Casey’s Comfort Pillow

Casey Photos 1991-96_0042I submitted this short personal essay to KQED-FM’s Perspective series which invites listeners to submit their 2 minute stories. They broadcast a couple I did a few years ago but lately I’ve been on a losing streak. After they turned this one down I listened to the essay they accepted about someone’s old cat. I didn’t get it. But sorry I don’t do “lite and breezy.” I write from the gut and go for something hopefully thought provoking and uplifting in the face of tragedy.

Unfortunately what I’m finding I suspect is that the general public doesn’t like the whole “suicide thing.” But when they let me tell the story or read the book they are totally enrolled.


When you were a kid, what did you have to drag around with you all day and snuggle with at night? For me it was my Teddy bear.

For my daughter Casey, it was different. She had plenty of stuffed animals. There was Toucan, Plush Pink Piggy, Pooh Bear, Squeaky Doll, Bunny and an assortment of Beanie Babies. Like all kids, she’d play with them when she was little – having snacks, pretend tea, watching videos together – but at bedtime they were relegated to the foot of her bed.

Casey’s true constant companion was her goose down comfort pillow. My wife bought it for her just before we received her from a Polish orphanage where she’d spent the first year of her life. She was well cared for but missed the things that provide comfort to children who weren’t raised in an institution. She was never breast fed, probably wasn’t held nearly enough, and wasn’t allowed a pacifier for fear of spreading germs.

Casey had trouble self-soothing from sometimes crippling tantrums and meltdowns. So her comfort pillow was her prosthetic. On any given night we’d find her asleep in bed with that pillow over her face. She’d suck on it and rub it on the tip of her nose to calm herself down. During one of her meltdowns, she’d cry and scream into that pillow. My wife re-stuffed and re-covered it many times from all of the use it had gotten to sooth her well into her teen years.

But the pillow wasn’t enough. Eight years ago when Casey was 17, she took our car, drove to the Golden Gate Bridge, jumped and disappeared. She left her room behind neat as a pin with Toucan, Plush Pink Piggy, Pooh Bear, Squeaky Doll, Bunny, her Beanies and her comfort pillow, threadbare from use, carefully arranged on her bed.

Now her comfort pillow is my comfort pillow. I hug it and smell it but her scent is long gone. It’s all I have left of her. Meanwhile my own Teddy sits old and musty, worse for wear, hermetically sealed in a Rubbermaid container in my basement.

Casey Photos 1991-96_0047

9 thoughts on “Casey’s Comfort Pillow

  1. Thank you for this story about Casey’s comfort pillow! xoxo

    On Sat, Mar 26, 2016 at 2:21 PM, Parenting and Attachment wrote:

    > J. Brooks posted: “I submitted this short personal essay to KQED-FM’s > Perspective series which invites listeners to submit their 2 minute > stories. They broadcast a couple I did a few years ago but lately I’ve been > on a losing streak. After they turned this one down I listen” >

  2. I love this touching story and the photos of your beautiful baby. I pray for you often. My adopted daughter’s attachment choices are often baffling – a dog, a scarf, a notebook, last night it was a rolling cart, but never, ever a human being. No matter how much we love her, she just can’t trust us.

    • All you need is love. That is certainly not true for us adoptive parents. That story is a lovely memory for you and how much your girl was loved. When I start thinking about all the things I might have done differently raising my son, looking at picture like Casey with her comfort pillow helps me know I have done everything humanly possible. My son at 19 is still alive after attempts and hospitalizations. But, he is barely functional. Just stays in the house all day, lots of sleep, very little food. Reading your book was very emotional for me. I am heartbroken for you and living in fear for my son.

  3. Thank you John for sharing this essay and it should be shared. I do not have an adopted child, but I began reading your blog because I am a teacher and I enjoy reaching out to my students even if I do not know what they are directly dealing with. Your writings are an eye opened for me.

  4. I was just at a parenting conference where a video showing a normal interaction between baby and mother was shown. It was very cute and uplifting–and completely foreign to me. I have two kids with attachment disorder. I’ve never experienced that kind of basic connection ever with my kids. I asked the presenter if he had a video of a baby with attachment issues, and the crowd said ‘No’ They didn’t want to see it. It would be too painful. And I realized why I’m reluctant to share my story. My pain, my isolation comes from the fact that my reality is too painful for others to take in. Where does that leave me? Am I the only one who has to find the courage to see things as they are? To accept the tragic reality of my kid’s affliction? Am I expected to do that alone? When will my experience be something that illicits connection, feelings of wanting to help. Now I feel as if I have a horrible truth–too horrible to share. Where does that leave me and my family? Compassion is present when you move past your fears, and you move toward pain and loss with an open heart. It’s what our family needs right now. It’s what the world needs now.

    • Hi Marc – I completely empathize with everything you say. In fact you wrote perhaps the most eloquent review of my book. Candidly now with a REAL publisher we’re finding the market is not really into the suicide thing (my theory) or it may take some time. Unfortunately in the book business you get 30 days to catch fire whether you are promoted or not. I need to reach those who should read this story but won’t. Help!!

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