        • Irene Zion says:

          Well, how about that, Judy?

          You and Rodent are a wealth of knowledge.

          All these years I believed it was Churchill who first uttered those gloriously funny words.

          Whoever wrote for “pepper and salt” in 1942 was a whole lot funnier than who writes it today.

          (Although they do, on occasion, hit the ball out of the park, I have to qualify.)

          (I believe that may just be the clumsiest sentence I have ever written. I’m going to leave it as witness to why you should not write after having very little sleep.)

  20. Cheryl says:

    Thank you. I haven’t read your writing before.

    Four years ago our only child was stillborn. I’ve tried a thousand times to put that experience on paper, if only because I thought it would help others who had been through it to write it down. And I was right, it does. My experience was different than yours, but it was still the same.

    • Irene Zion says:


      All of these experiences are the same.

      I have a friend, more than one, actually, who tried and tried and tried to get pregnant. Every month the blood would flow and it would be just another death. Month after month after month, death after death, after death.

      I also have friends who have had multiple miscarriages. A death at any stage is a death, is a loss that can never be erased. A life that is gone forever. A child who you never got to raise.

      Margot was stillborn. It’s such a pretty word for such a devastating thing. How can that be? I have never been able to use that word for Margot. What happened to her was not to be described with a pretty word. What happened to your baby should not be described with a pretty word. The word should be horrible and ugly and make you want to spit to even say it.

      Your experience was different, Cheryl, yes, but, you’re right, it was still exactly the same.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Please come back often and read.
      I have an awful lot to say and I’d like to have you there by my side.

  21. Simone says:

    Irene, I have no words to express the sadness I felt while reading this piece. I’m truly sorry that this had to happen to you and your family.


    “There are things that we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people we can’t live without but have to let go.” ~Author Unknown

    • Irene Zion says:

      Thank you, Simone.

      I only wanted people to know Margot.
      To validate her life inside me
      and her death inside me.
      To understand that there is a space in time and place that is
      because she is dead.
      where it should have been filled
      with a vibrant

  22. D.R. Haney says:

    Very powerful — so much so that I scarcely know what to say. But I’m glad you wrote it. It seems that you’ve been wanting to write it for a long time, and now you have.


    • Irene Zion says:


      I have been writing it for a long time.
      Over a year on paper.
      29 years in my head.
      A long time in coming, this piece.
      I’m happy
      it’s been written now
      and people are reading it.

  23. ksw says:

    I am so in awe of you! My Grandmother told me as a little one when my mother died that after the pain blisters and peels away you will have a soft spot that you carry with you always. No ones knows how long the first part takes but I belief that the “soft spot” speaks to one if you are strong enough to listen. And my dear, from your many talents I would testify to your love and strength. I seldom disagree with you, however I think Margot speaks to you often. You wrote your story, my love! caw

    • Irene Zion says:


      Your grandmother was a wise one. How wonderful that she was there when you needed her so badly. You should write down the things she said to you. You have mentioned things, but my memory is shot. It’s up to you to do it. She deserves it. She said the most amazing, the most true things to you. You can give her life back just a little by writing her words.

      I think that you are the strong one, though.
      I am putty to your steel.

    • Irene Zion says:

      sweet caw,

      I am concentrating on listening to my soft spot now.
      I’m willing to learn.
      I am going to be strong
      so it can speak to me.

    • Lisa B. says:

      CAW – I like that……the notion that Margot is indeed speaking (simply wordless). By the way, the 3rd most common language in the US is American Sign Language…..

      This memoir is so heartfelt and passionate. Beautifully written, commemorative of a young life and death, and I cannot imagine another tale which captures the shock and all the associated feelings of an unexpected death. Feeling of dread… imagining this child dying so close to her sister and the ironic sound of a happy mother’s voice. So terribly sad.

      At 15 I had the misfortune of walking in on my mother’s death throes without ever having been told she was dying. Within days, my memories of her were inaccessible for a decade. She came back to me through smells: spring flowers in newly turned earth, grass clippings, gingerbread….. through music: hundreds of songs we sang together and played on piano….some from her Navy wave service on Hawaii….. (boogie woogie bugler boy): through being told later in life that I have her laugh and humor… through sight: some lace, a certain film, a 60’s daisy print, a Wagnerian bra cup, a girdle, a slanted smile,…..

      It tooks years for me to piece together a jigsaw puzzle of my mother. Only half a dozen photos survive. I learned of the cause of her death after 35 years (in the family it’s not discussed).

      I’ve lost seven friends in the city these last 4 years. They were not very senior and for most, their deaths came as a surprize to their friends…. ages 40s – 70. Each funeral more important than the last …. to not forget any life…..anyone, and the special friendships I had with each. One friend used to talk about books with me and knew the authors and would tell wonderful stories about each life, each character – funny, unusual, smart and daunting. And I used to be amazed at how he kept these people whom I had never met alive in my mind years after they were deceased. After his death, I found myself doing the same… whenever I thought of him… I’d pass it on to whomever I was with… and felt quiet but pleased that he was so alive for that moment.

      And now I’ll always remember Margot. I wonder if Lenore dreams of her….. I hope so.

      • Irene Zion says:

        Oh Lisa B.,

        Your experience with your mother’s death was so horrifying!
        We have to talk about this; I need to learn more.
        (And you still need to talk about it, you know you do.
        I’m here. I’m a good listener.)

        Thank you for remembering Margot.
        She lives in every mention of her name.

  24. ksw says:

    i hope that your ability to write this gives you peace.

  25. Joe Daly says:


    This is beautiful. You made me cry and for that, I thank you.

    Though this took place many years ago, you will be in my thoughts today.

    • Irene Zion says:


      You make me feel as though I did what I set out to do. For that I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

      As to this taking place many years ago, let me quote Anon’s unrivaled words:

      “In a thousand years, it will have happened yesterday.”

  26. Matt says:

    I read this last night, Irene. I didn’t know what to say then, and after a second reading, still don’t. What I want to do is curl up under a blanket and cry for a while.

    Very, very excellent work.

    • Irene Zion says:


      Don’t you see? I worked for more than a year writing this JUST so it would make you want to curl up under a blanket and cry for a while.
      Thank you for feeling what I tried to make you feel.

  27. Becky says:


    I keep not finding the words I want. So I was going to skip commenting. I couldn’t think of what was appropriate. I sort of crash around this type of emotional situation. Knocking things over, tripping, running into walls, stepping on feet and so on. I don’t deal well with grief, mine or anyone else’s.

    But I’ve been agitated since I read this, and I keep coming back and looking at it, and sort of pacing mentally, and not saying anything. I walk away from it and it’s a weight on my head and a gape in my gut.

    It’s consuming me enough that I have to post something or it won’t go away.

    So I will just post that that this post is consuming.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Becky, sweet Becky,

      No one deals well with grief, with his own, with that of others, no one!
      That is why it is so hard.
      That is why there is a weight on your head and a gape in your gut.
      We are all the same.

      Thank you for posting what you think wasn’t a post, but was.

      • Becky says:

        Yes, I suppose. If it were easy, I guess they would call it something else. Like joy or the giggles.

        But I maintain that I say and do more awkward things than most. Like, my first inclination was to crack a joke. Even though the lead-in blurb makes it very clear that this is not funny. And of course, it isn’t.

        But that’s what I wanted to do. SO inappropriate. *crash crash*

  28. Don Mitchell says:

    Irene, this is a strong and wonderful piece, perhaps the best of yours that I’ve read. Thank you for writing it.

    Although I liked everything about it, I especially liked “She is always just out of reach. She is silent.” I won’t presume to comment on what spiritual meaning that might have for you. But it resonated with me, because lately I’ve been working very hard on what my mother and father left behind, physically, I mean, and wondering about what I’m finding. Not items, but physical layouts, patterns, things they made or let go. And what they’d think about what I’m doing with their place.

    And although I do not believe they are present in some other-worldly form, they are certainly present in my memory, and I’ve been imagining and remembering them doing this, or that, or the other thing that I’m either undoing or fixing or completely making over. But in my mind, they never speak to me. I hadn’t thought about that until I read your piece.

    They are, for me just out of reach, because they inhabit only my mind. At yet, I’m touching, moving, rearranging objects they set in place. And so it’s the conjunction of a particular kind of physicality and a kind of memory that’s been getting to me, which is why your piece also got to me so profoundly.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Ah, Don,

      Death is death is death.
      Emptiness is emptiness is emptiness.

      They are in your head and will always be there.
      They want you to touch their things and move them and think about it, because they will thereby still live in you.

      And, Don?
      There is no spiritual meaning that I know of.
      It is a statement of fact.
      She visits in my dreams and she holds herself apart at the doorway
      and she watches
      and she listens
      and she never
      That is just how it is.
      I don’t try to know why.

