roots and wings

It’s good to be home where the daily grind has never felt so good.


In Missoula, right now, it is hot and we go to lots of birthday parties. We go to bed late after a bath that leaves the water brown with the day’s play.

In this week’s mama digs, I wrote the experience of grieving with our children about the death of a child. It had a profound impact on our family. Read more in in mama digs: roots and wings.

:: :: ::

all photos taken with a Canon Digital SLR from

34 Responses to roots and wings

  1. Minnesotagal says:

    The circle of life is amazing and painful and grand and mysterious. I am more sorry than you can imagine about the death of your loved ones! I am also so grateful to read your beautiful words and not hear the likes of “God works in mysterious ways”. I do not have the “benefit” of that belief either and when my father passed away I muddled my way though all the thoughts and feelings and raw emotions and came out on the other side being grateful to be able to say the words – he “died” instead of he “passed” or we “lost” him or he’s in a “better” place. He was none of those things – he was simply, irrevocably and profoundly dead. I wish that, as a society, we would honor that truth more instead of glossing over it or sheepishly avoiding it. I found that grounding myself in that honesty with those that I loved helped me heal more that any “kind” words. He’s dead but the rest of us go on living and loving and honoring his memory. I’m not waiting to find him or see him again someday and I’m at peace with that. I continue to heal daily as I will for the rest of my life.
    It’s strong grounded roots that let a tree soar high and spread it’s branches. Shallow roots are a recipe for stunted growth and risk of toppling in a storm. The deeper you ground the higher you soar.
    What an amazing gift you are giving your children! What beautiful words to inspire all of us!

  2. KWQR says:

    Love the picture of the girl’s happy room… and so strongly identified with this from Mama Digs:
    “I wasn’t sure I’d have kids and a big reason was the inevitable heartache, the risk in turning my insides out, giving a piece of my beating heart away to the universe.”
    Roots & wings indeed. Glad to hear you are home safe & sound.

  3. Annie says:

    I like the Roots & Wings analogy. Your daughter’s point of view is refreshing. Looking from the view of children can bring great perspective to life.

  4. Louise says:

    Sorry for your loss, its so heart wrenching to read this. Sending love and strength to his parents and all of you.

  5. rebecca says:

    ,,,it is HOT here in our town too, but it feels really good to be welcomed home by our daily routine after being away on summer holiday,,,love m&r’s routine and alice’s too!,,,happy monday, almost nuggs day but not quite,,,

  6. Gatorale says:

    Oh, how I love that photo…I love seeing the old school Fisher Price barn and silo sitting on Margot’s shelves. I smile knowing my Mom has those same toys ready and waiting for her “someday” grand children. I hope to be a mommy one day soon and “give a piece of my beating heart away to the universe” too. Your blog is just fab! :-)

  7. I love picturing the brown bathwater. At our house we say that if your knees aren’t green by the end of the day you should seriously reconsider your life!

    Will go read mama digs now ….

  8. Jill says:

    Heartbreaking and beautifully written. You are so talented! I really love this…,”I wasn’t sure I’d have kids and a big reason was the inevitable heartache, the risk in turning my insides out, giving a piece of my beating heart away to the universe. It’s terrifying.”

    I am saddened to hear about the death of Andy’s cousin’s son. Funerals are never easy but saying goodbye to young ones is painfully sad and unfair.

    Jill B (Overland Park, KS)

  9. This rocked me. Deep. This is one of those top stitches that hold the quilt together — it’s a tight process grieving beside your babies. But, mourning another’s child with the hands of your own children in your hands is tough stuff.
    Well done, Nici as a mama and super job delivering the story as a writer.

  10. _Blogger_ says:

    Pictures are really Nice. . .
    Looks like you are a blogger rather a professional PHOTOGRAPHER! :-)

  11. Tina says:


    I can’t think of anything else to say besides… wow.

  12. Elke Govertsen says:


    This is amazing, nici.

  13. Shelby says:


    Unimaginable and heartbreaking. Could never imagine losing any of my children…or my husband for that matter. I am deeply sorry for your family’s loss.

  14. Malissa says:


    This is heartbreaking. It is hard to make sense of such tragedy. I like your thoughts. xo.

  15. Marissa says:


    Sounds absolutely painful for his parents and family. You may be interested in this article. Particularly the part about after death. Praying for your entire family at this time of tragedy.

