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Life Touches Life Book cover

click to order Life Touches Life
  • Chapter One
    The Joy of Anticipation
  • Chapter Two
    A Heartbeat Away
  • Chapter Three
    Holding Victoria
  • Chapter Four
    In the Grip of the Fever
  • Chapter Five
    Going Home
  • Chapter Six
    I Am Not Alone
  • Chapter Seven
    The Question of God and the Great Beyond
  • Chapter Eight
    Divine Silence
  • Chapter Nine
    Insensitive People and Extraordinary Kindness
  • Chapter Ten
    Re-entering the World
  • Chapter Eleven
    Finding Peace
  • Chapter Twelve
    A Virtual Memorial
  • Chapter Thirteen
    Getting Through the Holidays
  • Chapter Fourteen
    Let the Healing Begin
  • Chapter Fifteen
    The Difficult Land of Love and Grief
  • Chapter Sixteen
    Four Years Later
Life Touches Life:
A Mother’s Story of Stillbirth and Healing
By Lorraine Ash Now Available
Foreword by Christiane Northrup, MD

Although 26,000 babies are stillborn in the United States every year, stillbirth continues to be a taboo subject. Life Touches Life shatters the silence that has hidden a bane as old as humankind.

Lorraine Ash met that silence head-on when, after a trouble-free pregnancy, her daughter, Victoria, was declared dead on what was to be her date of delivery, June 2, 1999. After a C-section, Ash fought a fever that raged at 104 degrees and almost succumbed to the silent B-strep infection that had robbed her daughter of life.

Baby Victoria illustration by Bill AshAwed by the experience, which was to change her forever, Ash sought solace and perspective in all the old places and found little relief. In Life Touches Life she tears down the walls of misunderstanding that isolated her in her hour—indeed years—of need. “Shattering the silence is essential if mothers are to integrate their loss into their daily lives,” Ash writes. “A child who only existed inside her mother can continue to spiritually exist there and the two can remain close.”

Ash discusses the inner changes she faced after the stillbirth of her daughter and delves into spiritual questions that shook her soul: Why did God let this happen? Is there justice in the world? What does this death mean in terms of what to believe and how to move forward?

Ash also reveals the erratic social landscape she encountered and what it felt like to be faced with people who emotionally misunderstood her loss and gave her little, if any, time for recovery. A mother facing stillbirth is often urged to “get over it already and have another child.” People offer a grieving mother platitudes that trivialize her pain. Worse, she can be abandoned by old friends used to her old self, which died with her baby. Or she is avoided because people see her as a physical manifestation of their own worst fears of how life can go wrong.

The mother holding a stillbirth in her heart must navigate holidays, including Mother’s Day and the anniversary of her baby’s death. Like a veteran of any trauma, she can flash back when some small thing once again triggers the memory of being in that delivery room with its awful silence and hopelessness.

It’s a long road to a new life that feels good and right again, but Ash reassures her readers that it is a wondrous road and that recovery is possible. “The new life will be different,” she writes. “Not like the old. In many ways, the new life will be richer —filled with people who know how to care for a grieving mother, even as she finds new ways to empathize, love and meet others in their places of pain. The new life will include looking at things with eyes stripped of innocence. Acceptance of fate brings wisdom and uncommonly fierce and loving bonds with others—bonds that only come from surviving great loss.”

Ash offers a legacy of stillbirth that can bring a profound relaxation in living. Common losses in life seem so much smaller. Lose a job, lose a fortune—nothing rivals the loss of a child. When things in life go awry, they pale in intensity and consequence when framed within the pain of a mother who has walked through a stillbirth.

What’s more, the fate of a stillbirth mother gives her a particular presence in the world—one of value and peace, which Ash discusses in a chapter that explores how she lives as a stillbirth mother four years after her daughter died.