      • Judy Prince says:

        Ah, Irene. I was in Taiwan, had arrived 2 weeks earlier, when I got word that my Mom (in the States) had died. I knew no one in Taiwan except very superficially. I went as close to insane as I’ve ever gone.

        A couple days after she died, I dreamed a super-realistic dream of her appearing before me, smiling beautifully just as she always had. It didn’t matter that she said nothing; she was alive, after all; I was ecstatic!!!

        Then I woke up and realised it had “only” been a dream. You can imagine the weeping I did.

        I’ve come to believe, in the 21 years since her dying, that she somehow wanted to console me, so she somehow managed to appear to me. I do so wish that I could have understood it that way at the time. But now I do, and now I thank her for her loving me after what is called her “death” and during my time of despair and fury at “fate”. Ironically, I suppose, in the light of what you wrote and what we know is helpful to us at suffering times—it was not her words that I needed the most, it was that beautiful, sweet, loving smile. My dear mother.

        • Irene Zion says:


          I know it is not fashionable or enlightened to believe the things I believe,
          but I am sure your mom came to you smiling to show you that she was fine
          in her next place.
          She knew you wouldn’t understand for years.
          But she also knew you eventually would.

          How devastating to be so far away when your mother died.
          How wonderful that she appeared to you for one last smile.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Irene, I agree with everything you’ve just said. I too believe the unfashionable and unenlightened, and happen to think it’s more logical than
          the fashionable and enlightened.

          And I love how clearly and succinctly you’ve put it!

          Hugs and furry gratitude frum squirrul.

        • Irene Zion says:

          NOW you tell me you’re a squirrel!

          All this time I thought I’ve been speaking with an otter!

        • Judy Prince says:

          Do otters climb trees, Irene? They do look hilariously ugly-cute when swimming, but I’m a red squirrul and my breed, nearly disappeared in the UK, has begun its comeback. Here, now, in the USA, I can’t but hate the prolific bothersome grey squirrels as well as love their chasing each other on telephone lines and around trees, walking around with biscuits in their mouths, and knowing that it’s illegal to cull them, though most folks I know would do it in a heartbeat.

          Your happy redsquirrul

        • Irene Zion says:

          We have North American Red Squirrels too. I’m going to try to copy and paste from wikipedia a couple of sentences which distinguish them from those in Europe and Asia.

          “American Red Squirrels are also referred to as Pine Squirrels, North American Red Squirrels and Chickarees. They should not be confused with Eurasian Red Squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris); since the ranges of these species do not overlap, they are both commonly referred to as “red squirrels” in the areas where they are native.”
          “Red squirrels can be easily identified from other North American tree squirrels by their smaller size, territorial behavior and reddish fur with a white venter (under-belly).[5] Red squirrels are also somewhat larger than chipmunks. The Douglas Squirrel is morphologically similar to the American Red Squirrels but has a rust venter and is restricted to the southwestern coast of British Columbia and in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. These two species do not co-occur.”

          I do know that in Olney, IL there is a large colony of perfectly white squirrels. They are NOT albinos, just white. They are quite the hit. It may be the only reason that anyone travels to Olney, IL.

          I’m trying to post a picture of the white squirrels of Olney here, but it has never worked for me before. I might have to e mail it to you. You are totally going to change teams when you see these!
          Can’t figure it out. Need a teenager. I’ll e mail you a photo now.

  29. Greg Olear says:

    OK, I can comment now that I’ve stopped crying.

    Lenore wrote about this awhile back, so I knew that it happened, but your perspective on it…it’s just so sad. My wife had a difficult time in labor with Dominick, and the second birth was fraught with its own issues, and one thing I’ve learned (that you already know) is how badly people tend to treat the women giving birth. There are kind people, of course, but collectively, they are there for the baby; the mother is an afterthought. It’s heartbreaking, and I wish hospitals would do a better job with supporting the new mothers (and their oft-clueless family members) emotionally and psychologically.

    A dear friend of mine had twins who were born very prematurely — 27 weeks, I think; really early; they could fit in the palm of your hand — and after months of NIC-U stuggle, one of them died. That funeral was devastatingly awful to attend. These are really good people, and they didn’t deserve that (not that anyone does). I don’t know how they recovered from that. I don’t know if anyone really could completely. My heart goes out to you, Irene.

    As I told Lenore way back when, I believe — check that; I know — that there is no death, just a change of state, and that Margot is there on the other side, looking out for you and for her sister. And thank God little Lenore made it, because the world is a better place with her here.

    Thanks for sharing this. I know it must have been difficult to write, and to hit the PUBLISH button, but I’m glad you did. It’s an excellent piece of writing.

    • Irene Zion says:


      Thank you for crying. I wanted all of you to cry. If you didn’t, I didn’t wait long enough and revise it enough to make it right. I wrote this to punch you in the gut, suddenly, without warning. I wrote this as real as real can be. This IS what happened. This IS her story.

      A couple of nurses have written in that things are better now. Remember, this happened 29 years ago. People are more attuned to the mothers and fathers now. Thank God.

      I hope you’re right. I think she’s watching too. After all, I see it happening all the time.

      And you’re right.
      Hitting PUBLISH almost killed me.

    • Irene Zion says:

      If I could be pushy here, Greg,

      Your friend’s pain is hidden by a layer as thin as the skin on top of a pudding.
      It doesn’t matter how long it has been since his child suffered and died.
      (Anon: “In a thousand years it will have been yesterday.”)

      Get him alone.
      Ask him to tell you how he is coping.
      Listen to him.
      He still needs to talk.
      He still needs someone to hear him.
      If you love him,
      you are that person.

  30. Irene, Your last paragraph was simply breathtaking. There is nothing I could say here that wouldn’t sound trite in response to such a beautiful, raw, heartbreaking, stunning story of grief and survival. You told this with grace and with truth and I thank you for allowing me, for a moment, to share it with you.
    ~ robin

    • Irene Zion says:


      “Raw” and “breathtaking.” Thank you.
      These are words I had hoped would be used to describe this story.
      This is what I was after.
      Thank you so much for saying those words.
      I won’t ever forget.

  31. Angela Tung says:

    oh irene, i’m crying here.

    i agree with everyone that your writing is stellar – i think the restraint brings out the emotions and intensity of the situation even more. it’s sad without being cloying or sentimental.

    and i perfectly understand the anger as well. i’d want to kill that woman too.

    • Irene Zion says:


      The very last thing on earth I wanted to write was something cloying or sentimental.
      It isn’t as easy as a person would think when it comes to a subject like this.

      It took a long time to pare it down.
      That was the problem.
      I had almost a book at first.
      There is so much more, but I had to learn what to use and what to pitch.
      I feel good about it now.
      (But not right after I hit PUBLISH!)

      If I hadn’t been so tired, I would have killed that woman,
      and my mother to boot.
      In for a penny, in for a pound, I say.

  32. Dana says:


    I’ve always enjoyed your writing — so much wit and just great story telling, but this is absolutely phenomenal. It’s not surprising that it made me cry given the subject matter however it’s so well written and so honest and true I know it will haunt me and return to me again and again.
    It brings to mind “The Year of Magical Thinking”.

    I’m glad you changed Lenore’s middle name.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Thank you Dana,

      I was so afraid to post this.
      So afraid it wasn’t ready.
      Then suddenly,
      I knew it was time.

      My baby, Benjamin? His middle name is Malcolm.
      My brain may know one thing, but my gut says something else entirely.

  33. Mrs. TK says:

    I was in public reading this on my phone (under the dryer at the beauty
    parlor to be exact) and had tears streaming down my face.

    Part of why I am going for my masters degree in mental health
    counseling is because I want to help new mothers – especially in the
    hospital setting. There needs to be counselors on hand for trauma.
    I am so sorry that you had to experience the duality of the joy of birth
    (which is hard enough – though you were a laughing mama which I think is beautiful)
    and then death – all in one fell swoop – without any chance to grieve or to mourn.
    As Greg wrote, I experienced how just horribly mothers are treated in the hospital setting
    but what you went through, I just have no words. Just how sorry I am.

    I’m glad this forum exists for you – we all get to share in your grief and you get
    room and a place to let it flow. I’m so glad I know you and your amazing family.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Mrs. TK,

      This was what happened 29 years ago.
      Imagine, just imagine, what it was like 50 years ago,
      or 100 years ago.

      You are absolutely needed, but my oh my oh my, back in the day, I don’t know how anyone survived.

      • Dearest Irene, again,

        And how. My grandmother had a stillborn and a one year old die before my father was born.
        I don’t know how she did it, either. This was in the 1930’s. She never spoke of it.

