Thursday, October 22, 2009

Angels and Miracles

When women speak confidentially to one another, almost every one of them shares this tragic secret: At some point in their reproductive career, they have lost a child. 

Many have had multiple miscarriages before or in between or even after having beautiful perfect children. They persist and they go on. They deal with the pain quietly, only sharing when they hear of another sister's loss. It is so common. Tragic but common. So many of us share this pain.

It just goes to show how it is a miracle that each and every one of us is born. There must be a very good reason for us to be here because getting here is NOT easy.  

Yesterday, I was shocked and devastated to learn from my doctor at a routine visit that the baby I was convinced was thriving in my womb, the child whose heart my husband and I had witnessed beating just a month ago in a sonogram was no longer alive. How could this be? How could this happen? What to do? What does it all mean? Where do we go from here?

This morning I got up at 5:00AM to just walk. Walking has always been therapy for me. During my walk, I cried some tears, and then suddenly remembered something my 5 year old son had told me several days ago. I hadn't thought much of it at the time.

Lukie had told me that he had had a dream about the baby sister. We didn't actually know what we were having but we thought the baby was a girl for whatever bizarre reason. He had told me that he dreamed that we had lost the baby sister, that we could not find her. That he looked and looked for her and finally found her. She was not a baby but a little girl.

When I came back from walking this morning, Lukie was just waking up. He came into the kitchen yawning dressed in his boxer pull-ups, pajama top and Spider Man slippers. I hugged and kissed him and then asked him to tell me more about the dream he had told me about before. "Can you tell me more about the baby sister you saw in your dream?"

"Yes," he said with confidence. "She was a girl--not a baby--she was about Macie's size. She had black hair and brown eyes. She had purple clothes and black shoes. She smiled at me."

"Lukie," I said, "I think that was the Baby Sister. I think she came to tell you goodbye for us and to let you know that she would be our angel in Heaven looking out for us. Do you feel that that is what happened?"

"Yes, Mommy," he said and smiled and hugged me.

Was Lukie visited by an angel? Our baby who would not be? I cannot say whether it is true or not. What I can tell you is that believing this is helping us to heal. I choose to believe in angels. And Lukie and Macie take comfort in believing that the baby sister they were so eagerly looking forward to helping Mommy with is actually an angel in Heaven helping Mommy with them.

More importantly, I want my children to know that they are miracles. That just by virtue of existing here on Earth, they are meant to be. The Universe has plans for them and they should never doubt that they are worthy. We are all worthy. We are all miracles. 

So, when you are sad and doubting yourself; when you wonder why you are here; when you wonder if you are doing enough or if you are perfect enough or if you are a failure, remember this: 

You are not a mistake. The odds against your being here are enormous. The fact that you exist demonstrates that you were meant to be. So be at peace. Whatever your worries, be at peace. Whatever your fears are, be at peace.  You are here for a reason and your life matters.

Live. Know. Be.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Why the Constitution and the Bill of Rights Matter

In 1787 our founding fathers sat down to write out some principles for the people and government of the fledgling United States of America. These principles were meant to guarantee liberty, justice, domestic tranquility, the common defense of and general welfare for “We the People.” They both set forth—and limited—the powers of government. The system may not work perfectly, but it works pretty well. We should all be thankful that we live in this day and age in the United States of America, although some young people don’t realize just how lucky we really are.

The first time I ever taught as a Florida Supreme Court Justice Teacher (, I addressed an 8th grade class at Hoover Middle School in which a confident young man flippantly stated something to the effect of, “I don’t see what the Constitution and the Bill of Rights have to do with me.”

So, yes, perhaps it is a luxury of growing up in a free country that young people so easily take for granted the rights and freedoms they and their families enjoy. Florida Supreme Court Justice Fred Lewis developed the Justice Teaching program earlier this decade with the goal of pairing up one jurist or lawyer with each and every school in the State of Florida to convey to young Floridians just how important their rights and freedoms really are. Just peruse any newspaper and you will read about what can happen to citizens of other countries where government is not necessarily “by, of and for the people.”

On Sunday, September 20, 2009, I was struck by an Associated Press article on page 16A of Florida Today entitled “Families bear brunt of prisoners’ plight.” This article described how thousands of frantic families in Iran are unable to find out about loved ones who were detained in the crackdown after the disputed June 12th presidential election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It tells the story of 29 year old journalist, Fariba Pajooh, who had been picked up by Iranian Intelligence Ministry agents and placed in jail without explanation on August 28th. After a month of incarceration, Ms. Pajooh’s family and lawyer were still unable to determine the nature of the charges against her or when, if ever, she would be released. According to the article, thousands of other families in Iran are in the same situation with no knowledge of their incarcerated loved ones. The prisoners are denied access to legal representation and due process as we know it in the United States.

The plight of Ms. Pajooh illustrates the horrors of what could happen here in the United States if our founding fathers had not promulgated the United States Constitution and the first ten amendments thereto lovingly referred to as “The Bill of Rights.” How could Ms. Pajooh’s fate been different, had she been a journalist in Brevard County, Florida, rather than in Tehran?

Amendment I to the U.S. Constitution would have protected her freedom of speech, her freedom as a member of the press and her right to peaceably assemble, especially since she was ostensibly arrested due to her occupation as a journalist.

Amendment IV would have protected her against unreasonable searches and seizures without at least a warrant or probable cause.

Under Amendment V, Ms. Pajooh’s family would be ensured that their wife, sister and daughter would receive due process of law, not be compelled to testify against herself or be charged twice in double jeopardy for the same alleged crime.

Under Amendment VI, Ms. Pajooh would not be languishing in jail for as long as the government wished because she would enjoy her right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury. She would have been informed of the crime she was alleged to have committed, of the nature and cause of the accusation. She would be able to confront the witnesses against her and have access to her attorney to properly defend her. As of the date of the Florida Today article, Ms. Pajooh’s lawyer had still not been permitted—over a month later—to see or speak to his client.

Under Amendment VIII, she would have been granted a reasonable bail and as we do not know how she is being treated during her arbitrary and secretive incarceration, she would have been protected from any cruel and unusual punishment.

So to the 8th grader who thought that the Bill of Rights didn’t matter to him, my hope is that by the end of my Justice Teaching presentation he understood that his rights and freedoms were indeed precious. I hope he now believes that he is blessed to live in a country where he enjoys freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, and the right to present the government with his grievances. I hope he now knows that not everyone in the world gets to go to sleep every night without fear of being unreasonably searched or whisked away from his family suddenly and without explanation. And, that if he is ever charged with a crime, he’ll know at least what are the accusations and charges against him, be able to review the evidence, confront his witnesses and have access to an attorney to protect him against what I have found to be the most dear right to any young person: The right against cruel and unusual punishment.

Brooke Deratany Goldfarb, Esq., Harvard Law, JD, is the Justice Teacher for Indialantic Elementary School. Ms. Goldfarb currently works as a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator & Collaborative Family Lawyer in Indialantic, Florida with Peaceful Beach Mediation & Collaboration She is a former large firm corporate lawyer and small town criminal defense attorney.