The Girl in the Hideous Poncho, by Katie McWane Diecker

Katie is a funny, blonde, talented mommy of three lovely children: two earthly blonde cuties, and one darling angel in Heaven. Reading about my Cancer-versary, Katie admitted to a measure of jealousy. Two years later, I have my hair back. But Zachary? Not any number of Zach-aversaries will bring him back. Putting fingertips to keyboard, Katie sent me this collection of paragraphs that she calls her Christmas miracle—the redeeming notion that maybe, after four years, she’s back.

I would like to offer those of you in the gutter of your grief, some hope (I hope). I just felt a Christmas miracle. Of course the best would be to have Zachary home, but recently I just sort of, well…woke up? And of course, I am a totally changed person, woman, mother from losing my biggest dream, my first baby, my Zachary. Sometimes I feel like people can see the grief all over me. Possibly that’s all they see, covering everything like some hideous poncho. But now I see that miracles happen, even to girls in hideous ponchos.

A few weeks ago an old child psychology colleague recommended me for a really great job, and the selling point of my employ-ability was this:

She is one of the funniest people…EVER.

Me? This was me she was advocating. Grief-stricken, Dead Baby Mommy, me? But when I read that cc-ed email, something shifted, and my blonde head started spinning. Wait, I was funny! I mean, I used to be funny. But not anymore. I don’t know how to be funny anymore. Funny stopped at Zachary. But maybe this email suggested that humor (humor!) had begun creeping back in. Great, now they’ll be expecting hilarious emails and witty asides. This is how grief (and human nature) distort otherwise lovely compliments. I wasn’t quite ready for Zachary-cancelling compliments.

But fate (God?) is persistent. Today I was at work with three people I spend more time with than my two small children. As a voice director for animation, we work hard, fast, and precisely to meet deadlines, simultaneously preventing those pressures from sapping our creativity or performance. I sit beside a recording engineer and we work in tandem, with a producer and casting director behind us. It’s Hollywood and badass and also tedious and repetitive. I love it.

Today was our last session before the holiday so we were unwinding, saying things we normally wouldn’t say, collapsing into the friend zone and sharing the best sort of inappropriate insights about our industry and the challenges of finding work. The casting director said, “You know Katie, you could be an actor.” Hmmm, “Yeah, I used to be, but I just don’t know what my ‘thing’ is, you know? You have to know what you are best at in order to sell yourself.” My engineer nearly slapped me in the arm

C’mon Katie you’re funny! TV needs you. You’re like Lucille Ball!

And now I’m crying. For the first time, I realized I’m back. Not because I’m ready to stop being Dead Baby Mommy, but because the world doesn’t see me that way anymore. I have a little boy in Heaven guiding our family, but I am a woman that no longer wears her grief first. It’s no longer the prow of the family ship. I’m not sure if any of this makes sense, but maybe it will to those who feel that sadness defines them, owns them. And my hope (my Christmas wish) is that your losses will come back. Though earthly losses remain, our personal ones can be filled with the love and appreciation of people who really see us under our hideous ponchos. My Zachary is gone, but I’m still here… laughing with other people. This happens. It’s a proof of love in the world, or the power of humor, or the grace of God. But this happens.


The Diecker house is trimmed for Christmas cheer, and love, and laughter… with a stocking hung for Zachary. Merry Christmas, friends.

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