Tuesday, August 04, 2009


A couple of years ago now I had my astrology read by Robert Wilkinson, a man I've yet to meet, but who has done two readings for me, both of which I blogged (and blogged and blogged) about. Anywho. Before we started the first reading we did the whole get to know you routine, and I said I was a writer, a special needs mother, yadda yadda yadda. He said, "You need to know my friend Vicki Forman. You'll find a link to her blog on my blog." Which I did.

Vicki is another person that has deeply affected me, but whom I've never met. We read each others blogs and occasionally e-mail, but we don't "know" each other. The thing is, and I don't have to tell you this, you read someone's blog long enough, and you do know them. You know them.

Then you read their memoir.

I'd been following the progress of Vicki's book, via her blog, for nearly two years. I took interest as she detailed the editing process. I marveled at how she was able to continue to write about the excruciating time after her extremely premature twins were born, while balancing the high needs of her special needs son, Evan. I related to her stories of Evan's older sister, Josie, her "typical."

Then last July I was flying home from New York and logged onto my computer at JFK. There was an e-mail saying Vicki's son Evan had died, six days shy of his 8th birthday.

The blogosphere rallied around her and great things were done in honor of her son, but that's never enough. The woman had lost her son. I blogged about that, too. Putting myself in her position was impossible, and I couldn't allow myself to even try.

Vicki has been interviewed extensively, and you can find examples here and here. I wanted to ask her three questions that weren't answered in her previous interviews, and were the most important to me, namely: guilt, spirituality and moving on.

Friends, I bring to you Vicki Forman:

C: Throughout the book, you mention the various spiritual practices that helped guide you through Ellie’s death and Evan’s complicated hospital course. What were those practices and what, if any, kind of spiritual practice do you still maintain?

V: After the twins were born, I discovered a copy of “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron on my shelf. I think someone had given it to me before, but I had not had a reason to read pick it up. Now I did, and I quickly found myself lost in its pages, finding a consolation from Chodron’s work that very little else was able to provide. I read about fear, and lovingkindness and samsara and discovered a guide to being in the moment unlike any other. Truthfully, there was no other way to survive those days and months other than being in the moment. I had no notion of the future, and no way to undo the tragic past.

Along with reading the book, I had more desperate outlets, those I might call spiritual but really I was just seeking answers wherever I could find them: I lit candles, wrote pages and pages of intentions in my journal, visited hospital chapels and practiced guided meditations.

These days, my most significant practice, and the one that provides a continuum from those days until now is a weekly yoga class I attend religiously. That class, the teacher and fellow students have been a fundamental part of my being able to mend and move forward.

C: As some readers know, your son died a year ago, after you had finished the book. Can you tell us where you are now, a year after Evan's death and how it feels to have that anniversary so closely is timed with the release of your book?

V: When I first learned the publication date of the book would occur a day before the anniversary of my son’s death, I knew it would take every ounce of strength to be ready for the book’s appearance. I’ve spent this past year getting ready and yet I’m not sure anyone can be ready for such a concatenation of events. I am joyful for the book, and still profoundly heartbroken about my son. I try to find the balance as best I can, mostly by remembering to honor my son, his life and the lessons he taught.

C: I'd like to know more about your relationship, guilt and resolution of that guilt around your daughter and your husband. Many of us feel our special needs children take all our energy, and there is very little left for other family members. Can you say more about how you achieved a balance between Evan’s care and the love and attention you gave your daughter and husband?

V: I suppose the short answer is: I made very little time for myself. Honestly, like any parent, special needs mothers (and fathers) figure out how to expand our hearts and our days to give those around us what they need, when they need it, sometimes to the detriment of our own health and happiness. I know my daughter probably felt my son got more attention on a daily basis when he was alive, but I always tried to carve out a time and place for my daughter when I could. My husband and I also realized rather quickly that we’d have to pay careful attention to one another or else grow apart. I won’t say I succeeded every day, but I tried to give myself credit for doing the best I could.

That being said, I did feel guilty when my son was in the hospital about how divided my attentions were between my son and daughter, and how I was absolutely more vigilant towards my son than my daughter at the time. I don’t think there was any other way for me to be, considering which situation was more acute.

Now, the challenge is how to balance the attention I pay towards my daughter, my husband, and back towards my own life. After years of service towards my son, I have felt very lost some days about my own life and identity. I’m giving myself time to figure it out, because after all, what else do we have but time?

For a great review of THIS LOVELY LIFE, click here.

To order your copy, click here.


kario said...

Thank you for this, Carrie! I'm on my way to Powell's today to pick up my copy!

jess wilson said...

vicki is a wonder

this ..

'but I tried to give myself credit for doing the best I could.'

will stay with me

thank you, carrie

Angie Ledbetter said...

She's beautiful. Great interview Carrie. Time and balance...something most of us struggle to learn and hang on to. Glad she's finally put herself into the equation.

Michelle O'Neil said...

Beautiful Carrie. Great questions and beautifully heartfelt answers.


Anonymous said...

I think I have my next book to read.

Just finished "Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" and I loved it. Thanks for that recommendation as well.

Ask Me Anything said...

Do you think this is too raw to give to my brother?

Wanda said...

Love. Period.

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

Such thoughtful and thought-provoking questions, Carrie. And Vicki's answers are truly soul-searching, lending new insight to a wonderful book. Thank you.

Drama Mama said...

She is awesomely beautiful. Inside and out.

Jerri said...

Fascinating. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Just ordered it. Thanks for posting.

Leightongirl said...

Thank you, from my heart to yours.

Maddy said...

I threw caution to the wind and bought it too. What's more I actually read it [late at night] I'm going to check out the link now.

Thank you.

Deb Shucka said...

Wow, Carrie, just Wow! You ask the best questions, and I am in love with Vicki. Can hardly wait to read her book. So glad you have each other.