By Deb Scott
I have to tell you my secret fast or I won’t tell it to you at all.
It is a secret that few people know, even all of you who think you know me.
Even my family, the ones who were there don’t know. I mean they know but I think they don’t let themselves remember.
The secret is about my daughter. My baby who died.
Her heart was quite broken. Mine was damaged beyond repair.
Shawnti Morningstar, a universe of stars swimming in deep blue baby eyes.
On that day, the last day, I saw her still alive.
Blue eyes open and no more machines, tubes gone, nothing beeping in her sweet ears.
Someone said, “We’ve done all we know how to do, let’s see how she does on her own.”
Two hours later. My mother calls me to the phone.
The hospital says hurry…hurry… hurry…
It takes an hour to get there.
My mother doesn’t come.
Our friends drive us. Fast.
But I know she is gone, even a too young mother like me knows this.
We wait in a quiet room. Soft chairs, fake flowers.
We, the soon to be grieving comfortably hidden from those still holding out for hope.
Young man doctor, almost as young as me, drops the news.
Loud, loud, loud silence.
“Do you want to see her?”
Oh God No.
The word ‘no’ floats from my mouth. That was the only word I had.
Her father follows the doctor. I want to scream but am unable.
I vision a drawer pulled open, a white sheet pulled back.
Blank eyes, deep blue shining star gone, gone, gone.
I retreat so fast and deep, I don’t realize I have left.
Back home I watch from the ceiling as my body whispers, cries.
I have lingered too long over these details.
I have run out of time for secret telling.
One more try.
I pass my mother at the linen closet; I keep bleeding my grief onto the sheets.
“We can mortgage the house for the funeral,” she says.
I don’t know why. I will never know why.
These are the words that shatter my mind.
What do you do with a baby’s body?
The hospital keeps calling.
What ‘arrangements’ have we made?
I can’t understand any of these words.
I’ve arranged to be crazy. Those are the only arrangements I have made.
I see myself at the welfare office.
More words are spoken at me.
I catch on the word ‘indigent.’
Catholic Family Services?
Was that what I heard?
Someone in my body says, “I want cremation.”
“Go home and wait for our call.”
Did anyone call?
I’m so sorry that I don’t know.
I beg your forgiveness for not knowing.
I can never forgive myself for not knowing.
Here it comes. Are you ready to know this about me?
If not, please stop now, delete this, turn away.
My secret is this…
I don’t know what happened to her.
I don’t know if she was buried.
I don’t know if she was burned.
I was never given a grave number to visit or a box of ashes so small you can’t breathe when you think of it.
What kind of mother doesn’t know where her baby’s remains remain?
I Am that kind of mother.
I. Don’t. Know. Where. My. Baby. Is.
For Shawnti Morningstar August 10th-August 18th, 1972
Deb Scott is a therapist and writer who works and hangs out in Portland, OR. She aspires to outwit fear and write her truth bravely. This piece was originally published in the re-launch issue of Hip Mama Magazine, Issue #54. She also is a contributor to the anthology, The People’s Apocalypse edited by Ariel Gore and Jenny Forrester.