Tragedy and experiencing loss


Around a year ago I listened to a song by bluegrass/classical music-minded musician I have listened to before in the group Mandolin Orange (now named Watchhouse Duo, for reasons I’ll mention), Fire & Fury by Andrew Marlin. The song is nice but not extraordinary, except for a small part that I thought was: around one minute into the song, you hear a toddler quietly, happily talking, maybe to theirself or maybe to their mother or father. It turns out that Andrew and his wife - the other one-half of the Watchhouse Duo - had a child around the same time my wife Katie and I did (in 2018). Why would a toddler talking make its way into the song? There isn’t the sound of a toddler in any other songs! Can’t a person record a song without a child making their way into it?!? I think that may be the point. In a sense, of course its possible to record a song (go for a walk, have a date night, or go away for a weekend) without a child interrupting, but in another sense it is not possible, and therein lies the beauty.

I read that Mandoline Orange changed their name to Watchhouse to represent turning a page. Their music (under the Mandolin Orange name) was beautiful but also often yearning and even sorrowful. Andrew wrote about how he lost his mother and that this was reflected in their music. They had their child and then, reflecting during the early days of COVID-19, decided they were ready to not say goodbye to their more sorrowful music, but to write and peform songs that reflected their greater optimism and hope. It was a beautiful sentiment and one that I understood on some level.

It hit me hard when I read that they were expecting their second child when they found that their pregnancy was an ectopic one, one that required surgery and left no chance for their second child to live. It was heartbreaking—and I, of course, don’t even know them personally. It was heartbreaking on its own and in light of what they had gone from and turned to, a tragedy.

Katie and I just planted a small flowering plant that she and I picked out—actually, that our son recommended strongly we pick out at Ace Hardware!—one that flowers in spring. It was to recognize an experience of loss - that, rather than tragedy, I think, but a loss that maybe provides one with access to the experiences of others’ of tragedy. Katie had a miscarriage expecting our second child. It has been hard but I am really proud of how Katie has experienced this - mourning, recovering, and honoring the experience, as hard as it has been. It has been hard for me, too, but obviously in different ways than for Katie. It is hard to talk about a miscarriage. It is hard to know what exactly to feel, apart from hurt, confused, and weak. I think if there is some kind of conclusion to this (post and experience), it is that sometimes there is no cause or reason to attribute to something. The point is only to experience the loss and to grow as a person, friend, and family member, especially for others experiencing loss or tragedy. I am glad that I have flowers to remind me.