An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken is her memoir about the loss of her first son to stillbirth. This book was recommended to me by a fellow blogger. I was eager to read this book. This review has been one of the hardest to write not because I didn't like the book, but because I had some deep soul hitting thoughts come over me while I read it, wrote my review, reviewed my comments and realized that I was wrong.
I was going to write about how I felt a disconnected with her reaction to her son’s death and the life she made after. And I did but I am unhappy with my assessment, I looked back over other women’s grief reactions, I realized that we all grieve differently. I found great hope and comfort in my faith and God’s word while some women refused to hear God’s words or allow others to speak them because they feel betrayed by Him. How could a loving God allow a child to die? There are many answers to that. Some that people wouldn't want to hear. God did not take a child simply because it wasn't loved enough or wanted enough. I cannot speak for Him but I know that He is all-knowing and wise. He saw something that I did not or could not and He made the decision for me.
While reading this book, I came across a few quotes which I felt a connection to:
- “The love for the first magnifies the love for the second, and vice versa.”
My journey to motherhood has been a rocky one. I love this quote because the losses of AJ and Ziva have made Abigail’s birth and growth all that more precious to me. I enjoy every moment I can. Even the rare temper tantrum and toddler “rebellion,” she’s precious to me. Even though I now had a living child doesn't mean my love and sadness of the loss of my first child is gone. I think some people expected that once a living child is born or still living, the loss of another child is lessened. Ask anyone who has lost a child this simply isn't true.
- “I will always be a woman whose first child died”
It is true. Abby is my second child. Even when my husband and I have another child, there will be holes in the birth order. I will always have a difficult explanation to the question “How many children do you have?” Always wondering how much detail to give. Do you give the simple answer to save the person the embarrassment of asking such an emotional question? I haven’t had to face this question…yet. But when I do, I know that I will answer honestly and gently as to save the person any embarrassment.
- “You move on from it [death], but the death will never disappear from view.”
Although over two years has passed since the loss of AJ and six months have passed since the loss of Ziva, each day gets easier. You learn to live and the loss of your children is never far from your mind. I realize that I have been introduced to wonderful women in my support community who have suffered great loss and while I don’t feel the need to remember my children the way they do, there is nothing wrong with that. I feel, though, that life doesn't stop with death. If my life had stopped with the AJ’s death, I wouldn't have Abby. If my life had stopped with Ziva’s death, I wouldn't have the wonderful memories of the past six months: Abby’s first trip to Disneyland, Abby’s first jump into the pool and into her Dadden’s awaiting arms or finding her asleep as she watched her favorite Disney cartoons. Moments that would be gone, if I refused to live.
- “It’s a happy life, but someone is missing”
I love this quote because it describes my life after a loss. My husband and I are happy. My daughter is a happy two year old but there are two children missing. They will forever be missed. I wish to remember AJ and Ziva for the life that they were, no matter how brief. I wish to remember my joy to have them in my life for the time that God has allowed.
The book isn't what I expected. I enjoyed Ms. McCracken’s story. It was an easy read (I finished it in one night). I expected more of an emotional response on my part. I expected to read this book through tears. Some readers might, while others, like me, might not. Maybe Ms. McCracken didn't intended for this book to be emotional. I don't know; however, I do recommend this book. Even after I read the book, the title puzzled me. While I put this post together, it clicked. I understand now. And my hope is that you will too. I would recommend this book to anyone who has lost a child either through miscarriage, stillbirth, or any other infant death. I would also recommend it to someone who is trying to understand how to respond and help a person who has suffered a loss. This book can give insights as I have highlighted a few above to those who haven’t suffered such a loss.