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Some of my favorite writers are clever with words. But the ones I go back to are the ones that are clever with ideas. -- Bono

Like a Song: Mothers of the Disappeared

@U2
[Ed. note: This is the 36th in a series of personal essays by the @U2 staff about songs and/or albums that have had great meaning or impact in our lives.]

Like A SongI've been a U2 fan for over 28 years. I became a fan as early as their first appearance in New York City all those years ago. Their music has always meant so much to me but none more so than their album The Joshua Tree. For me, that album is U2's masterpiece and the one I feel they will be remembered for in the years to come. I even named my oldest son Joshua.

The entire album flows so beautifully from the first song, "Where the Streets Have No Name," to the last, "Mothers of the Disappeared." It is like reading the perfect novel from its first chapter to its last. The one song that had always had an impact on me was the closing one.

There are few lyrics in "Mothers of the Disappeared," but I feel they are the most powerful and emotional on the entire album. I can feel the sadness and pain of the mothers in Bono's voice. The beautiful music has a ghostly quality about it as if the ghosts of these children are calling out for justice. The mothers of Plaza de Mayo whose children were abducted in Argentina's "Dirty War" were an inspiration to me when the album was first released. How brave they were to demand that the government tell them where the remains of their children were even when it put them in danger to do so. They were courageous mothers speaking up for their children who could not speak for themselves. Little did I know then that this song would have such a profound effect on me years later.

Fast forward to November 2002. It was such a happy time -- I was due to deliver my second son any day. My oldest, Joshua, was now a 4-year-old preschooler. It was an ordinary day that included a visit to my doctor, yet I felt something was not right. Call it a mother's intuition. As the doctor scanned my stomach with the ultrasound equipment, he looked very worried. He didn't have to say a word. I already knew that I no longer heard my son's heartbeat.

Midnight our sons and daughters Were cut down and taken from us Hear their heartbeat We hear their heartbeat

In an instant, I knew I would never be the same again. His beautiful heartbeat that I had loved hearing was now silent. He was suddenly taken from me. I was in complete shock and became numb -- simply a shell with nothing inside. I was told that I had to go to the hospital right away to deliver this full- term child that would never cry or laugh.

In the wind we hear their laughter In the rain we see their tears

I delivered my son on Nov. 27, 2002. The grief counselor urged me to hold him before he had to go. I didn't want to do it, but I knew he deserved to be held by his mother. In that moment, the wall of numbness I built around me came tumbling down. The tears that fell from my eyes were just like rain falling in a storm.

See their tears in the rainfall

All the lyrics from this song kept coming into my mind during this time. I buried my son and then locked myself away in a room alone for a very long time. I blamed myself for his death because it was a blood clot to the placenta that deprived him of oxygen. In my mind, it was my body that failed him.

It was "Mothers of the Disappeared" that actually brought me back into the world once again. I finally decided I wanted to be brave like the actual Mothers of the Disappeared and do something for my child. It was then that I became active in causes for children (especially in Africa). I was also inspired by Agnes Nyamayarwo, who after losing her own son to AIDS, went on to educate and help the families in her community in Uganda. I wanted to be a part of helping another child live in memory of my son. I wanted to be as courageous as these women were and still are. That was a big part of the healing process for me.

Even though our lives are so very different, any mother who has lost a child is indeed a Mother of the Disappeared. Our children have disappeared from us in the physical form. Some were lost in a state-of-the-art hospital room where the mother was surrounded by the best of doctors who could not help. Some were lost in the hot African sun due to the lack of a life-saving vaccine or a mosquito net. They could have been helped. Still some, like the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, lost their children in senseless and horrific acts by a military regime. They all will, however, go on as long as we (their mothers) go on. We can hear their hearts beat because our hearts are still beating. It is our hearts that pumped the blood to them which gave them life in our wombs. If we go on, they go on. We must find a way to let the world know that our children were here and that they mattered. I have chosen my own way of doing that just as the mothers in Argentina have chosen to march every week in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires while wearing the white scarves with their beloved child's name embroidered on it. Others may follow a very different path. Yet we will all forever be united.

Thank you U2 from all the mothers who have lost a child.

In loving memory of my son Jesse...in the wind I hear his laughter.



© @U2/Zeitlinger, 2009.