(Reprinted and verb edited for Heather, because I love her more than I don’t like the phrase “passed away”. and because now that I have sat on my couch and screamed over the loss of the fabulous Madeline, I know even more that the small life mattered so much more than a little phrase. )
I do genealogy work. I’ve seen the phrase “(passed away) in infancy” for years.
I used to have the idea that because so little was said, that it didn’t matter as much. That parents didn’t come to love their kids until they were toddlers.
Since I assumed that the stiff upper lip of my pioneer ancestors protected them from pain, it didn’t bother me to see all the names who “(passed away) in infancy”.
Last year, when I was working on the Nano story that wouldn’t end, I took a good look at just what it might have been like for my great-great-great grandmother
?¢‚Ç¨?ìMary was followed by Felix when I was 18 . . .?Ç¬† had George when I was 22, and James at 24?¢‚Ç¨¬ù She nodded at Belle, ?¢‚Ç¨?ìThat girl came to be when I was 26 . . . Woodson joined the Union Cavalry and left for the war, I didn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t know I was pregnant when he left, Anna was born one week after he mustered out, I was 31. Thomas at 34. George (passed away) just before I had Sheridan at age 36, and he (passed away) before his first birthday. The winter was cold and he was tiny and ?¢‚Ç¨¬¶.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù She stopped here. Waited for the lump in her throat to pass as she thought of her two boys, then gasped, ?¢‚Ç¨?ìThen Mary (passed away) just 1 week before Samuel was born when I was 39. I was so upset over her dying that he wasn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t named until after the 1870 census. If you look at that record he was listed only as ?¢‚Ç¨?ìNo Name?¢‚Ç¨¬ù and the poor boy was already a year old by that time. I had nine children over a span of 23 years. I lost three of them in a span of three years. While still birthing children, while still trying to be a mother and a wife.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù She sat quietly. ?¢‚Ç¨?ìI buried my husband. We were married 63 years. Imagine! 63 years with the same person . . . It was a good long life. I lived it well. It was not easy, and I won?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t say that I wouldn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t have changed a thing, because it is clear that if I could have kept my children with me always, then I would have. Those are my only real regrets. The ones that still linger with me today. Never quite forgotten. No matter how I?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve ended up here in this place, I wish I would have had all of my children all of those years.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù
It was Sheridan that affected me most.
I knew he died young, but I did the math – and none of this was fun anymore. Not for now. Sheridan was 7 months old when he (passed away). Which didn’t seem like anything … I kind of already knew it … he was a baby, he (passed away) … okay … lots of babies died back then. It didn’t hit me … It wasn’t personal … I couldn’t relate …
But … now … Alex is 7 months old. I know what Alex does – I know how he crawls and laughs and smiles at me – I know what his voice sounds like – I know how he eats – How he pulls up, how he wants to see every. thing. I. am. doing. I know how he’s daily more of a little person – his own little person. And now I know that little Sheridan mattered. He wasn’t just another number – he was his own little person too – and …
I have no words. I got what I was looking for – I found the humanity – I’ll do more with the story at some point, but for now I’ve done what I set out to do, and I need to set it aside – I think I got more than I bargained for. And it kind of hurts.
Since then, when I see “(passed away) in infancy” I think of Matthew, of Bug, of Jackson, of William.
Now I know that “(passed away) in infancy” may be the only thing anyone could bear to write about them.
A great-aunt lost 3 boys in her first 10 years of marriage, and lost 4 boys total. I don’t even know how she survived. Now I’m on this mission to find these boys, to tell their story – just because it’s a short story doesn’t mean it doesn’t get an entry in the family history. This weekend, those 4 boys who “(passed away) in infancy” are getting found, and getting their names back – There’s Weston … and Dow … and the Infant now has a birthday and a resting place. I’m still searching for that last little boy – he’s out there, and I will find him, and he can be remembered – even though his life was a dream short lived, now I am here to document his coming and his going – now he won’t be forgotten.
ps. I found him. His name is Guy.
Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing]
It’s an unfathomable feeling. One I never want to know.
Good luck finding the baby.
Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing]s last blog post..I Smell a Crazazy Lady
I remember my mother-in-law talking about her step-daughter having lost babies. Miscarriage after miscarriage. 2 full-term stillborn babies. 1 premature baby girl who died at 1 month old. And I remember thinking that it was sad, and I felt sorry for my s-i-l, but it didn’t really register with me. I didn’t let myself think about it much.
