Six Months, Ten Seconds

Published 9 years, 5 months past

Six months ago today, our child died in our arms.

I still have trouble believing this.  Kat and I both still have trouble.  But only on occasion, these days, and not for long.  As someone once said, when it comes to the death of a loved one, you don’t get over it, but you do, eventually, if you allow yourself, get used to it.  We’re slowly getting used to it.

Half a year.  It seems like it’s been forever, as if uncountable years have passed since Rebecca died, and yet there are still so many traces and impressions of her that sometimes it seems as if she was only just here.  We struggle, sometimes, to decide what to preserve and what to let go.  We had to force ourselves to put the few boxes of mementoes we’ve kept into storage this past week.  It felt like we were consigning Rebecca to the attic, which doesn’t seem like much when you think about it, but it was in some ways as difficult as consigning her remains to the earth.  For that matter, we were recently making some changes to the family picture wall, and for each picture of Rebecca, we had to ask if it should stay up or come down.  None of those choices were easy, even after half a year.

Of course, half a year is less time than elapsed between her diagnosis and her death.  I remember so much, and so little, of those months.  But this is unremarkable, given that we remember so little of our regular lives.  (Think about yesterday, or of last Friday.  How much of the day do you actually remember?  How many of those several thousand minutes can you no longer recall with clarity?  Now, what else have you forgotten?)

We have thousands upon thousands of images of Rebecca; just in my iPhoto library alone, there are 10,188 photos tagged with her name, 1,624 of which I flagged or rated five stars (or both), 785 of which are on Flickr.  Kat has thousands more, as do so many of our friends and relatives.  Those pictures can take us back, clarify our memories, or remind us of some aspect of her personality.  Myriad facets of a life so short, and yet so fully lived.

Videos are far more rare — the Flickr album has just three — mostly because I greatly dislike shooting video.  In the end, it didn’t matter.  Our friend Jessica captured a video that is the quintessential Rebecca, a near-perfect distillation of Rebecca’s personality in just under ten seconds — all her sass ‘n’ spice, and all her sweetness too.

(Full transcript available at

Rebecca Alison Meyer, ladies and gentlemen.  How I wish you could have known her as we did.

I laugh every time I watch that video.  Every time.

Comments (13)

  1. She’s beautiful, Eric. :) Thank you for sharing. Love and warm thoughts to your family.

  2. Beautifully written, as always. And I laughed too. So much is packed into those few seconds. That seems like a highly developed sense of humor for her age, and so quick!

  3. I tried to describe her to Jeff the evening after I first met her in May. I could only talk in cliches “she’s all pep and vinegar? Know what I mean? Spunk and sass. A real pistol.” Even at 1/2 speed she was a delight of well intentioned sass, the kind that seemed like it would be both great strength and occasional liability. While mourning for the Rebecca that was, and the hole in your family, I can’t help but also mourn for the strong, take no BS woman she would have become and for the world that is and will be less without her. Thinking of you guys.

  4. It’s a great video. What a beautiful and mischievous girl.

  5. Just thanks for sharing. And thanks for your deep thoughts.

  6. I truly wish I had known her … and I wish you and your family peace.

  7. You know, often I jump straight to your percent decoder tool, and rarely, if ever land on your homepage.

    I honestly didn’t know all this went down. I feel for your family’s loss.

    I will never know the loss of a child, I am too old to try to make one now, but just a year an a half ago, my best friend, my mentor, my sensei, and my brother (well, he was like one to me), crossed over bifrost to be with Odin. I have, after this long realized, that mourning never ends. It is just that the pain gets a little less every week, and the good memories fill in more and more of the hurt.

    May you find comfort in your most trying of times.

    Zaphod and the crew at SpambotSecurity dot com.

  8. I learned through personal tragedy of my own (lost mother, brother, husband (and father of my first not-yet-born son) in one 2-year period about 25 years ago … that time is a wonderful healer.

    Forgiveness is too, perhaps not needed in your family as you left no stone unturned in the battle to save Rebecca’s life while giving her room to live for all the time she had.

    When I think of your struggle, you and your wife’s valiancy, your shared love and your willingness to let in outsiders like me who wonder what it was like to go through what you all went through, I salute you, I cry, I feel you help me be more accepting of life’s surprises .. and more accepting of the need to fight for those we love.

