Video Tribute to My School Mate Who Died in 9/11 Attacks

10 09 2012

I went to pay tribute to my school mate Al Maler (Class of 1980 another alumni, Eric Stahlman, and first-responder Andrew Desperito when I went up for my high school reunion of Patchogue-Medford High School. My heart goes out to the families of those who died in the terrorist attacks that took place in New York, Washington DC, and in Pennsylvania, all who died in the planes, to all the military families whose loved ones died in the military engagements that followed, and to all the people who volunteered that day who are now ill or have died as a result of illness that resulted in working on the site. May those who died rest in peace.





Matthew’s Gift

13 12 2011

I was told I was going to have great difficulty getting pregnant. Once my husband and I were married we started trying to have a baby right away. I was surprised when it didn’t seem to take that long; however, my baby had died secondary to complications of triploidy in utero in my 2nd trimester in August of 1993. One day I went for my regular doctor’s appointment and they couldn’t find a heartbeat. I had no signs that I had miscarried so it was quite a shock. On the autopsy, they determined he was male. We named him Matthew Joseph (Matthew because it meant God’s gift, and Joseph because that was Jeff’s dad’s middle name). In just a matter of 5 years previous to this, both of my parents died, along with my grandmother and several other relatives. This grief, however, shattered my soul; a piece of me died with him. I had called my church for spiritual guidance regarding customary funeral rites for a baby that was not baptized, or if a baptism could be arranged, but no one returned my call; I felt abandoned.

Although soured on organized religion after this, I still had great faith. I often spoke to Matthew, asking him if he could just send me a sign to let me know he was okay and he could hear me. I knew he was in heaven, but there is another level of you that wishes you could have a conversation with them. I never even had the opportunity to hold him. Touching my lower abdomen, I whispered goodbye, as a tear fell from my eye as they put me under anesthesia.

We planned to go home to New York that Christmas. In the early part of December, Jeff and I talked about snow and how lovely it would be to see. Jeff reminded me that Long Island rarely got snow, and even more rare on Christmas. Without thinking I said to him, “Matthew said he would make it snow.” I have no idea why that came out of my mouth, but inside me, I just knew it was true. Jeff gave me “the look”, the one that said I was setting myself up for heartbreak, but didn’t try to dissuade me too much, only to say, “Don’t get your hopes up.” I looked at him with an unshakeable faith: It…WOULD…snow.

Early Christmas Eve day, his family gathered and opened gifts. Seeing the children opening their packages was heart-wrenching to me. I had to excuse myself quietly to the bathroom multiple times so I could cry, but did not want them to know I was tearful because I did not want to sour their Christmas experience.

The whole week the weather person said it was going to snow, then it wasn’t going to snow, then it was going to snow, and the final word was “definitely no snow.” Still I looked at Jeff and said, “Matthew said it would snow.” He remained quiet, knowing how much my heart was aching. I think he was preparing himself for the emotional mess that ultimately was to come when it didn’t snow.

His sisters had gone out to their friends’ houses. His mother, father, Jeff and I were sitting in the den in the early evening. The den was connected to the garage. We sat there, watching something Christmas-related on TV. After hearing what sounded like the automatic garage door opening, we were expecting to see one of his sisters walk through the garage door into the den. We waited…and waited. His parents wondered what was keeping whoever it was that just pulled up from coming inside. I walked to the window to see if maybe they were outside. Instead I saw it was snowing.

I gasped. “IT’S SNOWING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

If it had only been me who heard the noise of the garage door supposedly opening, I might chalk it up to wishful thinking. Jeff’s parents heard it, too. Had we not heard that noise, I would have missed the snow. None of his sisters had come home and would not for quite awhile.

Without a coat and without shoes, I ran out of the back of the house and let the snowflakes fall on my face, and I whispered, “Thank you, my baby. I love you. Merry Christmas.” I looked at Jeff and said, “Now do you believe?” He burst out in tears, happiness mixed with grief. Jeff’s parents looked at us like we were crazy. When we tried to explain, we sounded even MORE crazy.

It seemed to be letting up and I yelled, “Keep it coming. We’ll be right back.” I told Jeff we needed to go get our coats on to come out here to fully enjoy the moment. All of a sudden, it started snowing more heavily.

If anyone has seen a large-flake snowfall, the snowflakes seem to silently hit the ground. There is a sense of peace, awe and beauty surrounding nature’s majesty. Even the air is different, soft, like a whisper.

We went inside, bundled up, put on shoes and proceeded to go for a walk around the pond. We had a good talk, a good cry, and a good laugh. Our spirits were renewed.