The message of Life Touches Life is this: Hope is ahead. Hope is here. For every hurtful word or action a stillbirth mother bears, there is something of uncommon beauty right down the road—something she may never have seen or understood before. Epiphanies emerge from the stuff of everyday experience. True, old friends still stand with her while new ones arrive, as if drawn by some cosmic pull.

Soon all these things become a new emotional landscape for the stillbirth mother as she sets out on the journey of the rest of her life. Life Touches Life is for those mothers and everyone who wants to understand their pain and love them well.

 


Lorraine Ash

HELEN ASH/GLEN ROC PHOTOGRAPHY

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Lorraine Ash has been working as a newspaper journalist since 1982, currently for the Daily Record in Parsippany, New Jersey. Her feature articles and series, particularly on health and women’s issues, have won national, state, and regional awards and have been published nationally.

She continues to explore the themes of stillbirth, childlessness, midlife, and mortality in published essays. In addition to her work in journalism and essay writing, Ash is a playwright. Each of her three plays, published by The History Project in Virginia, is about a U.S. president, including James Monroe, Andrew Jackson and John Tyler.

Since earning a master’s degree in Communications from Fordham University, Ash has studied writing at various venues, including the Wesleyan Writers Conference in Connecticut, the Fine Arts Work Center in Massachusetts, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors in New York. She has taught writing on the college level and is a member of The International Women’s Writing Guild.

Ash lives in Allendale, New Jersey, with her trumpeter husband, Bill Ash. She enjoys yoga, Hindu philosophy, and traveling the state of Maine. As a peer grief counselor, she works one-on-one with stillbirth mothers.


PHOTO: BOB KARP

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The following is an excerpt from Life Touches Life by Lorraine Ash to be published by NewSage Press Spring 2004. All material copyrighted and may not be used without prior permission from the publisher.

On our first vacation after Victoria died, Bill and I walked the beach at Cape Cod every day at sunset. Even the beach taught me something. Bill walked barefoot, the sand between his toes, and went off to photograph seals and surfs. I took in the wind, felt it in my hair, in my lungs, and on my skin as my mind unraveled. That day the beach taught me how it’s possible for Victoria to be here and not be here. The sun sprinkled gold dust on the sand—an imaginary gold that glowed orange-yellow. The ocean reflected the lavender light in the sky and the water’s surface shimmered with a strange and heavenly patina. Victoria is the gold, the lavender, the light, the beauty that is breathtaking but cannot be held or contained.

Reality, I got to thinking months later, also includes relationships that take a different turn than we expect—different than, perhaps, we would have them take. Relationships don’t all fit into the usual prescribed social guidelines. I thought of the teachers who taught me how to find what’s inside me—a wrangler in Arizona, an ambulance worker in New Jersey. I thought of a boy in Bangkok with whom I had exchanged no more than a glance.

What names did I have for these relationships? Who were these people? Would I choose to live without even one of them?

No.

My Victoria was one of them. I could think of her as my dead daughter, and the relationship would end, leaving at least a part of me for the rest of my life in a cold stasis. Or I could think of her as someone with whom I could continue to share a spiritual relationship that I had never before fathomed. I chose the latter. There was more joy in it, more warmth, too. I chose the latter just as I chose to commit myself to my marriage, to my friends. I simply made a decision. In the end, that’s what it came down to. The decision brings me peace. It allows me not only to live life again, but to love it with a kind of hope that wasn’t there before.

One day my cousin Kathy talked to me about Meaghan, her first daughter who had died of a heart malady after living only days. There are times, she said, when she feels—no, she knows—that her daughter is with her. There are days when the sense she has an otherworldly guardian is as palpable as running her fingers through the grass.

Then Kathy, a scientist, told me a ghost story. Her bravery in sharing this story touched me. Five years after Meaghan’s death, shortly after settling into a new home, Kathy awoke in the middle of the night. In the darkness she saw an apparition of a curly-haired girl who looked under the bed, into the closet and then vanished. The girl was about the age her daughter would have been. She was sure it was Meaghan.