        Anyway – my heart goes out to you – again – been thinking of you all day.

        • Irene Zion says:


          Women were expected to be stoic back then.
          Obviously they weren’t actually that way, but they had to appear to be to the family, to the neighbors, to the world.
          Imagine the pressure on their souls.
          The death of their babies and compulsory silence about them.
          Pretending they didn’t ever exist, that they never turned in moms’ bellies, that their being wasn’t emblazoned in moms’ minds.
          I may be wrong, but I think at that time there was even a taint of shame involved in “allowing” a baby to die.
          Lord, but things are better now.
          Now. Things are better.

  34. Hi Irene–

    I see you’ve been off the comments board for awhile and I hope you’re sleeping, and resting peacefully after having written this story that has been so long in the making, and that it’s given you some catharsis to tell it here.

    You did a beautiful, eloquent, devastating job. As the mother of identical twin daughters, I feel wrecked by the agony of what happened to you. I feel wrecked by your poisonous mother, and my admiration for your own wisdom and kindness and humor is tripled every time I read about what your mother was like. You are a miracle, overcoming a woman like that to become who you are: to your kids and all of us here at TNB.

    This has impacted me probably more deeply than anything I’ve ever read on TNB. To imagine one of my daughters without the other is so unthinkable. It is the worst of pains to lose a child. And to lose your identical twin is to enter another reality, another space, another identity and future that nature did not originally intend for you. I know this has haunted Lenore too, and although how awesome she is must be a great comfort to you on the one hand, knowing that her twin sister would no doubt have been an equally amazing woman is a loss you and Lenore will both carry forever. I ache for you both for this.

    Thank you for telling this not-funny story. We all needed to hear it, and I hope that our hearing and knowing and sitting with it will be of help to you in any small way.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Oh Gina,

      Truthfully, I have been waiting for you.
      You are the one who understands what is different here.
      I have been waiting for you.

      (I have not been resting, unfortunately, I’ve been doing icky stuff involving hospitals and insurance and X rays and waiting rooms, and I hardly slept last night wondering if anyone would even read a story that wasn’t funny or timely or short. It physically hurt me to think that Margot’s story wouldn’t be read. I feel much better today. Yes, I do.)

      (I had been waiting for you, and now you are here.
      Thank you, Gina.)

      • And now I’m crying all over again. This story has haunted me all day. I went to pick my girls up from a rehearsal for a talent show they’re in, and there they were, trying so hard to “look different” from one another: one wearing bangs and the other without; one dressed like a tomboy and the other like a fashionista. There they were, trying so hard to be their own particular selves, to express their own particular souls and differentiate themselves. And yet when they’re wet with their hair slicked back, even their own father can’t tell them apart. And yet when their voices are eerily the same music, and they often speak in stereo with one another, and they use the bathroom within 30 seconds of each other and lose their teeth on the same days. They fight like cats, and look at one another like looking into a mirror, so that voicing their anxieties about themselves they sometimes say to the other, “I hate your face.” And yet at night they sleep like kittens in a new litter: piled together and limbs entwined, as though the touch of the other feels identical to them to their own skin.

        Twins are a strange and beautiful and complicated phenomenon. It is probably the most intimate relationship possible in humanity, which is hard to understand and accept since so many–most, by far–of us will never experience that type of symbiosis and unconditional understanding and identification. Twins are the exception to the adage, “We’re all born alone.”

        Unfortunately even they cannot rectify the truth that “we all die alone.”

        You know, the year I adopted my daughters from China was the first year that any of the local American agencies could recall there being “twin adoptions.” While it’s hard to verify this, conventional wisdom is that prior to that year–about 10 years ago–that our referrals were being made, twins were simply “split up” and adopted to different families. So many times over the years, I have found myself plagued by imagining the “what if” of my daughters having been separated, so that I would not even KNOW there had been “another,” and so that their own pre-verbal memories of the other would have remained forever out of reach, impossible to articulate and recognize, and imagining the emptiness and loss that would have been there.

        It’s hard for me not to project a lot of that onto Lenore, who may well not wish for such projections or feel them in the way I imagine she does (so if you read this, Lenore, I apologize for what I may be “writing on” to your life.) But who of us has not longed for “another” like ourselves, who would always, always “get it,” even when we grew as tired of looking at their face as we are of looking at our own, and are as hard on their own foibles as we are on ourselves? To have a twin . . . well, it’s like the daemons of the His Dark Materials trilogy, isn’t it? For most people, that is only a fantasy, like sci-fi, but for twins, it’s real.

        And so I think of you hovering on the ceiling, and the added complexity of the fact that the small life you were holding and loving and mothering back into the world of the living was the mirror of the one you’d lost, and the way that must have both heightened and complicated your frantic, protective love and grief. You wrote in one of the comments that your body was a “good body” to get you through everything while you lived on that ceiling. But I think the truth is that your heart was and is a good heart, and that even from the distance and numbness of the ceiling you were able to love more fully–even through your grief–than many people can in their best, highest moments.

        I had better stop here. I am going to lose it in a minute.

        I am so grateful tonight for my daughters, and I’m grateful for your amazing Zion brood, and all the joy that is possible in this world even in the face of unspeakable loss.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I think they even broke up twins here in this country to put up for adoption.
          Imagine. Can’t imagine. Imagine.

          To this day, I pass a twin stroller and I have all I can do to smile and keep the sobbing inside.
          In the beginning, I was driven to tell mothers of twins how lucky they are, but never did, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop at that. I knew the dike would break.

          Lenore and Margot were born at the same time as the “DoubleMint Twins” commercials. Those commercials and magazine ads scraped raw bleeding places in my heart.

          I remember making “deals” with God, to get my daughters back as they were supposed to be. Crazy, magical thinking. Even God couldn’t make time go backwards.

          My first painting is of the twins when Lenore was in about 7th grade, I think, there is a clock on it with the numbers in reverse. So much more. So much more.

        • Irene Zion says:

          In case readers would like to see it, I posted a copy of this painting at the bottom of the story.

  35. Marcia (former next-door neighbor in Illinois and frequent visitor to Florida) says:

    Irene, I don’t know how you were able to write this. It was hard enough just to read it.

    Love, Marcia

  36. Marcia (former next-door neighbor in Illinois and frequent visitor to Florida) says:

    This comment is not for Irene but for anyone else who is wondering what they could do to help someone who has lost a child.

    Often when something like this happens to family or friends we feel helpless and don’t know what to do to help and not say something to make it worse. One thing we can do is to encourage the people grieving to join Compassionate Friends or a similar group. If you aren’t familiar with it, Compassionate Friends is a group of people who have lost children and who make themselves available to talk to, sit with, and generally support people who are grieving for children. I know a number of people who have received a lot of comfort from being able to just talk to someone who understands what they’re going through without a lot of explanation. I don’t think this organization existed in 1981.

    • Irene Zion says:

      If it existed, Marcia,
      I didn’t know.
      And I didn’t love you
      until I met you
      when Ben was 6 months old.

  37. Ed says:

    It’s very courageous to open up and let people see inside you like this. Thanks for calling a time-out, for sharing such private thoughts and feelings, and for coummunicating so well.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Thank you, Ed.
      The fact that you read this makes me feel so lucky.
      This one means so much to me.
      I needed it to be read.
      I really did.

  38. Meghan says:

    Thank you for writing this, Irene, and for publishing it. It must have taken so much courage and – well – labor to write this.

    • Irene Zion says:


      Writing this was a calling. I had to do it.
      But publishing it,
      oh my oh my
      publishing it was terrifying.

  39. Tawni says:

    My comment box is shimmering because I’m viewing it through tears. I can’t stop crying. This broke my heart for you, Irene. There isn’t anything worse than losing a child.

    I can’t believe you weren’t allowed to grieve the way you needed to grieve, or shown more compassion. I can’t believe nobody in the hospital listened to you. It’s so awful. I can’t believe your mother spoke to you angrily about a stroller when you needed warmth. You needed a hug, not a guilt trip. I can’t believe the woman with the death certificate walked into the room with a smile on her face. I’m glad you threw the clipboard. I hope that made her stop smiling.

    Thank you for so bravely sharing your pain with us. I think your daughter Lenore is amazing and I will never forget your other daughter Margot. xoxo.

    • Irene Zion says:


      I have often thought of that smiling woman.
      She got up each day and put on her make up.
      She obviously touched up her red lipstick often.
      She put a huge smile on her face, came into the rooms of the grieving, with a clipboard stacked with death certificates.
      Every day.
      How could anyone do that job?
      How could anyone doing that job, do it grinning?

      That smile, given my wits were obviously not anywhere near me, told me that there had been a mistake. That my babies were fine after all.
      Just a mistake.
      I would have believed anything then.

