Tuesday, August 11, 2015


What do you do with your son's ashes?  This is a terrifying question, and we didn't have an answer for some time.  We knew that we wanted to have Oberon's body cremated, but keeping the ashes in an urn in our home seemed terrible.  Interring them at a cemetery also felt wrong.  Spreading the ashes seemed like the best thing for us, but where and how took some time to determine.

California has some oddly restrictive laws about spreading remains, so the easiest thing to do is pay for a company to spread the ashes either at sea or by plane.  The funeral home offered information on some of these services.  We have no particular attachment to the ocean, so that didn't make sense to us.  We did briefly considered a service that would spread the ashes from a plane over somewhere like Monterrey Bay or Lake Tahoe.  We probably gave the most thought to Lake Tahoe, since Obie had been there while Elizabeth was pregnant, but the connection seemed like a stretch, and ultimately didn't seem right either.  Eventually, we decided that we wanted to scatter the ashes ourselves somewhere in nature.

We found out that it is legal to scatter ashes on public lands in CA, as long as you get the right permission.  Most national parks and forests allow this, hiking in Yosemite or in the Tahoe National Forest wasn't a realistic option in January, so finding somewhere that we could visit in any season became important to us.  Although we had never really looked into it before, there is a bounty of public parks and open space preserves right in the Bay area.  With a little looking, Chris found Uvas Canyon County Park in the Santa Cruz mountains just a little south of San Jose.

View from Uvas Canyon County Park.

The park has a number of spring fed waterfalls which flow year round (even with the drought).  There is also a waterfall loop which goes to many of the park's waterfalls, and is considered by many to be the best waterfall hike for families in the Bay Area.  The trail has a bit of a grade to it, but nothing too strenuous.  We remember seeing people, and families, along the trails, but at no time did we feel crowded, which was important for us.  We arbitrarily decided on Superbowl Sunday, but also hoped the timing would keep some crowds away while we hiked.  Chris obtaining the permit from Santa Clara County, and we set out.  The drive to the park goes south out of San Jose, then winds up into the eastern slope of Santa Cruz Mountains.  The road leading to the park goes through Sveadal, a small private Swedish American community directly outside the park's entrance.

There isn't really anything that can prepare you for going on a hike to spread your son's ashes in nature.  We didn't have a specific ceremony or remembrance in mind.  We didn't have a plan, but really, how could we?  Without anything specific in mind, we just started hiking up the waterfall loop carrying our good camera, a set of our favorite wallet-sized Obie pictures, and his ashes to scatter.

The first of many trails we took.

The loop has a steady grade up to first of the waterfalls, Black Rock Falls.  At this point, we decided that we wanted to spread Obie's ashes throughout the park as we hiked the trails.  Taking turns along the way, we scattered a little bit whenever the surroundings spoke to us.  We decided to take pictures of the area with the pictures of Obie in the foreground and the park in the background.  We continued past the waterfall loop and hiked to the top of Knobcone Point.  We then hiked to Basin Falls and Upper Falls before deciding to continue on the Contour Trail which tracks back along the canyon wall.

Obie's pictures in Uvas Canyon.

We found numerous spots along the trail that spoke to us, but one of the most striking as a grove of white trees the stretched over the trail like a tunnel to walk through.

White tree tunnel (the camera is not tilted).

Not being ready to leave, we kept hiking into Alec Canyon past Manzanita Point.  Eventually, we hiked to the Old Logging Camp where we walked under a giant yellow-flowering tree, and finally to Triple Falls.  All along, we took pictures of Obie's pictures anywhere that seemed right.  I don't think anyone really noticed what we were doing, but we didn't really care if they had.  There were lots of tears, lots of embracing each other, and lots of remembering how much we missed our little Obie.  The entire experience was, and still seems, completely surreal.

Manzanita Point.

Before this post, we had not shared any of the details of the hike we took to scatter Obie's ashes.  We also haven't been back to Uvas Canyon since the hike.  This isn't because we don't want to share, but mostly because we haven't been ready to talk about it before now.  We picked Uvas Canyon because it is somewhere we can go back to visit any time of year and also somewhere we can take friends and family in the future.  We will go back, but not yet, we aren't ready.

Yellow flower.

If you follow us on social media, it has to be pretty hard not to notice that we have taken to hiking this year.  We have made a point of trying to hike every weekend that we are able.  There isn't a specific link back to Obie, but the first hike we took was in Uvas Canyon for Obie.  Since then, we have taken to it as a way to be good to our bodies and our minds.  We didn't know it at the time, but the hiking trips constantly bring us around more of Obie's yellow flowers and more of Obie's bees than we would ever get to see otherwise.  


Monday, August 3, 2015


We started writing this post when Elizabeth was pregnant with Obie.  While it didn't end up being something we had time to finish and publish during the pregnancy, we still think it's important to share.

While we waited for beastie's prognosis information, a lot of scenarios ran through our heads.  What if the little guy had a condition with a life expectancy of less than a month, and that life would be filled with surgeries, oxygen tubes, poking and prodding?  What if he had a condition with a longer life expectancy, but no possibility of ever being able to take care of himself?  What if no matter what the life expectancy was in length, it was guaranteed to be filled with physical suffering?

After the amnio and array testing results, we didn't think the prognosis was so serious, but for a few weeks in the second trimester it all felt possible.

If the diagnosis was something more serious at that point, we can't tell you what we would have done.  No one can make that decision until it's placed in front of them.  So why are we bothering to bring it up?  Because everyone should have the choice.

Elizabeth is lucky that she lives in California, where there are not unconstitutional bans on abortion.  If she lived in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, or Texas, there would have been no options.  Access to abortions in these states is severely limited at or around 20 weeks, which is right about where we were when they found beastie's omphalocele.  As we waited for more information on beastie's condition, even more states would have imposed additional restrictions.

It was bad enough waiting for the results of beastie's early tests.  The sympathy for women who live in states with limited or no options was overwhelming.  Every woman and every family needs to make their own decisions, and it is not the place of lawmakers to insert themselves into that conversation.  The thought of being forced to continue a pregnancy that was guaranteed to result in suffering for the fetus and the family is horrifying to Elizabeth.  She couldn't imagine bringing a baby into the world simply to suffer, and emotionally the depression of having to take a pregnancy to term with such a cloud of sadness was impossible to imagine.  

Some people will take every pregnancy to its natural course, regardless of medical information.  That's their choice.  Others find it more compassionate for the fetus and the family to end a pregnancy with found medical issues (this is called "Termination for Medical Reasons" or TFMR).  Still others have more reasons why bringing a baby into the world is not a good choice for them at that time.  It isn't our place to judge or to dictate.  It's our place to be compassionate and supportive of the women in our lives and the choices they make.

Upon reflection, if we knew the severity of Obie's problems in the second trimester, we can't say what we would have done.  We would have definitely considered TFMR, and that would have been a very sad and horrible thing to go through.  In addition to losing our beloved son, we would have likely also dealt with judgment and scrutiny from family, friends, and acquaintances.  This would clearly not have been a helpful response.  There should not be shame in terminating a pregnancy.  The choice is ultimately up to the woman whose body sustains the fetus.  Is her body ready for this pregnancy?  Is she ready to raise a living child or bring a pregnancy to term to give up the child for adoption?  Is the fetus ready for a life outside the womb?  These are all questions she can consider, and if the answer to any one of them is "no," she must do what she thinks is best.