“One thought ran through my mind,” Kathy said. “I thought, ‘My God, Meaghan’s been with us all along. We had moved and she was checking out the new digs.’”

Did Kathy really see the ghost? I think she did, yet I don’t know. But I’ll tell you this: In the middle of the night, I watch.

 

 


 

Life Touches Life is the most hauntingly beautiful, honest and inspiring story of loss, grief, and transformation that I’ve ever read. I couldn’t put it down and read it in one sitting. Within these pages, I found good and powerful medicine for anyone who is in the crucible of grief, experiencing their hopes and dreams being burned away by forces they cannot control. It will give you solace. It will give you hope. It is, ultimately, a celebration of life with all its pain, poignancy, and mystery.

—Christiane Northrup, M.D., Author, The Wisdom of Menopause


Love unifies us, inseparably, with each other. Perhaps the most majestic expression of this union is the connection of mother and child. No one has described this better than Lorraine Ash in her moving testament of her daughter’s stillbirth. Life Touches Life is a tribute to love and life everywhere. Never have we needed such a vision as now.

—Larry Dossey, M.D.
Author, Healing Beyond the Body: Medicine and the Infinite Reach of the Mind


In my own life, I have been surrounded by women who have experienced the devastating loss of a child. I have seen how the excruciating pain can twist a woman's soul. I have also seen, in the pages of this book, how it can melt the walls of a Mother's heart, exposing the rarest kind of beauty and grace. Life Touches Life is an exquisitely beautiful story that carries the reader through the darkest of hours into the brilliant light of faith, hope and eternal love.

—Lone Jensen
Author, Gifts of Grace


The Mother and Child is perhaps the greatest icon of tenderness and intimacy that we have. The mother carries the child under her heart. The womb of the mother is the child’s first world. Lorraine Ash has written a most poignant account of her daughter’s life in that first world and the tragedy that stopped her at the threshold to the outside world. There is immense pain here, huge loss and a searing loneliness. Yet the beauty of her account shows how hope, healing and new possibility can be harvested from the terrain of sorrow. Eventually, the sore of grief becomes a well of presence.

—John O’Donohue
Author, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom


Lorraine Ash’s book is important, insightful and moving. It will touch the heart of anyone who has ever had to cope with stillbirth, of course, but it will also deeply affect any reader who has suffered profound loss of any kind.

—Adam Pertman
Author, Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution Is Transforming America


In Life Touches Life, Lorraine Ash gives us an intimate glimpse into an aspect of the human experience most of us might have otherwise never known. And she has done so with such eloquence, elegance, and grace that I truly couldn’t put it down. The writing is beautiful — simple and direct, but flowing with the warmth and music of great poetry. Lorraine’s sharing of one of life’s most devastating and least talked-about experiences is brilliant. She paints a glorious portrayal of the opening and flowering of her own soul in response to her grief. It is a beautiful tale of one woman’s struggle to come to terms with an experience which to most of us would seem incomprehensible and totally unacceptable. Yet she shows us how she turned it into a path to the deepest realms of her heart and soul. I highly recommend this superbly written, enlightening and inspirational story to everyone, no matter what their age, gender, or life circumstance. It is a deeply touching story of the boundless depth, resilience, love and wisdom of the human spirit.

—John E. Welshons
Author, Awakening from Grief: Finding the Road Back to Joy


This memoir holds particular value for the 1,000,000 American women who suffer unsuccessful pregnancies every year. In a larger sense, though, this is another real-life instance of the human spirit put on trial, and that must involve us all. No reader will walk away having turned the last page without pride in Lorraine Ash as our champion in this struggle.

—Brad Kennedy
Author, Heroes or Something


Life Touches Life is a beautiful book. Told with gut-level honesty, it is a journey from love to loss and back into the light. It’s simply a must-read memoir.

—Pat Carr, Author, If We Must Die


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