Death and rebirth: a mother's journey
"We had a disabled son and a dead daughter and somehow I still believed that if I could get the wording right we could also, in some way, be fine in the end," Vicki Forman read, describing the tormented feelings she felt while forming her daughters memorial plaque.
Forman's book, "This Lovely Life," depicts the first two years after Forman and her husband lost their daughter to premature birth and the life after, focusing on the care of their remaining special needs son. She later engaged in a discussion about parenthood, grief, and learning how to live life after great loss.
On May 13, the SMC Associates invited Forman to speak as part of their ongoing Literary Lecture Series in HSS 165. Forman's book discussion left no one untouched and questions about her very personal journey soared after she read a section from her book. Forman shared with her audience her experience about taking care of a young child with special needs.
In 2000, Forman and her husband Cliff became parents of premature twins. One of the twins, Ellie, passed away only four days after birth. Evan lived to be 8 years old. In her book Forman documents the first 2 years of Evan's life. As a result of being prematurely born, Evan was oxygen dependent and required a feeding tube, developing blindness as a result of his condition.
One audience member commented on the brave and courageous nature she exhibited through her writing. "You don't live with me," Forman replied laughing.
Writing the book was in many ways a healing experience, but also a heart-wrenching one, she said. Before giving birth to the twins, Forman considered herself a person who always had the answers.
"I wanted to show people what a weak and ignorant person I was, and how I was able to find strength," she said.
"This Lovely Life" is not a book with a happy ending. Forman writes with brutal honesty about feelings to which some parents would most likely not admit. Her journey is not one that will give readers all the right answers to a problem or paint life in bright colors.
Though Forman described the material as the hardest she's ever written, she found herself in a state of grace while writing it. "We sometimes think that we'll never make it, but humans have an unbelievable resilience," she said.
Writing cannot be compared with therapy, but it did provide some healing for Forman. Putting such a detailed and personal story out there might seem hard for many, but Forman felt that it had to be done.
"There were a lot of stories of miracle babies, there were a lot of stories with happy endings. As a mother and a writer I was looking for my story."
Forman found it important, for herself and others, that her book was put on the shelf. "In terms of finding faith for myself and being able to carry on," she said, "I thought it was important to put this story in the world because I knew that this had probably happened to other people."
Forman describes feeling ambivalent, grief-stricken and lonely, feelings that parents of disabled children often have. "I wanted other people who have those feelings to be able to find themselves in my story," she said. "And it has been healing to be able to do that."