      • Irene Zion says:

        And Tawni?

        Lenore is totally amazing. She continues to surprise me with the things she is able to do.

        Thank you for remembering Margot.

        I need for her to be remembered.

    • Gloria Harrison says:

      Yes, the stuff about your mom and the lady with the clipboard…dear god. Holy shit. Worse than the flowers. I’m so sorry.

    • Irene Zion says:


      That was just who my mother always was.
      But my dad.
      Wasn’t my dad something?
      He dressed up so carefully.
      Everything that could be shined, was shined.
      He probably hoped my mother could keep her
      mouth shut
      for such a situation
      for just a short time,
      but he knew what to do
      and he got her out of there.
      for me.

  40. Pamela Norinsky says:

    Dear Irene,
    When I came to visit you in Champaign, you told me about Lenore’s twin Margot. I felt so very sad for you then. Now I’m sitting here after reading your painful heartwrenching account of delivering Lenore and Margot and I have the biggest lump in my throat. It’s truly amazing how one continues to go on with life after such heartache. As a mother and woman, I give you a special award! I believe part of you was numb up there on the ceiling and the other part was doing what comes naturally, loving and caring for our children and husband. God bless you for being the person you are. You are one amazing woman.

    You can put your thoughts into words like no other. I envy you and love you.

    P.S. How did you become such a kind and caring person raised by a mother like yours?

  41. Irene Zion says:

    Ah, sweet Pamela,

    I don’t want to be amazing.
    I don’t want to get an award.
    I only want my baby back
    who was stolen from me in life
    and stolen from me in death.

  42. Ducky Wilson says:

    This shattered me. Oh, Irene. I’m so sorry.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Yeah, Ducky.

      It shattered me and scattered me to the winds.
      Keeping the family from shattering was a terribly difficult job for me, being on the ceiling and all.
      My body had to take care of that.

      I wrote this so that the reader would feel himself shatter as though the reader were me.
      Took me a long time.
      Thank you for feeling it and thank you for your kind words.

      • Anon says:

        Job well done, then, Irene. I’m holding my pieces together by force of will alone right now and keep feeling the shards shift beneath my fingers despite the effort.

        In case you haven’t heard it enough and though you don’t desire it, you are an amazing woman. And, not even knowing you, you have ensured that I will always remember Margot. I can’t give her back but I can give you that. Cold comfort, a half-notch above no comfort at all.

        • Irene Zion says:


          I will always remember your two babies, your two children, as well,
          my “half-notch above no comfort at all” for you and your wife.
          Remembering is validation.
          It’s something rather than nothing,
          something very feather-light,
          something insubstantial,

  43. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Irene, there is not much I can say, except ndo, which is how my people express condolence, and: I’ve heard you. I will remember to not just listen to the grieving, but to hear them, as well.

    Be well.

  44. Irene Zion says:

    Thank you, Uche,

    You are a kind man, as well as a smart one.

  45. Gloria Harrison says:

    I am sitting on my bed in my bedroom and I am crying so hard that I feel like the loss was my own. I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with being premenstrual – though that just makes my grief and sadness grow as if under a microscope. My boys, my twin boys, just came in and needed me to answer a question and I have never in my life wanted to be more available to answer their question than I was right then.

    This line made me laugh out loud and then cry a little bit harder: I thought of ways to kill her.

    I spent years watching my body from the ceiling. Dissociation – there’s a name for it. I’ve only just learned how to watch the world out of my eyes in the last five years and I still don’t get it right every time. This story put me squarely back in my body.

    When Tolkien and Indigo were born, they were the first babies I was going to get to keep – I’d put the first two up for adoption. One when I was 16 and one when I was 20. I didn’t know until a week before I gave birth that I was having twins, so I spent the whole pregnancy talking to my belly, getting used to the idea that I would get to keep this one. When they were born, Tolkien wasn’t breathing, but they fixed that for us. I spent the first year of their lives holding them and carrying them every moment I could – in love with my children. In love with being allowed to have them finally. This is probably why I breastfed them until they were two, at least partly.

    This is the saddest story I’ve ever read. And you are a beautiful woman who wrote it beautifully. Thank you.


  46. Irene Zion says:

    Oh Gloria,

    How wonderful of you to have born two children and given them to families who would not otherwise have children. That is the kindest act a woman can do. You made two families that would not otherwise have existed. You are a really special person to do that. I am in awe of you.

    I thought there was a word for it, but I didn’t know what it was. Dissociation. Well, I was certainly dissociated.

    I wasn’t when I was thinking of ways to kill her. As I think I told someone else, if I hadn’t been so tired, I’d have killed that ungrateful woman and also killed my mother. You kill one, you might as well kill two, right? I certainly had provocation, and I’m pretty sure the penalty would be the same anyway.

    You are so very lucky to have your boys. Since it was so long before you could keep your own, you treasure them more than others would. Sometime, give them a hug from me. That would feel good to me.

  47. anon says:

    Irene, this story is, hands down, the most accurate description of grief and despair I’ve ever seen. Thank you. I can have someone else read this and tell them this is what it is like to lose someone you love. This, these words…they paint it clearly. It’s like being blind…and then you see.

    I keep a secret that I rarely share, but anonymously, I will here even if only to open a dialogue:

    I, too, have experienced such trauma that I had a dissociative experience. I do not mention this to garner sympathy, nor do I want any. I only want to share in case others have experienced “the floating.” No one ever talks about these things and when I read your story, I knew–you experienced it too.

    I had angered my step-father and as I stood on the porch, all of five years old. I don’t know what I did or said and I never saw his fist come toward me. I don’t recall the pain of my teeth being forced out of their snuggly home and I suppose that swallowing them was probably something that happened by accident. I do remember vividly him telling me through clenched teeth that I had to say that I had fallen. I fell down the stairs of the porch and the broken mangled gums and lips were from the concrete. I had to repeat this lie for him. I knew what would happen if I didn’t.

    I had to have emergency surgery. I saw the whole thing happen from the ceiling. I could almost feel the pulling of my soul right out of my shell, like a tugging and then, I was there, watching from above. I stayed there for a long time watching the surgeon with his mint green scrubs and the light that seemed to shine down only on my little body. I wasn’t sad. I didn’t feel anything: I just watched.

    The memory of it has never changed: it was almost like tunnel vision and when I turned to see something, the tunnel did not widen, it just moved to where I needed to see. I did not feel as though I was a tangible thing and my view was not the same as seeing something with your eyes. I don’t know how I rejoined myself. I wasn’t back “in” until the next day. I had no sense of time while I was “out.” It is not something I can control and it only happened during extremely traumatic times.

    • Irene Zion says:


      This perfectly horrible story is going to help people. It can’t be just the two of us who have these out-of-body experiences. Earlier another commenter called it “dissociation.” So it even has a name.

      People who have been through something as appalling as you have may well have thought they were the only ones who have experienced it. They may have never told anyone. Now, if they read this, they will know that they are not alone. There are others who know this state.

      Obviously this is something that saves the person from feeling something that is simply too painful to bear. The brain is a wonderful thing. It comes in in the ninth inning and says “take a break! I’ll take over for as long as you need. Just go up there on the ceiling and rest some. Let me know when you can come down.”

      You are a very brave person to tell us this personal story. Thank you.
      Thank you.

  48. Quenby Moone says:

    What can be said about a grief so profound? Just that even though you cannot shake grief like this, you aren’t alone, and the people who you’ve reached out to reach back with a love a thousand fold in return.

    Not any solace to the woman on the ceiling who will always be missing that most basic part of her, her own child, nor any solace because…where is there any ever for wounds that don’t heal?

    I’ve got nothing else. Just love a thousand-fold in return for a gift so deep and painful as this one: the story it must have been heart-rending to write, re-live, re-tell.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Thank you for reading and for feeling what I tried to make you feel, Quenby.
      The hardest part, (after living it, after being it,) was hitting “PUBLISH.”
      I really thought that perhaps no one would read a story this hard, this not funny.

  49. Elizabeth Collins says:

    Irene, all I can say is Wow. I am so sorry for your loss, but if it is any comfort, you have written a truly transformative piece here. Very important–and while obviously deeply personal, it also has that universal immediacy. I can’t even believe how articulate you’ve been about such an amazingly painful experience. Like Elie Wiesel–seriously–it can take years to find the words, but you did it. Masterful.

    • Irene Zion says:


      I am overwhelmed by your kind words.
      I am immensely grateful and flummoxed by being compared to such a master.
      I’ll remember this forever.
      I just might print it and have it framed.
      I’m not likely to hear such words again.