And then, one day, the ultrasound tech told me that my baby had died within my womb. And I knew. I knew the unfathomable pain that comes of losing a child, a baby, and infant not yet even born.
I think it is incredible that you are able to put yourself there and remember these children who never really got to live. Good luck with your search.
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I don’t get along with my Gran at all. I find her a horrid person actually.
But when I found out that she lost her first son at 18mths (I still have no idea what he died of) it makes me realise that maybe she wasn’t always so cold and unloving. That maybe losing her son made her unable to relate to children after that. I know not all women react like that, but I suspect she has. It gives me a little more understanding of why she is like she is.
Good luck with your search.
Veronicas last blog post..And we?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re off to see the Wizard!
P.S. Residing in Genealogy central like I do, I totally get the genealogy thing.
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This totally kicked my ass, Dawn
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I was teary eyed before you even mentioned my own sweet angel (and thank you for honoring him in this post, by the way!). It is hard to fathom and I too was always one who figured that people who lost babies way back when (since it happened so often!) weren’t as affected by it. Now… I think otherwise.
I think what you’re doing is wonderful! Hope you find them, and get to tell their stories.
Hugs. Hugs. There is a very old graveyard near the house where I grew up, and some of the graves of infants have a curved stone at the top of the grave, and a smaller one at the foot, like a cradle. That always put it in perspective for me. Even as a child that made me cry. That someone’s precious baby had been laid to rest there. Beautiful, poignant post Dawn.
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beautiful post, Dawn.
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I think it’s easy to desensitize ourselves to things like this. And as a mother now I cannot fathom what a loss that is. And do to go through it multiple times… there are no words. It’s a wonderful thing you are doing.
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We know a couple who lost their infant son in October. At two weeks. Knowing how in love we were with Little Dude by that time – at any time – we couldn’t fathom their loss.
That couple has been through so much, and I don’t know how they still manage to smile, or to go on…
Having talked to one of my grandfathers at one time, while he was not sober, I remember how sad he was when he went on and on about the children they lost before birth, or within the first few years. (They had either 13 or 14 children total, but lost 1-2 to stillbirth, 2 within the first few years, and 1 as a young adult.)
I don’t think anyone was stronger back then. It was just more expected. It didn’t decrease the amount of pain that came with it, though.
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wow i hope you find the 4th one i to work with the genealgy stuff and well i did find a lot out as to my family tree line’s but there is still lot of things missing as well and well i do know what its like to lose chlidren but not from them dieing at a young age but its still as bad as them dieing and well most of the graves i seen that date back to 1800’s or so have like lettel lambs or anigls on them. this fall when i went walking out in one of the city grave yeards here i seen a grave of a little baby and well what some do is well thay put teddy bears and things like that by them so that it shows that its a child grave as well. any how if you ever need any genealogy help just let me know i see if i can give you a hand 🙂
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I have never experienced losing a child, but my one great grandma lost 3, all before age three. She had six who lived to adulthood. Reading the causes of death is just shocking in the day and age. Very few people die from pertussis anymore. We decided to have their names added to the family monument as soon as we can because their graves are gone, they were 25 year graves.
The hardest is seeing ages on the screen for the cemetery records and thinking of my kids at those ages: 7 months, 6 days, 2 years 5 months.
Jennifer, Playgroups are no place for children
I think this is a great, worthwhile endeavor. I hope you’ll share their stories here, if it isn’t too personal.
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wow. I have a friend who had a stillborn at 7 months, who thankfully went on to have a healthy, full-term baby.
I have another friend whose baby died of SIDS.
Hard for me to imagine, since I’m not a mom, but I feel for them all–this post made me teary. My SO’s SiL told me that she loved her baby from the moment that they heard the heartbeat on the ultrasound!
When I was 26, I went to the Met in NYC with my mom, and there was a sarcophagus of an Egyptian princess or something, who had died at age 26. I totally cried for her. It almost seems silly, these people lived so very long ago, and yet, I guess I am just sensitive: it’s making me cry again, right now. ;(
This is certainly a worthwhile project. Good luck with it!
Amy in OHio
What a beautiful post. I adore you, you have a heart bigger than the sun.
Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com
Wow, this post made me cry. I’m a newbie around here, but this post just hit home in such a huge way, so thank you for writing it.
I’m glad you found the baby.
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