Midnight Mass had never been more beautiful to me than that night. Matthew gave us one of the best Christmas presents we had ever received. Regardless of the circumstances of his death, he was my child and his life was significant for the short amount of time I had the privilege to carry him. Even in his death, his life continues to have significance. And I will always be his mother. The boundary between life and death can never change that. He will never be forgotten. His spirit remains with us…always.





My Other Son

25 08 2011

My baby in utero, Matthew Joseph Bowen, died at 20 weeks. Today was the approximate date of his death, although it could have been Aug 24; we are not quite sure. His due date was approximately Feb 18, 1994 and he would be reaching the milestone of being age 18 near Feb 18, 2012.

The milestone-age years are a little harder for me to cope. On top of the not so fun day I had on Aug 24, 2011, this one is going to be difficult.

Vatican Angel

Vatican Angel Available at Northstargallery.com

I see shadows of him in my house, go through in my eyes what I imagine would be a typical day with him, excited to be a senior in high school.  He might be in love for the first time with a girl or a boy. He might have had his heart broken many times already. I think he would have been smart, charming, good at least 1 sport and play at least 1 musical instrument. He would have been caring of others, stood up for others being bullied, he would have respected authority figures. We would have started looking at colleges he wished to attend or alternate schools to create a profession.

But now, he has a very important job, being Patrick’s special guardian angel, and comes to me to support me through very difficult parts of my life. I feel his energy, the essence of who he was while still in my womb, and it has a unique signature that is not confused with any other possible thing.

I miss you, Matthew. I talk to Patrick about you and sometimes I wonder, when we say prayers, if you two are not giggling with each other, because Patrick is looking up in the air at something, smiling and giggling like it’s his little secret.

Please come visit your mother today; she really needs to feel your spirit. My first child and sweet boy, although I never got to hold you, I wait for the day that I can. Just come visit as you have before so I can take comfort that you are still there watching over us.

I allow myself to cry for you on just this one day; the rest of the year I serve to honor your memory by helping those grieving the loss of their children. 

On this day, however, I await you.






Christmas Wishes

20 12 2010

As I sit down to eat Christmas dinner on December 25 with my husband and son, I will go through my 10 or more minutes of crying. When we recount our list of blessings, my list is usually long. This year, it will be even longer. I start off slow, thanking the Earth for the food, the people who planted it, grew it, harvested it, and transported it so that I could enjoy the meal of which I am about to partake. I make sure to thank the turkey for its life. Then the tears come–for the people who are going hungry, who are homeless, who are hopeless, and who are loveless. I may have helped some over the year, but did I do enough? Not likely. There is always more an individual can do. I gratefully acknowledge the people who have sacrificed their lives–our military and the quiet heroes of daily life. I say a blessing to those families who are grieving the death of a loved one; holidays can be the hardest times in their lives. Then I’ll begin to recount all the blessings currently in my own life.

This year I want for nothing, okay maybe except the Adam Lambert new acoustic CD and an announcement that Stargate Universe has been picked up by another network, but all-in-all, I have everything I could ever need or want. My son is thriving at the private school (and we found a funding source for it). The enormous stress of fighting a corrupt school district is gone. I have a husband who loves me and has for almost 20 years now despite seeing the deepest, darkest places of my soul. I have a wonderful golden retriever. I have a loving family, a roof over my head in a fantastic area to live, food in my stomach, a decent car to drive, great neighbors, wonderful friends, and an employer who is continuing to let me try to work each day as much as I can instead of filing for disability. Of course our retirement account was reduced to a 201K from a 401K after the economic meltdown as was everyone else’s, but Patrick’s autism expenses pretty much ate up the rest of it. Somehow I know we will be okay. While I might moan and complain about circumstances every now and again, a swift kick to my rear brings about enormous perspective.

The things I have on my Christmas wish list require the cooperation of others in order to achieve:

1. World peace. Sounds corny, I know, but I’m an idealistic fool who thinks this is actually possible. Before that happens, we will have to get rid of prejudice and hate. In order to get rid of prejudice and hate, we need better educated people.

2. End to hunger: With all the food we have and waste every day, we could feed the world.

End Hunger

3. A cure for autism: Just because I love my son and accept his diagnosis, doesn’t mean I would not want to make life easier for him, and for other parents not to have to even take this journey. The life lessons have been tremendous, but at what cost?

While I am waiting for those things to happen, I will continue to try to do my part, helping one person at a time, one day at a time.

People tend to store their “good will towards men” for just the Christmas season. As they pack away the Christmas decorations, the spirit of Christmas leaves them as well. Perhaps I should dream smaller. Perhaps my ultimate Christmas wish is for others to find the heart of Christmas in their daily lives and keep that siren song alive year-round. Instead of the 12 days of Christmas, we would sing the joys of 365 days of Christmas. Can you imagine what an astounding force of nature we as a people would be?