  50. Sarah Bell says:

    Wow, Irene. Wow. I’m speechless. Beautiful and painful all at once.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Sarah Bell,

      I appreciate that you commented, even though you say you are speechless.
      It lets me know that this story, which is so important to me, reached you.
      This is what I needed to hear.

  51. Mandy says:

    -Thank you Gloria for directing me here.

    -Thank you Irene for taking the time to share your experience.

    As painful as this was to read, my pain is nothing.
    As much as I wish I could understand, I am thankful I don’t.
    As stupid as people can be, so so many are not. (in reading the comments I have hope for us humans after all)
    I hate that your awful pain brings me more appreciation for my boys, but it does.
    I don’t know you, but am very grateful to have peaked through your window.

    • Irene Zion says:


      The fact that you may appreciate your boys more, after reading this, is a mitzvah for me.
      We all need to realize how lucky we are.
      That’s why I volunteer. There is much for which to be grateful.
      If you look at my stories, most of them are actually funny.
      This is why I warned readers from the start that they were entering unknown territory and may want to reconsider.
      You are cordially invited to peep through my eyes at the world anytime.
      I have seen and lived a lot and I really still have a lot to say.

    • Judy Prince says:

      Mandy, how directly, clearly and beautifully you’ve give these profound conclusions:

      “As painful as this was to read, my pain is nothing.
      As much as I wish I could understand, I am thankful I don’t.
      As stupid as people can be, so so many are not. (in reading the comments I have hope for us humans after all)
      I hate that your awful pain brings me more appreciation for my boys, but it does.”

      These ironies you’ve (and we’ve) experienced illustrate the complexity of “simple” reactions.

      They also illustrate your wisdom!

  52. anon says:

    I came here through Tawni, but could just as easily have done so through Gloria, so thank you to both friends. You two will probably know who I am.

    I read, appreciated your skill, sat, detached, for a few moments… and then started weeping for Amy, the firstborn who never got to be born, 34 Thanksgivings ago this year. She knows, I said aloud, she knows! Oh, Irene.

    It never goes away. When you don’t talk about it, the pain sneaks out and dresses up as other things. I didn’t wholly bond with my only other child, the baby who lived, my son, when he was born not quite two years later. I know now that it was because of the fear that he’d die too, sooner or later. I’m wracked by guilt to this day for that, thinking if only I’d loved him enough right away, his life would have been better, cleaner, less painful.

    He’s 31 now, and I love him more deeply than anyone. He told me a few months ago that he’d gone to a lawyer with his father and they’d made wills. He made me his heir. He must think I’ll never die. Isn’t that fine?

    • Irene Zion says:

      Welcome, my newest anon,
      this is a peaceful place
      where you can speak your mind
      and I will hear you,
      we can talk things through.

      Amy does know, anon.
      34 years is a blink in time
      it can hardly be measured.
      She is growing and watching and listening.
      Amy knows that she is loved so deeply
      that your chest throbs painfully
      almost always from the loss of her.

      Didn’t you know that she knows
      that he knows
      that everyone

      There are long lives
      there are short lives

      Your son’s life is what it was supposed to be.
      A mother can only do the best she can,
      how can she do more than her best?

      Anon, you think you could have done better with him.
      Show me a mother who does not believe that about herself.
      Show me one.
      Show me one with a heart as big as yours.

      There is no clean, painless, better way to grow up.
      Growing up is always hard.
      It is the nature of the beast,
      it has nothing to do with the external.

      That he wants to believe that
      you will never
      that is a testament.

      Can you hear me, anon?

      That is a testament
      that he is grateful
      for what you

      A testament
      to show you
      how very much
      mean to

  53. anon says:

    Thank you for the kind words. You’re a good woman, and I doff my tinfoil hat to you.

  54. sheree says:

    This is a testament of the darkest anguish too many women suffer in silence alone. Thank you for braving the courage to share it with the world. Some women never find the words to express the emotional hell that lashes out to consume them day in and day out for the duration of their lives. I admire your strength and courage and willingness to share your story.

    It’s odd the things we notice when death comes to call. When my grandmother told me that my father had finally died after being in a coma for what seemed years due to a massive head injury. All I can remember is the flat pink lipstick on her old mouth. Before I blacked out from her words of my fathers death, I reached up and smeared that flat pink lipstick from her old mouth. To this day the sight of pink lipstick sickens me.

  55. Irene Zion says:

    Those lips with the flat pink lipstick said the words you never wanted to hear, sheree.
    It wasn’t the lipstick
    or the lips
    or the grandmother.
    It was the message
    that sickened you against pink lipstick
    It’s easier for your mind
    to concentrate on the
    the lipstick,
    than facing the death of your father
    and over
    and over.

    Death is such an ugly thing.
    Such a thief.
    It steals more than your loved one.
    It tiptoes in and carries off a piece of your heart
    and leaves a black aching place
    that can

  56. sheree says:

    Amen to that.

  57. Marni Grossman says:

    Oh, Irene. This was incredibly powerful. It would have been powerful by virtue of the story itself, of course. But the writing was so good that it was twice as heartbreaking.

    I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine that kind of loss.

    But you are strong. And wonderful. And just the best mother. And so you held on, for Lenore Margot.

  58. Irene Zion says:


    Your comments are always so kind.
    It does me good to just see your face up on the comment board.

    I held on for Lenore Margot and Timothy Maxwell and Lonny Misha and Sara Miriam and Victor Michael.

    The way I felt then, had I been alone and not responsible for others, and not loved others, I’m pretty confident that I would have ended my life. It was an untenable place as it was, but without my family, I had nothing. Depression is the darkest evil. I could write forever on just that word.

  59. Erika Rae says:

    I’m so used to comedy from you – but you write tragedy just as beautifully. This was so intense. As a mother, I can’t even imagine how that must have been. The most horrific thing is that no one said anything to you – that they just let the silence hang. That feels almost cruel.

    The lack of M for a middle name: thanks for taking us through that. It’s amazing the reasons that go through our head for tragedies. Of course, you know it’s not true, but it doesn’t matter. It’s still the reason.

    You have such a gift, Irene. And such scars.

  60. Irene Zion says:

    Thank you for reading, Erika Rae,
    Your opinion means a lot to me.
    The silence DID feel cruel, but the reason for it was far from cruel, it was that no one wanted to tell me how badly things were turning out when I was so jubilant. Then, since my poor Victor was a surgeon at the hospital, everyone just naturally asked him what to do about everything, since that was what always happened before. Just a confluence of circumstances. Didn’t turn out to be a good one for me, but it was just the way things turned out.

    My last baby, Benjamin Malcolm, has, as you can see, a middle name beginning with M.
    A brain can know something perfectly well, but the gut cannot be denied….

    One thing I have learned, is that everyone has scars. No one is spared. You may not know what it is, but no one escapes tsooris.

    • Erika Rae says:

      That was a new word for me – tsooris. Thanks for that.

      And you’re right about the scars. Everyone does have them. It’s integral to our humanity somehow. Ruts the size of canyons in our souls for some of us.

      The way you wrote this was brilliant. It was powerful how you spoke of yourself in the third person for part of it.

      • Irene Zion says:

        Erika Rae,

        That was because I was divided into two.
        I stayed on the ceiling and just watched to make sure everything was okay.
        My body did all the work I told it to do.

        Erika Rae,

        There are so many Yiddish words that have no counterpart in English. I’m only beginning to learn them.

  61. Jude says:

    Oh… not sure why yours is disappearing as I can see it on my screen.

    Baby gravitar is me – wish I was still that good-lookin’! And young…

  62. Jude says:

    Someone in previous posts (not sure who but could’ve been the RichRob Master of Gravatars) mentioned the Shift thingee… Anyway it worked and that’s the main thing.

    These computers – baffling at times aren’t they!

  63. Jude says:

    VB looks like he could inflict serious damage with that light saber…

    • Judy Prince says:

      VB does look a little fierce, doesn’t he? He’s the graphic representation of the Very Strange cat of my dear friend, poet Patrick McManus. I drew the piccie from a photo, having never seen VB. Rodent has seen him, though, and said he will never forget those blazing eyes staring down at him from the top of the stairs. Needless to say, dear Rodent chose not to go up and pet VB.

  64. irene:

    your story breaks my heart. it is so beautifully-written and evocative. thank you for sharing such a personal experience. i have no doubt the nurse was right when she told you that margo elizabeth was beautiful. is beautiful still.

    no platitudes. after i read yours, i did not want to post my story today. i did. you are so right when you acknowledge that we all have our tsooris. and our scars. i needed to deal with mine through humor. they have felt big lately. perspective is priceless. i’m glad i posted. thank you.



  65. Irene Zion says:


    (Excuse me if I am incoherent in my response. The alarm company woke us up at 2 AM because they keep “fixing” our smoke alarm in a manner which one would not call “fixed.” I cannot get back to sleep, naturally.)

