T(winning) Hearts

Milo has wrinkly toes

I wish we could wear the same clothes.

Milo has curled up lips

In heaven he does flips.

We are apart

But we can still share each other’s heart.

-Matilda Plum, age 7, twin sister to Milo Juniper

Twinning in crystallography occurs when two crystals share some of the same ordered array of points. This place where the two intergrown crystals come together is called the twin plane. Seven years after Matilda and Milo were born and he died, I can’t help but see how they have grown interrelatedly, two crystals, sharing the twin plane of one another’s heart.

I can still feel in my body the moment this crystalized fusing began. Three hours after the twins were born, Milo’s heart rate was slowing. Diagnosed at 18-weeks gestation with multi-cystic kidneys, we knew that if Milo was alive when he was born, his time with us would be brief. As my husband Mark held Milo’s 2 pounds 14 ounces, our nurse put her stethoscope to his chest one last time and confirmed that our baby boy was dead. At this news, Matilda, who had been nursing, stopped abruptly and let out a cry of pain so harrowing that its echo remains today in the memory of my ear. Concerned, we checked to see what might be hurting her. There was nothing, except of course the pangs of her brother leaving her life. Today I know that Matilda’s wailing was also the sound of her grasping to crystalize and fuse his heart to hers before he fully left this earthy existence. That cry was the sound of her fighting to create a twin plane that would allow them to exist as reflected images of one another.

Katherine Payne, NILMDTS volunteer photographer

When we tell Matilda the story of her screaming in pain when Milo died, we often joke that it was at this moment that he passed her all of his creativity and brains, as well as his fire and fury. She seems to have double the amounts of these things than the rest of us. In addition to these gifts that Milo gave Matilda, we worked hard in the early years after his death to solidify their bond: talking about Milo often, looking at pictures of them together on the day they were born, attending the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Remembrance Walk, making cards for him on their birthday, hanging his stocking on the mantle at Christmas time. We still do these things today, seven years later, but because Matilda has been solidifying her bond with Milo since the day they were born, she does not need as much help from us anymore. When new friends ask about the pictures of Milo in her room, I hear her say, “Oh yeah, that’s my twin Milo. He died,” as if it is the most natural thing in the world. She is winning at twinning.

When it comes to crystals, twinning is an important avenue toward permanent shape change. Indeed, when Matilda and Milo’s hearts crystalized when he died, they bonded forever together.

Halloween 2016 when Matilda and her brother Fyo dressed up as the three little pigs with Milo’s pumpkin!

Erin Willer is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Denver and the founder of the Scraps of the Heart Project (SOTHP). Visit the SOTHP website for more information on how to support children experiencing the death of a baby.

Give the gift of remembrance to future bereaved families.

Remembrance Portraits
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