Angie & Susan: From grief, friendship

Angie Andresen was leaving Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis nine years ago when she saw a woman step slowly out of her car. In Susan, she recognized that familiar brand of grief, fresh and raw.

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Angie Andersen (left) and Susan Lacek met nine years ago when they were visiting their infant's graves at Babyland in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

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Angie Andresen was leaving Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis nine years ago when she saw a woman step slowly out of her car. Angie recognized that familiar brand of grief, fresh and raw. "It was in her face, her posture." With Angie's son, Max, already strapped into his car seat, she approached the woman, looked down at the tiny grave the woman hovered over. Faith. June 5, 2000. She pointed to the stone just a few feet away that marked the one-week life of her son, Alex, Max's twin brother. Alex had died of a bacterial infection 10 months earlier. Angie gave the woman a hug and her phone number. "If you ever want to go to coffee... "

A cemetery section called Babyland is a horrible place to begin a friendship. Or maybe it's the best place. Today, Angie, 39, at left, and Susan Lacek, 40, are bonded by loss, understanding and a desire to embrace other parents facing loss.

"It was so nice to connect with someone who knew what I was feeling," said Susan, also mother to Emmy, 8, and Ally, 6. Her pregnancy with Faith was "totally uneventful," until she stopped feeling movement two weeks before her due date. "You're just busy," Susan's mother said. "I'm sure everything's fine," the nurse said, not wanting to tell her the truth of the ultrasound.

In July of 2007, Susan and her husband, Mark, opened Faith's Lodge (faithslodge.org), a retreat center for grieving families on 80 acres near Webster, Wis. Angie sits on the board.

They no longer visit the cemetery together. But they know the other has been there, by flowers left on both graves, or trims made to growth around the two stones. Angie, mom to 10-year-old Max and 7-year-old Maggie, is grateful she turned back that day. Susan, she said, "saw another mom who was actually OK. She didn't know if she'd ever feel normal again."

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