    I’m glad you posted. I will go to read your story next. If you look back at what I’ve written in the past years, almost all of it is tsooris which is worked and worked until it is black comedy. I was and am able to do this almost all the time, but this particular story needed to be told as it was. I actually tried, but I simply couldn’t rework this one to make it funny. My daughter was able to do so, and God bless her, I am so happy that she could.

    You are compassionate in your words to me, lauren, and I greatly appreciate it.

    • i am a tsooris writer, too. i call it “sad girl” writing. it’s what i do best, i think.

      your story definitely needed to be told. and it was stark and painful and it hurts to think about it. which means you did it justice. there was no dark humor. you just can’t make some things funny. (though you have been very funny in your comments to me!)

      compassion available anytime you need it …

    • oh irene. i’m so sorry. her name was/is margot eliza and i wrote it wrong. the piece of paper with names just kills me.

      • Irene Zion says:

        Oh sweetie, that kind of thing like a misspelling is bubkis. I don’t worry about such things. I only notice misspellings because I was a high school teacher and I’m OCD. I’d make a great proof reader. (Turning lemon into lemonade….)

        It’s amazing how preserved that paper with the names is. I decided to put it in an envelope in the safe now unfolded, for a time that Lenore might want it. I guess my wallet isn’t really a good place for preserving something important to me. It’s not as though I’ll ever forget their names without it. We named our last baby Benjamin, but his middle name couldn’t be Nicholai. It’s Malcolm. As I’ve said before, I’m pretty sure, my brain may know one thing perfectly well, but my gut rules the decisions I make, for good or evil.

        Oh, and I’ve made some amazingly horrible things into funny stories, or at least black comedy. I tried and tried and tried with this one, but it was the one that resisted. Better off leaving it the story as it was, stark and hard.

  66. susan gomez says:

    Thank you for allowing me to read this powerful piece of the angst you experienced at the loss of a child. I can understand how you waited to publish this until you had enough distance to make it explicit, but readable. I’m so sorry for the horror, depression and isolation this caused you. Thank God someone had the courage to listen to your profound panic.
    Has her twin always felt as though part of her was missing?
    I am quite sure I never recognized you as a person of this depth when we were kids. I guess we don’t really know each other, but I’d like to.
    Susan Gomez

    • Irene Zion says:


      I really appreciate your reading my story and also the fact that you understood it so well.
      I make it a practice of never speaking for Lenore.
      She’s a grown woman now.
      Her thoughts and feelings belong only to her.

      I pretty much hid in High School, hating it as I did. I don’t think anyone knew me, which was how I wanted it at the time.
      Didn’t we go to NYU WSC together too?

  67. kristen says:

    God, this is amazing. You are one hell of a writer, Irene. Among so much else, you translated so painstakingly–and to beautifully painful result–the panic and confusion that I can only imagine accompanies such an event.

    Man. I am so very sorry for your enduring pain–and for that which produced it–but congrats on a stunning piece of writing.

  68. Mark Rotunda says:

    You are simply an amazing writer Irene. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Mark, Erica, and Nicholas send our love.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Mark, Erica and Nicholas,
      I send my love right back to you!

      Thank you for reading and thank you for your considerate words.

  69. Irene Zion says:


    I am so honored to read your words.
    Your describing this as a “stunning piece of writing” just made my day, my week, my month and my year!

  70. Pat Gray says:

    Dearest Irene

    Your writing is so strong and heartfelt. I am sorry for your loss. To be able to write of your expereince with such clarity is a gift. The feelings that you have relived with the words must be
    horific but also a cleansing of your grief and your pain.
    I, also, am honored to read your work, your feelings and your memories. You are able to write in such a way I can only dream of.
    Thank you for sharing your work and your life.
    I wish that time could have been different for you. To hold, to love, to dream – – no second thoughts, no regrets, no what ifs. Life is so hard but yet so good with family and friends.

  71. Irene Zion says:

    I really appreciate your reading Margot’s story. It has been a long time waiting to be told correctly. Sometimes you need some space from a trauma to see it more clearly. Also, writing this has been difficult and has taken me more than a year because I wanted it to be as close to perfect a retelling as I could get.
    Also, waiting has given me the perspective of others who were part of the drama of the event. That in itself was a long time in coming to me.
    The event itself is seared in my memory. I have not forgotten a moment before, during and for at least a year afterwards. I could and did have so much more information which I elected to pitch, for the sake of keeping the story short enough to be read at one sitting.

    Everyone has what ifs, Pat. I am by far not alone in this. It is truly the human condition.
    And, to teach you a yiddish word, not one person on earth escapes from tsooris.

    Thank you so much for reading, Pat. May the tsooris in your life be done.

  72. […] IRENE ZION had six children, including a set of identical twin girls.  This story is about her twins.  This is not a funny story. […]

  73. Frank says:


    There’s reason aplenty to comment, and I have a raft of them, but this was a powerful story, your most powerful to date, and one perhaps far too raw and personal and tragic for an off-the-cuff, first reading, truly not fully explored and considered response… Plus, there’s a bit of a personal note from my side about it all -and, as it turns out, from both my side -AND Sally’s -as well. And finally, surprisingly for me, I didn’t finish reading it through the first time…

    Well, by now I have, and I have observations and questions and comments. I thought you & Victor would make it to our friend’s friend’s Big Six-Oh, and I was planning on talking to you there about it some, and that would have answered some of your questions, but that opportunity never arose.

    So here are some of my thoughts, now…

    There are many things I want to say, but I’m unsure how they’ll come out, or what order I want to say them in, or even if I should say any one thing or another…

    First and foremost, like many others, I hurt for you. I am so sorry..

    Just in case you didn’t know, my full name is Frank Frederick Baron, III. I have an older step, Frank E. Baron. I once met him at my cousin’s place in suburban Brooklyn or Queens, when I was around 7 or 8 or so. He didn’t seem that much older than me, but who knows what a 7 or 8 or so year-old really thinks is old at that age? I was born in ’48, and -I think -Mom & Dad were married in ’46. They might have been married in ’47 -more later. But Dad was a Petty Officer in the Seabees in the Navy in The War, going from North Africa, then to Sicily and Italy, and finally to the South Pacific at Saipan and Tinian, building bases from which the B-29s would bomb Japan -which was rather late in the War, so I don’t know when his other (first?) marriage would have taken/been taking place… But I don’t think Frank E would have been more than 5 or 6 years older than me -I mean, he didn’t look like a big ole teenager (remember when kids 13-19 were called that?) to me and my 7 or 8 or so years… Why he was Frank E, and I was The Third, didn’t occur to me then, but has, on occasion over the years. As had when they were married…

    Be that as it may, that’s a little background to the rest of the story…

    The rest of the story is that my Mom lost my “real” older brother. He, apparently, was still-born.

    But of that (the latter) I’m not even sure -I’ll need to consult my sister to see if she recalls anything being said about it.

    Same for Sally -she would have had an older sibling, but apparently didn’t live past some few days. Later, when she was six, her Mom went away to the hospital beacuse she was ‘sick’; she apparently miscarried.

    I do not minimize your tragedy -it was real, and it hurt, and still does. However, Sally’s experience does say that some of life’s sorrows are not nearly as rare as we think -perhaps want or like to think? -n this modern age; think of what it may be like in parts of Africa, Asia, closer to home in Haiti or other areas of the Third World. what it was like on the frontier, in the Dark Ages, in pre-historic times…

    At any rate, there’s our -my -first personal connection on my side to your recitative…

    My second is that the only way she ever let anything about it be known -and that, at best, circuitously round-about, was that I was a blue baby. I apparently also shared with Lenore Margot the sprouting tubes when just after being born presentation, as they perfused the ‘blue blood’ out of me. You see, I was being rejected by her -her antibodies, that is -left over from the unknown unnamed Baby One as they sought to expel the foreign body -me -from hers. In that way, she, or they -Mom & Dad? the whole family? -were more or less like Victor in talking about/dealing with it.

    The irony is, and here’s the third personal connection -is that I, too, am O-Negative -good for everyone else (universal blood donor status), less so for myself in this particular case.

    So your story ‘hit home’ in that way, and offers a small insight into what my Mom may have felt -then, and perhaps even along the way, for years thereafter. We weren’t exactly poor, but as a family, our needs always seemed to be constrained by a certain lack of money. Mom never worked (while married -I think I recall she was a telephone operator before that) -and I suspect it was because my Dad may have been a bit old school that way, and felt like ‘no wife of his should have to go to work to help make ends meet’… So she took in foster kids -my biological sister and I probably had around 50 brothers and sisters along the way, including some shall we say out-of-the-ordinary types -and got paid by the State to have a foster home. Perhaps that was one of her ties to losing a child -surrounding herself with more, or maybe it was doing what she could, but she did enjoy being in charge of us…

    As to your story itself, I was struck by the depth of the tragedy, and your dealings with it, how different people around you dealt with your loss, and to tell you the truth, how you may still be dealing with it…

    The last thing you say about your ‘physical world’ life is that you returned to the ceiling.

