ISO: A miraculous birth

Since this request crossed my “desk" just before Christmas, and I am a bit nativity-crazy anyway (the above image is of one of my molded guest soap sets, “No Room at the Inn”), and even though IVF is not really (quite) immaculate conception, I couldn’t resist this metaphor. Not that I am known for my restraint anyway.

But, here is the situation: A U.S. non profit organization is looking for a woman who conceived a child *after* her partner’s death. This would involve (one imagines) using banked sperm. They’ve asked me to ask my communities for help.

And this isn’t going to be easy. Out of the several hundred stories I’ve heard from widows, I have only known of one family in this situation, and she (the Mom) has shut down her blog and completely disappeared under what I recall as very tense circumstances.  I know dozens of women who were widowed while pregnant and many widows (and a few widowers) with banked sperm or eggs, and even embryos from prior IVF attempts. I know scores of widows who had children with new partners after being widowed, and as huge a joy as each of those births is, it sounds positively Mayberry compared to the rare situation we're looking for.

There must be thousands of cancer patients (including teens) who store sperm or eggs before undergoing treatment, and we know that not everyone survives cancer. (Well, I know that pretty well. Overall 5-year-survival for all cancers, without respect to age or patient’s interest in having children, is something like 60%.) Things change rapidly: services for young adults with cancer didn't exist ten years ago, and IVF is not only more common, acceptable, and accessible than it ever was when we were seeking conception, but loads more successful as well.

So I'm hopeful: If you are this Mom, or you know this Mom, please contact me and I will connect you with the folks who are seeking this rare and — you have to admit — at-least-a-little-bit miraculous family.


Is it better to give than to receive, or am I crazy?

Chandigarh Monument Is it really better to give than to receive?

I have come to think it is, for me, at this time in my life. Why and how is a complicated alchemy of heart, mind, and science.

For one thing, by being in a position to give, you are inherently doing okay. Giving forces you to see that you HAVE. This awareness is itself a kind of gift.

Giving encourages you to be intimate with need -- to direct your gaze at a gap. You might become aware of the sting of your own emptiness; you might see how easy some needs are to fill, which might (for just a moment) make life seem just. Often, when we give, we see that others have needs greater than ours. In our own needy places, we have closed our eyes.

Always, when we give, we know we are not alone. We find we can make a difference.

Science shows us that altruism feels good: performing a good deed, volunteering for a cause, or even the abstract and removed act of writing a check has been shown to release endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good hormones.

It was hard for me to get comfortable giving away, of all things, MONEY. I have always been a tightwad and for most of my life, I've had to scrimp just to keep my own interests alive. But when I started to share my income with projects I believed in, when I sent my money out beyond my household, my brain started to process just HOW money gets things done. In my heart, I felt that I was engaging in the world again, just a bit, after a long period of isolation.

All of a sudden, I wasn’t just USING. I was PART of whatever it was. Take my church. By making a decent sized gift each year — giving a portion of my income, paying the church FIRST, not some bit when everything else was left over — I became an investor. And “investment” refers equally to having a financial stake in something and keeping your heart there.

Giving enabled me to connect in a different way, one that I had never had. A peculiarly ADULT way. One with not only dreams, but also responsibilities.

I give as generously as I can because honestly, it does feel good to me. I give to a few organizations that do things that I feel need to be done. I give because I want them to keep going. I don’t care if they spend what I give on boring stuff like copier paper, but that’s just me. I expect them to handle the money responsibly but I also expect “my staff” (see how that happened?) to be paid fairly.

The largest share of my “schedule A” giving goes to Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation (SSLF). I support SSLF because they are building the programs that I wish had existed when my husband died in 2006 (the first Camp Widow was held in 2009). SSLF shares my vision and they allow me to help (I now serve on their board). They allow me to help a LOT. Soaring Spirits was the partner that enabled me to create WidowedVillage.org, a dream that was too big for just me to handle. With them behind me, that small community is part of a much larger world of support and connections for widowed folks.

And I do all this work because peer support saved my life. SSLF is providing that same kind of comradeship and hope to thousands of widowed people every day. SSLF builds these connections in creative and important ways. If you’d like to say that SSLF programs are yours too, make a gift.

Every gift matters. It might be easy to feel that your individual gift is not the kind that will make a difference. It’s probably pretty easy to imagine that someone who’s doing a lot better than you can afford to give a larger share. You might think that lots of corporations and foundations are willing to fund SSLF programs right now. Would you believe me if I said that neither of those things is true?

But I know you recognize this story: the intense relief and gratitude in the face of someone who for the first time, meets another widowed person they can relate to. It's astonishing: you share one small experience or feeling with them and all of a sudden, they "get it" that you "get it." Their eyes light up. They don’t feel you made just a small contribution. For that person at that moment, the world stops being completely broken and becomes a world where a bit of light is visible through one of the cracks. These connections are our path to hope.

SSLF is lean and growing rapidly but dependent on individuals like you and me.

Our new site on StayClassy makes it easy to give once, or set up a recurring donation. If your gift means something to you, believe me, it will mean something to this organization and to all the people we will serve next year.

So think about it… and tell me afterwards if it was as good to give to Soaring Spirits as it was to receive.

You can make a safe, secure gift to Soaring Spirits programs at http://www.stayclassy.org/fundraise/team?ftid=4358.


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