I just finished reading Ellen Wiseman’s novel “What She Left Behind”, a fictional novel based in a historical setting.

Despite my loss and my grief, I have been an avid reader since childhood.  Like many, the focus of my booklists has changed along with the events of my life.  Once having searched for novels that were uplifting, I have noticed a definite shift since Rowan was killed.  I have found myself searching more for novels that help me understand the world around me; that discuss topics which are difficult and are often hidden beneath society’s need to only discuss what feels good; that tell stories which give me a little bit of hope.

In Wiseman’s novel I found all three, but it was the historical facts behind her novel that brought me to tears, and brought me to the realization that: It could have been worse.

  • I am bereft at the loss of my child, but I have not been committed to an insane asylum for life because of my grief (I may have been less than a century ago)
  • My daughter may hear untrue statements about her brother in the playground, but she does not have to walk by US Eugenics posters claiming that people like her brother are a burden to society. (She may have less than a century ago)
  • My son may have been gassed to death as a result of discrimination, but he was not subject to intentional euthanasia because of genetic attributes considered unfit by others (He may have been less than a century ago)
  • I may have only had two years with my son, but I was able to give birth to him and bring him home and keep wonderful memories (I may not have a few decades ago)
  • My daughter’s grief might not be accepted in society, but there are safe places where she can grieve as a child (there was not a few decades ago)
  • Few people may have listened to our story or heard its message, but I have the freedom to tell it in on the internet where anyone who wants to can find it (I would not have a few decades ago)

So really, seen in the light of what could have been, I am pretty fortunate.  I am still here to live my life and support my daughter, and my son had the chance to know my love.

My love for both my son and my daughter will never quiet.  And I will continue to tell our story, despite a world that often ignores my voice or labels me as crazy.  I will continue to speak until I am old and my voice raspy, the whole time thankful that my voice is not hidden behind the dark walls of Willard Asylum.

And the whole time knowing that It could have been worse is not enough..

Because better than this is not enough for my son:


United States Eugenics Poster, 1926, Source:  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/e3/United_States_eugenics_advocacy_poster.jpg

To learn more about the history of Eugenics in United States Science and Medicine, visit: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/1796 or read Edwin Black’s “War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race”