    Are you still there? Really? And how are you now, really. I don’t have an appointment to go to…

    I think TNB-ers now know why you and Brooklyn are ‘angels of mercy’ to those in need of kind words, loving licks, and just plain attention. The only one in your dark story who was any beacon was the Nurse Whose Name You Of Course Did Not Get, who was kind to you in ‘being square’ and forthright and honest and sympathetic with you. I don’t think you should castigate the others -perhaps other than Your Mother, whom you have previously also characterized as (to be kind) aloof and distant. Victor folded it up and put it away in a deep dark, corner recess, the tragedy and sadness better not to be handled again. Your Father knew, but took His Wife away before more (thoughtless? thoughtFUL…???) vitriol could be spilled. The Clipboard Lady probably thought she was being professional and polite. The Woman in the Other Bed was clueless, ignorant of you, besides being a bit selfish -and who knows what her story of wanting a daughter and not a son entailed…?

    I am also reflective on the some of the differences between men and women, between husbands and wives, between mothers and fathers… In good times and usual circumstances both parents love their children, sometimes amazingly so. But there is a difference in that the mother carries and contributes something of her very self that the man does not, something inside, lived with, nurtured from the very core, physically and emotionally, ideally both positive, that the man loves and enjoys but experiences only externally. And that is some of what strikes me in your telling story as well… How close, intimate, physical, and interwoven the bond is between mother and child.

    Which sheds infinite light upon the breaking of that bond, prematurely. It is of course sad when a child precedes a parent in death. It is tragic when it happens the way you experienced it.

    I’m sure there are other dimensions to this that I’ve forgotten, or, perhaps have not even yet considered.

    Thank you for this deep and moving story. I hope publishing it was something of a catharsis. I certainly think it was an act of courage on your part to expose some raw and extraordinarily deep feelings.

    Thank you for sharing your self.

    • Irene Zion says:

      I find myself wondering why your slightly older step brother, since he was the first son, wasn’t named your name, including the III ? (Also, a tad off-topic, how you make the Roan Numerals with the lines on top of the I, while I can’t.) Did you get to see him often? Do you know him as a brother?

      I know perfectly well that I am not alone experiencing this grief. As I have been saying, but there are too many comments to read now, Tsooris happens to every family, perhaps to everyone.
      Just confining ourselves to babies, and Lord knows there’s so much more, every woman who tries month after month to conceive only to find the familiar flow of blood has returned, is experiencing grief for the child who will not be born. Every couple who has a miscarriage experiences death and grief, just exactly the same as that of a full-born child. After all, these are babies who died, who will never need shoes in which to take their first steps, who will never turn a bowl of spaghetti over on his head, who they do not get to raise as they had planned. Every stillborn child is a couple’s baby whose life was stolen at the moment of birth. Each child born ill, who stays in the hospital and never lives to leave it and come home is grief that will never, ever go away. Every child who is perfectly fine when she goes to sleep and dies from SIDS during the night, is yet another death, another hopeless grief, another heartbreak which will never heal.

      You started the tears flowing again when you asked me how I was really? When you said you had no appointments to go to and could listen.

      My mother, well, lets just leave her out of it for now. I just don’t have the strength right now to delve into her psyche.

      The woman beyond the curtain? I knew her. I can never forgive her. She knew my situation and still she continued to whine about her perfectly healthy baby. Never. Forgive. Her.

      How a person grieves is like the story of the snowflakes. Each has his own way. Each is equally valid.

      And yes, I have been off the ceiling for a long time now. Feet firmly planted. Thank you for asking.

    • Irene Zion says:

      I have been ruminating over my words about the woman behind the curtain.
      I have been wondering why I have still been actually angry.
      This anger does not make sense after all this time.
      Also, I know that she came to love her two boys as it was meant for her to do.
      I think I was stuck on anger for this woman, only because it was my strong memory of the time.
      Really, it is no longer appropriate for me to host anger for her, and now that I have been thinking of it, I really don’t anymore.
      How very odd to have realized this.
      Writing this story has been revelatory for me.
      It has opened my eyes to some things that I could not see before.
      How do you like that?

      • Frank says:


        I, too, have wondered why I, apparently (at least) son number 2 (perhaps number 3…?) was the recipient of family tradition and give both the Frederick and the 3rd, while my older step was “E”…

        And no. aside from that episode, I never met him again. And in fact, that was but an odd interlude, totally unexpected on my part -I was there, watching a huge box with perhaps a 12 or 14” black & white screen with a broadcast of the NY football Giants playing the Cleveland Browns -the first football game I can recall ever seeing… It seemed like it was a grey, cold, perhaps rainy fall day. I don’t even recall if my own Mom was there, but I think -perhaps -Frank E’s mother was. Beyond these hazy snippets of a distant memory, I don’t remember a thing.

        As to “Roan” numerals -they appear to have serifs (those ‘lines’ in the top (and bottom) of the Is) just fine. I think you’re perhaps confusing our response input font -something like a Tahoma, Arial, or Calibri -from our respo0nse output font -something like a Times New Roman or Georgia, which have serifs.

        Tsooris… I don’t know, Irene -this seems to transcend ‘tsooris’… it is a haunting and raining sadness, a broken inside, and torn from within aching tragedy… And yes, it has been shared by many, but it is, as you have so vividly, tellingly presented, such a personal one, too, and so unique to each and for each…

        I didn’t mean for you to cry, I was just offering the ear, maybe the shoulder, of a friend if it was needed…

        But I must admit, I was wholly and abhorrently shocked when I learned that you knew The Woman in the Other Bed, and she, you, and worse, knew you lost a child…! I was angry at her! My first thought was how COULD she…? And then I knew -there are some people who are SO self-centered that they ARE indeed clueless about the depth of other’s problems… They just DON’T care, because perhaps of a distance-decay function to their range of emotional involvement, that once it crosses some close threshold of involving them or not, it ceases to REALLY matter, and they actually cannot fathom importance beyond the orbit of themselves… I’m still angry at the way she treated you.

        So I’m not at all surprised you are, too… Maybe it’s “not appropriate for you to host anger for her”, but damn, Irene, she was a bitch! If you have managed, now, with the catharsis of this story and what reflections it’s engendered -“Writing this story has been revelatory for me.
        It has opened my eyes to some things that I could not see before. How do you like that?” -here’s how I like that: THAT is a Very Good Thing.

        And finally, it is also a Very Good Thing to know you’ve come down off the ceiling. For a long time…

        • Irene Zion says:

          That kind of crying I meant was a good thing, Frank. It meant you cared. Crying serves many masters, some good, some bad.

          I have to agree, Frank, it is very nice to be back on the ground with everyone else, actually taking part in my life again.
          Very nice indeed.

        • Irene Zion says:

          I realize that I am being a busybody here, but how can you not look into trying to find Frank E. Baron? You know his name and approximate age. Don’t you want to see what you can find out?
          Is anyone left alive, aside from him, who could elaborate on this very odd situation?
          Personally, I’d be spending lots of my free time on the internet trying to track him down and then trying to get in touch and talk to him. He’s your brother! Seriously, aren’t you curious enough to investigate?

  74. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    This story and your painting–heartbreaking and stabbingly beautiful, Irene. I’m not a religious person, but bless you and the baby girl who grows up in your dreams.

    • Irene Zion says:


      I value your kind words.
      I’m not sure that blessing and religious are necessarily related,
      but thank you for all that you said and thank you for reading.

  75. Amy says:

    After all these years of knowing you I had no idea. Thanks for the tears and the advice on how to help others who are grieving. I will think of your story the next time someone I know is hurting and just needs an ear. I love you!

    • Irene Zion says:


      I find it incredible that we’ve been friends for so long, and yet you didn’t even have an inkling of this part of my life. I suppose that it’s inside me so deep that I assume that people can see it.
      I’m so glad that you heard what I said about people who are grieving. I believe with all my heart that it is important to know this and to act accordingly. I am grateful that there are so many people out there who listen and hear.

  76. Mary Jane Hill says:


    Thanks for sharing your story. It was beautiful and painful all at the same time. I hope you don’t continue to blame yourself as it is most certainly NOT YOUR FAULT!!! You are a great mom to your children and they’re lucky to have you. I believe that Margot’s soul is definitely in heaven.

