The Cottage, the Lincolns, and Me

One morning in the spring of 2018, I arrived to work at the Cottage as I had nearly every day for the past ten years. This particular morning, I approached the Cottage’s expansive south lawn and two colleagues rushed toward me.

They were trying to stop me before I got any closer.

They didn’t want me to see a tiny, new, freshly-spotted fawn – with no mother in sight – fast asleep in a flower bed, her wobbly legs folded beneath her.

I had only been back to work for a few weeks from what was meant to be maternity leave but ended up being eight weeks of bereavement leave.

On Monday, February 12, 2018, which coincidentally was also Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, I left work early, in labor with my first child. The next morning, my precious, perfect, full-term baby boy, Coley, was stillborn, one day after his due date.

By that Saturday, I had given birth to AND buried my only child. I don’t know that there’s a single word in any language that can quite capture that devastation.

I don’t remember much about the days just after my son died, but what I do remember was the deep connection I felt to this place – and to the Lincolns.

The Cottage called to the Lincolns at a time when they were grief-stricken over the loss of their little boy, Willie. He was the second of two sons to die by the time Lincoln reached his first year in office.

The Cottage oered them a bit of respite and the quiet and cool breezes helped them tend their broken hearts in a way that the White House could not.

I now knew exactly what Mary Lincoln meant when she said something I had quoted a million times throughout my years at the Cottage:

“When we are in sorrow, quiet is very necessary to us.”

I had never fully appreciated that until now.

The day the fawn was born at the Cottage, I kept vigil all day. And she just slept, totally oblivious, breathing in and out. In and out.

At one point, I called a wildlife refuge. No one answered, but because this is a somewhat common occurrence in our area, they had a lengthy outgoing message assuring us that the mother deer would return for her baby at dusk.

I patiently waited all day. Day turned to dusk — still no mama. Just as I had given up hope, I spotted her. She had returned, just as nature promised, and mother and baby literally ran — wobbly at first — into the sunset.

The fawn and I needed each other that day. She was a mother-less baby, and I was a baby-less mother.

And we also needed this place. The Cottage, with its quiet breezes and space to breathe (or hide) enveloped mother and baby, keeping them both safe until they could be together again. And, it’s been doing that for at least a century and a half.

I’m sharing this deeply personal story with you because I so believe in the power of this special place.

When I started this job nearly 15 years ago, I had no idea how much I’d need to feel these breezes in my bones, just as the Lincolns did.

And, while I’d give anything not to need them the way that I do, I know that other people need them, too.

I hope you will help us preserve this remarkable place by making a year-end donation to support the Cottage and the important work we do here.

From providing a balm to the brokenhearted, to empowering school children to take up their own brave ideas, to encouraging visitors to continue Lincoln’s unfinished work, your gift makes a difference.

Your gift of $50, $100, or even $150, will help ensure the Cottage continues to be a place of refuge, creating meaning, and connection. You may donate here.

Thank you for being a part of our community. We hope to see you soon, enjoying those same breezes and finding solace and inspiration in this place Lincoln loved so dearly.


Callie Hawkins
CEO and Executive Director
President Lincoln’s Cottage

P.S. To contribute via a gift of stock or other method please contact our Director of Advancement at [email protected].


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