Special Delivery Book Anniversary & Selfish Holidays

A month ago my twin sister, Melissa, got married. A month ago. I’ve been married for seventeen years. And, no, I didn’t get married in my teens. Suffice it to say, she’s been single (though in previous long-term relationships) for a long time. I’m so happy for her. 

Yet, I admit, I also had a hard time letting go. You know what I wrote in my writing journal that weekend after leaving her with her new husband? 

That I left my heart in San Francisco. 

And, I did, at least part of it. My sister is the heart of our family. And she's the one that makes things happen. 

Five years ago my twin sister helped me do the unimaginable: she single-handedly put Special Delivery into print and into the hands of other families.

What’s Special Delivery? It’s a children's book that I wrote when Mini Me was two years old and I was pregnant with Macy, my daughter who lived only briefly. One sleepless night I couldn’t get these words out of my head as we were figuring out how to tell Mini Me that her sister was likely going to die. Macy had trisomy 18...and then we slowly found out about a multitude of other medical issues including severe heart and lung conditions.  

Long story short, Melissa did illustrations so I could read Special Delivery to Mini Me on my laptop. Eventually, for Macy’s funeral, we had five  books printed at a local shop. And then, in 2012, we received a grant from Sappi Ideas That Matter to have the book published so that we could distribute them to other families, free of cost. 

Melissa worked tirelessly to make the book a reality. And now, five years later, we’re still able to distribute books and connect with families. 

To request a book, please click here.

Lyrics from "It's Quiet Uptown" taken from  Hamilton: The Revolution  by LIn-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Lyrics from "It's Quiet Uptown" taken from Hamilton: The Revolution by LIn-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

A (selfish) holiday wish for you:

Finally, I will tell you that Mini Me and I saw Hamilton this past weekend. And though I know the story (SPOILER ALERT) and knew it before seeing the musical, the scene that gutted me the most was the one in which Hamilton and Eliza are mourning for their son. And finding their way back to each other. We purchased Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, which not only contains the full script and pictures of the original cast, but many reflections on how the musical came to fruition. 

For “It's Quiet Uptown”, Miranda had difficulty writing the words saying “the overwhelming sorrow of losing a child is something he had never felt firsthand” and struggled until “realized that his inability to grasp the enormity of Alexander and Eliza’s loss wasn't a barrier to writing the song, it was the song”. 

I'm stuck on the phrasing of the first section of the song. It’s outsiders looking in at Hamilton and Eliza. But I’m not on the outside. I know that grief—can feel it, taste it—I’ve lived it. And while I had my spouse by my side the entire time, too, it’s still difficult to watch. 

And I think about what they are saying. About all the words I had to say when I was pregnant with Macy and trying to tell my eldest about what was going on, about what we were hurtling towards without even knowing myself. I had this crazy idea that since we knew she was going to die, that since we had time to prepare and grieve her, that it would be okay.

I was wrong. The grief was so much harder and it did at times feel like I was drowning or barely skimming the surface of the water. But when I surfaced, I found that I had many people who were holding on to me and keeping me afloat. My lifeline. 

“It’s Quiet Uptown” has an eerie, moving quality to it that exactly encapsulates the grief I felt when my daughter died. 

I’m just grateful that I had so many people who threw me a rope.  And that the words have returned. 

Five years ago, when we first launched Special Delivery’s website, I wrote about what our first Christmas was like in the year after Macy died in 2009. It was a tough Christmas, but Scott and I ‘celebrated’  on our own terms and our family was supportive of our decisions.  And I find that I still hold the last lines of that post to be true:

Even though Macy is not physically here with us, she is always in our hearts. And, this Christmas, I’m filled with so much gratefulness for how full my life is right now. It’s a far cry from four years ago—while my life was thankfully just as full of love, my heart was still grieving. I’m grateful that my loved ones allowed me to have that grief and support me through it.

This holiday season I urge you to do whatever it is you need to do to make it through for yourself. Meet with others or hide out in your house, decorate your tree with memories of your little one, or don’t put up a tree at all. Go to a special place for you. Grieve if you need to grieve, or celebrate if you need to celebrate. Be selfish. You deserve it.

I’ll just reiterate it again for our families who have experienced their loss recently: do whatever it is you need to do to make it through for yourself. Grieve if you need to grieve, or celebrate if you need to celebrate. It’s your grief and your choice.

*This post is also on my blog, Dr. Bookworm.

Melanie Tioleco-Cheng | November 27, 2017