  77. Irene Zion says:

    Mary Jane,

    I wrote this story to put the reader in my place, to experience what I experienced at this wretched time, to see things through my eyes. When I was living it, I truly believed that naming my twins other than the family tradition of a middle name with M, was the thing that damned them. Thankfully, I have since learned that this is one type of what is called “magical thinking,” that no one has the power to affect the changes I thought I was responsible for.
    I now know that the only reason this incident happened is that I was not induced when my babies were both healthy and were past full-term and were fully large enough.
    I was angry about that for a very, very long time, when I finally understood things, but anger has a way of eating at your soul. It was true, but it didn’t help. It couldn’t make time go backwards; it couldn’t make the dead live. It only did me damage, so eventually I was able to let most of it go, although I don’t think I have been able to rid myself of it all the time.
    Thank you for being so considerate. I, too, believe that she is in heaven and also here on earth somehow participating in the background of our family’s life. You are a kind person, Mary Jane, and I appreciate your reading my story, especially this one.

  78. Reno J. Romero says:


    first, let me say that you are an amazing human being and very courageous for writing this. this is one powerful story and should be sent to major mags, etc. so sad. so thoughtful. so meditative. and, at times, uplifting in a humble way. i’m used to you making me laugh with your witty tone. i didn’t chuckle once with this one, but just shook my head and kept saying: no.

    the passage for your daughter getting older, dying her hair, etc, is wonderful. irene, that’s real good stuff. i was there with you. hell, i’m still there. i don’t see those images and feelings leaving any time soon.

    and then lenore. what a beginning, eh? geez. you know i adore your daughter, think she’s a huge talent, and like you–a very wonderful person. i’ve seen lenore twice. both times have been a pleasure. i’m glad she made it. i’m glad to have read her stories. i’m sure i’m not the only one.

    i don’t know what else to say, irene. but just know that you are one hell of a writer. one HELL of a writer and i will sit down and read your stuff any day. thank you for this story, irene. do take care.

    reno j. romero

  79. Irene Zion says:

    My oh my, Reno,

    You sure know how to sweet-talk an old lady!
    I always look forward to your thoughtful comments. You always point out something that you like or you don’t and that means something to me as a new writer. I need to hear the things that work and those that don’t. I always feel your honesty come through.

    Yeah, Lenore. She wrote something really funny lately. If you didn’t happen to see it, it will make you laugh! http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/lzion/2010/03/what-not-to-do-about-rat-mites/
    She’s a good girl.

    Thanks so much for reading and please, start writing again on TNB! We need the old salts. Write about searching in the desert for wood, eh?

  80. Nita Francis says:

    This was a major/major event in my life, too….the first loss I experienced as a naive Lamaze coach. Changed the kind of nurse I became.
    One important thing stays with me and I hope I shared with you… and will repeat here… is the huge deer (stag) that leapt across the highway in front of my vehicle that dark early morning as I was driving near the Mahomet exit on the way home. I think it was a sign of a strong soul moving on… beyond the tragedies of that night.
    Much love,

  81. Irene Zion says:


    That is something that I never knew.
    I really appreciate your telling me now.
    It is comforting.
    (As you always were, back in the day. Do you remember how easy Tim’s birth was? That is the way it is supposed to be.)

  82. King Saul says:

    A thought comes to my mind: if the events of the story never happened, then, the story is very creative, and if the events did happen, then, the wisdom of nature must take hold.
    And what is the wisdom of nature, one may ask? Well, through hundreds of generations and hundreds of thousands, nay, millions of happenings, it has been determined that horrible events must be remembered, but they also must be healed.

  83. Irene Zion says:

    How I wish, King Saul, that the events of the story never happened.
    I would love to be creative and free of grief.
    It’s so far out of reach as to be inconceivable.
    I will never know a world like this.

    Since horrible events must be remembered,
    I wrote this piece.
    Healing is somewhere in another galaxy, perhaps.

  84. Carl D'Agostino says:

    This left me with great emotional turmoil and sad discomfort. It gives a new profound dimension to Mothers’ Day in my mind. I got custody of my son and daughter in their early teens. Then my 13 year old daughter runs away to explore the wonderful world of Crack Cocaine on the streets of Dade and Broward counties. The most gut wrenching thing was when I had to sign the papers to release dental records for identification if they found her body. 5 years of living death. I’d catch little glimpses of info during that time from kids here and there. She’s 27 now, still struggles, but is trying. She has girl 7 and boy 2 – my delights. She’s a waitress Johnny Rockets, South Beach. Regards.

  85. Irene Zion says:

    Oh Carl,

    What a long, complicated, frightening story to tell in one short paragraph.
    Teenagers are such idiots and their dancing hormones keep their minds from working correctly.
    How painful this must have been for you,
    for her.
    At first read, I thought the dental records were actually to identify her body.
    What a relief to reread and see she is all right now.
    Everyone struggles, but she’s all right.
    And you have two irreplaceable grandchildren.
    What a ride you were on for five years!
    How did you survive?

    • Carl D'Agostino says:

      How survive? VODKA. However, now clean and sober 8 years and change!

      • Irene Zion says:

        Lord, that’s a monkey that’s hard to shake off your back, Carl!
        I totally understand how that gave you peace, however, all the more difficult to shake the damn monkey!
        Good for you, Mazel Tov!
        The percentages of people who make it are frighteningly slim.
        I am so proud of you!

  86. M.J. Fievre says:


    I can’t even begin to imagine how brave you had to be to write this, and then share this. I’m feeling a lot of love for you right now, and I applaud your courage! You took my breath away.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Thank you, M.J.

      Coming from a writer as excellent as you are, this means a great deal to me.
      It takes my breath away.

  87. […] IRENE ZION reflects on the tragedy of Margot, the child she lost. […]

  88. dwoz says:

    Sometimes you wish you could un-read something. Like right now.

    I just wasn’t quite ready, this morning, to have my heart ripped from my chest and fed to my sorrow.

  89. Irene Zion says:

    Oh dear dwoz,

    Thank you for those powerful words.
    I worked long and hard to let the reader feel what I felt, as I felt it.
    I appreciate you’re being willing to participate in my heartache.
    I really do.

  90. Irene, I’m so sorry for the loss of your beloved Margot and the horror you endured after she died. I called you “wise” a few weeks ago and you said your kids would laugh to hear you described as such. I have a hunch, though, they agree w/ me. Though, of course, you’d trade wisdom to have Margot here. You’re a deeply talented writer and we learn from you. Boundless good wishes, Irene.

  91. Irene Zion says:

    You are so sweet, Litsa.
    Thank you for your kind words.
    Thank you.

  92. Meg Worden says:

    Irene. Irene. Irene,
    You have lived the nightmare of mothers. The Nightmare of Mothers. You lived it and survived to tell the story. I am in awe.
    Of your writing,
    Your tenacity,
    Your bravery.
    Reading this make me cry into my arm right at the table at this coffee shop full of people.
    But I wouldn’t unread it.
    I wouldn’t change a thing.
    The impossibility of being human…


  93. Irene Zion says:

    Oh Meg.
    It is the nightmare of mothers.
    I didn’t think I could live it and
    not die from the pain.
    There is nothing to be in awe of,
    I had no choice.
    I had four children
    and a husband
    who needed me to live
    in spite of it all.
    The strength was from my family;
    it didn’t come from me.

    I’m not brave,
    never was.
    I was tenacious though.
    I held on to the ceiling by my nails.
    But I had to.
    I didn’t have a choice,
    you see?

    Thank you for crying
    thank you for not wanting
    to unread it.

    It is both impossible
    and unavoidable
    to be human.

  94. Damn, Irene. I really have no idea what to say after reading something like this. What a heartbreaking story. I had no idea. I truly had no idea. I mean, I had a difficult birth. I was a premie twin. Very premie. The doctors wondered whether my twin brother and I would survive. But we did. Man, from this point on I can never look back at my birth and bemoan the fact that it was a difficult one. Hell, at least I lived.

    Here’s much love and respect coming your way, Irene. And much love and respect to your entire family, whether they be in the flesh or the beautiful spirit.

  95. Irene Zion says:

    I never knew you were a twin, Rich.
    Are you fraternal or identical?
    I have a fascination with twins which is probably unhealthy, but there it is.
    My life was relatively understandable
    until this happened.
    Then all bets were off.
    Nothing ever made sense after this.

  96. […] She often writes about her family, the Zions, who are more interesting than your family, because they have funnier text exchanges.  This group includes Sara, who used to eat weird things; her Mercurial son (she can’t recall which); and the dearly-departed-but-never-forgotten Margot. […]

  97. hartford dental implants ct…

    […]Irene Zion | Nevermore | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…

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