    I am a mother of 2 now grown sons and a full time social/environmental justice advocate, fighting the good fight in all the ways I know how but sometimes in need of inspiration .. which your thoughts about Rebecca provide wonderfully.

    Happy holidays to you and your family. May both your memories and your present treasures bring you love and happiness.

  9. I stumbled upon your blog, and read through your year. Your writing is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing your family; your pain, joy and love, with us.
    I am so sorry for your loss.
    I am grateful to have learned a bit about your wonderful daughter.

  10. Dear Eric,
    I found the way back to your blog via the news to find the story of a family that moved me a lot. By the way, I learned css from you(r books) (and some other gifted teachers), thank you very much!

    I read a lot in the last hours, and I want to give you a response:
    I was forced into a difficult but different situation, I was diagnosed with cancer when my 1st child was 4 months old. My treatment was resection of the ‘stones’ and a chemo which transformed me in a very weak, almost lifeless and rather bad tempered person (when there was strength enough to be emotional) for more than 6 months. When in hospital, I wrote a digital diary, where I put all the funny stuff and the things I couldn’t say to my partner because it was too much for me (mostly) or her (sometimes) to speak out/listen to. I never published the diary although I wanted to share at least bits of it, because it is so important to share when it is hard to find words that matter. I didn’t manage to find the time and strength to share, you found a way to do so, so I want to say thank you for sharing!

    I was very afraid of dying because I promised my child to never ever leave it alone when it was just one hour old. At last, my therapy was successful and I have good reason to hope for a lot of years before I leave, but even now I am not as vital or strong as I was before and as I intended to be as a father.

    I now have two children, both have the risk of inheriting what nearly killed me, but since an early treatment can check the risk effectively, I agreed with my partner to have another child. What will I feel if one or both will be diagnosed with cancer?

    I thought a lot about your cassandra post, it is very difficult to look back and be calm about all the signs one may have interpreted falsely or all the rationalizations that turned sour – yet I can accept the simple facts much easier than ever before. A lot of people tried to make sense of my experience (and the irony of two or three decisions of the near past), and I soon realized that most of it was driven by fear, or rather fear of fear. I experienced fear and it certainly was very ugly, but I am not so afraid of fear now. It cannot exceed a certain limit and then there is sill a life to be lived. Another morning, another day, another night. It all goes on, if you have made sense of it or not, doesn’t matter very much. (I learned to be afraid of pain, though, pain can be very strong and puts you outside of time).

    Your posts about Rebecca’s life, illness and death have invited me to think again about what you call presence. I guess you taught me again, this time it is about living with your children. There are no universal standards, a lot of mistakes can be made, you can lose yourself in a construct that has too may logical holes – but if you know what you want to do, what you need to do, you can do it.

    A small joke, I hope it is okay, just to tell you that you can put ideas into words in a way that these words matter.

    Let me quickly explain how I came to read about the facebook post of yours in the first place. I have a friend who very very nearly died this year of cancer. He is an avid user of social media and posted a lot of photos of him pre & post his operations, treatments etc. So the worst looking ended up as “his year”, which was very fitting indeed. He is a survivor with humor ever so grim, so he posted this album with a joke. I thoght by myself that he still must have felt hurt (and he only has lost a year or rather two, he is also a proud survivor).

    I am closing this response with condolences. I am sorry for your loss. Your graceful descriptions of your daughter honor her short presence in this world.

    Rouven from Germany

  11. I came to your blog from your recent Slate article and read through the posts of your last year with Rebecca. I am so sorry for your loss. I watched the sweet video, and it is devastating to think a spark as bright as Rebecca is no longer with us. You have a great gift in your writing, and I hope it brings you some measure of peace. Even just trying to imagine what you have gone through crushes me, I can’t imagine having had to live it and live it still.

  12. 06 anos de muito, muito amor e felicidade. Rebecca é linda demais. Deus os abençoe.

  13. I came across your blog. We also lost our son in June of this year. the 6th. He was run over by a garbage truck. Thank you for sharing your words. I find comfort to know that it is possible to survive. One day, or minute at the time. Your little Rebecca is beautiful.

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