After the long and tedious four-year cycle of conception, gestation, growth, and birth, my
first book—Into These Hands, Wisdom From Midwives—was finally published in Spring 2011. As it turned out, the first people to see it in print were the Board of Directors of the Midwives Alliance. Our spring board meeting was held in Ohio at the gorgeous handmade dream home of Abby J. Kinne, one of the co-authors in my book, and a former MANA board member.
Abby and I had served on the MANA board for many years together in a variety of capacities, most recently when she was 1st Vice President, Diane Holzer was President, and I was 2nd Vice President. We were a dynamic trio with very different personalities and skill sets that blended to make a rather lively and effective leadership team for MANA. Among the many things we did together was to create the framework for the Division of Research, authoring the first draft of the document that described the structure and function of the MANA DOR so that the Division could get up and running.
At the 2011 spring board meeting we had a “Coming Out Party” for my book. One of our board members, Adrian Feldhusen, made chocolate covered strawberries, somebody had chilled bottles of Champagne, and board members clambered to get signatures of the four co-authors who were present —Abby Kinne, Jennie Joseph,
Linda McHale and me (Geradine Simkins.) It was one of the most exciting, emotional, proud, humbling, and amazing moments of my life. Abby was a gracious host, sharing her home, land, pond, and sanctuary with the MANA board.
Abby willingly accepted my invitation to be one of the co-authors for my book. But somewhere between her acceptance and her commitment to write her memoir, her beloved firstborn son, Rick, was killed in a motorcycle accident. As you would expect—Abby did not feel that she could go on. She was in a deep depression and could not function well much less write a memoir. I encouraged, cajoled, and begged her to write. I said that her living children deserved to hear her story, to have her legacy, in her own words. Reluctantly, Abby agreed. And what happened is that Abby wrote, and wrote, and wrote. It was cathartic. She told her story; the story of her loved ones, and included photos of her family throughout. In the end Abby thanked me for pushing her because writing her story was one of the most therapeutic things she could have done. Each time she included a piece about Rick in her memoir she released a piece of her grief and replaced it with celebration of Rick’s life. Here is a sketch that illustrates this point.
On one occasion, our oldest son, Rick demonstrated to us just how deeply affected he had been by having a midwife for a mother. He was sixteen at the time, and we had been living in a barn with an open floor plan. I taught childbirth education classes there each week. There were no walls in the barn, and the children had to retreat to their rooms in the loft to quietly read or play so I could teach class. On this occasion I had been at a birth that day, but the baby had been born, so I called home to ask Rick to tell my students that I would be late. I suggested that he show them a birth video while waiting for me to arrive. When I arrived home, I discovered Rick teaching my class, using my outline! He told me he had heard me teach it so many times from his bed in the loft that he knew it all by heart. He even asked one of the women if he could palpate her baby. Now, how many teenage boys would have done that?
Today my friend Abby died in her sleep. She had been at her midwifery office last night
working with her colleagues. She appeared healthy and no one suspected anything odd. In the morning, today, her husband Fred discovered that she was gone—passed on to the Other Side.
I share this story to honor my esteemed colleague and beloved friend, and to celebrate a small piece of her extraordinary and rich life. Abby, dear one, travel well and safely into the Next World. Ashe.