Do Our Hearts Need To Break To Grow?

Everyone has a story to tell and I am struck by the stories that speak to the moments of

Chris - rainbow cloud

Chris’s Rainbow Cloud. Photographed by: Jo-Ann L. Tremblay

our lives. Each of us who are ostomates and the non-ostomates who share our lives, have an extraordinary capacity to heal from the greatest tragedies and this fills me with awe.

Every year the month of February is a bitter-sweet journey for me. It is the month that we celebrate my son Richard’s birthday, this year he turns 38. He, our little miracle who we were told could never be. It is also in February that we mark the death day of our son Chris. I’ve lived his death day for 42 years now, and I still feel the unspeakable joy of being graced with him, and then the feeling of his passing impacting me to the core of my being. It is the day I have to accept that he has left us. It is the anniversary of the wailing good bye. It is the annual reminder of how fragile and precious life is, and how deeply and profoundly I love with all of its risks.

Many times through the past 42 years I have tried to make sense of how this could have happened. How could a seemingly healthy 4 month old baby be taken from his parents? Why did it happen? He didn’t do anything wrong, he was just a baby! Then once and again there are the fresh tears as I accept the unbearable pain of good bye.

Through the years I’ve deeply questioned everything I think I know and how I think I know it. Chris, his birth, his short life and his death has been a tragic great teaching for me. Chris taught me life is precious and fragile. He has taught me the world is a wondrous and mysterious place. He has taught me that although I at times feel profound sadness as I stand lonely amid my community of humanity, these are also the same people who with an open heart lend me courage as I face searing heartbreak.

Does our hearts have to break to grow? I do not know the answer to this question. What I have learned is; I refuse to allow any life tragedy to over take me as I feel in my heart life goes on and I will live life to the fullest, I believe my dearest wants that for me. That all life is uncertain, and if we choose to love, it will mean keeping our heart open in the face of perpetual uncertainty. When our courage is tested and we face crisis, a small door opens somewhere inside and we begin to ponder life. Through tragedy we become seekers launched on a path where everything and everyone becomes a life lesson that touches and teaches us.

The nightmare does have a happy ending. Chris’s short life blessed the entire family with joy, and his great life and death teachings of unconditional love, the fragility of life, and the gift that all life no matter who we are or how short it may be…lives on.

Jo-Ann L. Tremblay


“Everyone you meet has a story to tell.”


6 comments on “Do Our Hearts Need To Break To Grow?

  1. Jo-Ann, you are so inspiring. You have suffered many tragedies yet you always find the positives in life. Thank you for your inspiration.

  2. Norma Lachaine says:

    So well said. Some people crumble under tragedy; others suffer but grow and fill their lives and others’ lives with warmth, learning, love, and caring. That is you, Jo-Ann.

    I do not know where your strength comes from, but the earth is a better place for having you take the steps your son could never take, and for you contributing what you have and will continue to contribute, to humanity. Love, Norma

  3. cathyastolfo says:

    My admiration and respect for you are already immense, but when I think of your baby boy Chris, my heart breaks and grows too. You are such a model of resilience and love. I am always grateful for your inspirational presence in my life.

  4. franbarresi says:

    You are an earth angel for so many people. You have touch the hearts of hundreds. Thank you so much for sharing. I too am so lucky to have you in my life. When I feel a glimmer of hope it is because you so love and care for others. You are a huge inspiration.


  5. LINDA BUTLER says:

    Simply beautiful. You must be a very generous hearted lady. One of a kind I’d say. x

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