“But after tempest . . . /There came a day as still as heaven” (Tennyson)

Still. An ordinary word, brief, easy to pronounce. When my sons were toddlers, I often told them to hold still while I was brushing their hair, changing their clothes, bundling them into snow suits.

I would ask them to please sit still when they squirmed at the dinner table. In restaurants, wait staff offer a choice of sparkling or still water. This simple word took on a never-ending depth of meaning in 2003, when my granddaughter was stillborn.

Born, yet still. Silent. Motionless. Dead, yet still born.

Still has a myriad of uses in the English language. It is truly not a simple word. It can be a noun, as in the phrase the still of the night, which is when I do much of my writing. It can be used as a verb, meaning to calm or appease, to still my tears. An adjective in phrases like still water.

As an adverb, still indicates time, and time is what I will never have with my beloved granddaughter. She is still dead. I will still rage and cry. I held her for hours yet I still crave more time with her.

Seven years into this journey, and I still don’t understand why she isn’t here for me to spoil. As a conjunction, still replaces and yet or nevertheless.

She died during delivery; still I love her.

She is dead; still I have four grandchildren.

After several years, still I continue to think of her and write to honor her.

Still. Not so ordinary; a grand, sweeping word, able to communicate a great deal in its brevity. Much like my granddaughter’s life, the nine months when she was not still, when she squirmed and danced, effervescent as sparkling water. Her face when she slid still from her mother’s womb like still water, peaceful, tranquil, calm.

Every sip a toast to my granddaughter, to life, to memory, still haunted by her absence while aware of her presence.

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Nina Bennett

Nina Bennett has 4 grandchildren, one of whom was unexpectedly born still following a healthy full-term pregnancy. She has worked in reproductive health since 1976, and was a childbirth educator for nearly 10 years. A healthcare professional and frequently requested guest lecturer, Nina presents talks and workshops locally and nationally. She is the Principal Investigator of an IRB-approved research study looking at how grandparents incorporate perinatal loss into their families. Nina is a social activist who gives voice to the often silent grief of grandparents through her writing and speaking. Her articles and poetry have appeared in the anthology Mourning Sickness, The Broadkill Review, Slow Trains Literary Journal, Grief Digest, the News Journal, A.G.A.S.T., Different Kind of Parenting, M.I.S.S.ing Angels, and Living Well Journal, as well as many other publications. Nina is the author of Forgotten Tears A Grandmother’s Journey Through Grief. Proceeds from her book are donated to MISS Foundation, and other agencies supporting families bereaved by the death of a baby. She contributed a chapter to They Were Still Born, a collection of first-person accounts of stillbirth.

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