  16. Jessica says:


    Sometimes I want to chain Sulli up and lock him in a room lined with Nerf the basement to keep him safe, a futile attempt to avoid the pain you and you family are going through. I am so sorry. I so agree that there is no point imaging horrible things and I read somewhere that on a biochemical level, your brain can’t tell the difference between an actual event and an imagined one. Wings…

  17. Jennie says:


    You always manage to fit an encyclopedia’s worth of meaning and emotion into a few paragraphs in these posts – bravo. Another poignant read!

  18. Jen says:


    Heartbreaking to read. So sorry for your family. Your words are such a beautiful reflection and so very meaningful. Roots and wings….so, so true!

  19. Lea says:


    we have been rocked in the same way the last few weeks after the death of family friend’s young child. thanks for sharing some truthful words on such a deeply painful subject. i have reflected much on the knife edge we all dance along between joy and sorrow, the causes of each are so wildly entangled.

  20. Kim says:


    Thanks for sharing this Nici…beautifully written. My cousin lost her son two years ago now. “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” – Hodding Carter The woman speaking at the funeral was right…wings seem harder.

  21. via

    This is exquisite: painful and beautiful. You touch on all the things we most fear and yet face. I’m sorry for your family’s loss.

    Just spent 3 wks in Montana (many posts were written there) and was telling a friend: I love the way so many people in MT just say it like it is. This is very powerful and I’m really glad I found this site. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Sarah says:


    Wow. I cannot imagine the heartache and your words put it so succinctly. You truly have a gift. So sorry for what your family is going through right now

  23. Jodi says:


    Have you seen this quote that seems so apt now as I am mama to our dearest 20-month-old Merra Shay?

    Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. [Elizabeth Stone]

    Thank you for your insights on life and parenting from the prairies in Canada…

  24. Kim says:


    Thanks for sharing this Nici…beautifully written. My cousin lost her son two years ago now. “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” – Hodding Carter The woman speaking at the funeral was right…wings seem harder.

  25. Jodi, I love that quote! Thanks for sharing. How viscerally true.

  26. Zoe says:


    Oh Nici, what a difficult thing to do, to go through, let alone to try to explain to a child. When my brother left, many years ago now, and my kids were small (though larger than yours), I remember how hard it was to give any kind of meaning, to explain what death is, the finality of if.
    And this young one was 15? With wings opened and gaining power.

    Wings are definitely harder.

    Wishing you peace.

  27. rebecca says:


    ,,,we say good-bye, though we never stop loving,,,so sorry to hear of the loss in your family,,,thank you for sharing with your readers your words and margot’s too,,,

  28. Jeanne says:


    I am so sorry for your loss. It is heartbreaking that your family is enduring such a tragedy. My thoughts are with you guys.

  29. Neysa says:


    Love this. Love you. This has been a haunting experience. I am grateful for your words. Thanks, Nic.

  30. Michele says:


    This is really beautiful and so true. I think we can only hope that we give our kids strong enough wings.

    As hard as it must be to explain death to young children, I think they are able to help us cope with it ourselves. They still want to go outside and run and play, and we need to be there to watch them.

  31. Jennifer says:


    I love that you and Andy wished for religion for a second in hopes of an eased explanation. I love that your answers were filled with honesty. Telling a child that all kids and animals go to heaven seems like a cheat if you ask me… and the more that I have trusted children with the age old truth of “we just don’t know,” it seems to allow their minds to live in a moment of unknown and find their own peace, instead of swaddling them with false securities and hoping that they never wear. I can remember a time that my agnostic grandfather announced a similar thing to me when I was really young. A neighbor died and he said, “I can’t wait to find out where we go.” I had only heard “You’ll see them in heaven,” from others. It was the first chance that someone gave me the opportunity to wonder about life after life.
    Thank you for this truly breath-halting entry.

  32. Jennifer, I just love your thoughts here. It is a cheat. How cool your grandpa said he couldn’t wait. Not scary, just curious. Thanks for sharing.

  33. dc says:

    Thanks for sharing this Nici, I’m so sorry for your family. Five months ago I would have described our lives as perfect but we lost one of our dear nephews. My brother and family live 3 blocks away so we are very close to their 3 sons. Now there is a lot of sadness punctuated by moments of joy. Matthew was 17 and so full of life, his sudden death during a sporting event has blown us away yet drawn us even closer together as a family.

    Here is a poem that expresses how I often feel:

    Those who are near me do not know that you are nearer to me than they are

    Those who speak to me do not know that my heart is full with your unspoken words

    Those who crowd in my path do not know that I am walking alone with you

    They who love me do not know that their love brings you to my heart.

    –Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)

    Peace to you and your family at this difficult time.