Although it’s a typical day for most of us, Oct. 16 is time stamped for Mayte Garcia, who recognizes its importance every year. The day usually includes dessert, and conversations with her daughter Gia about Gia’s brother Amiir, who would have turned 23 today.
At one time, these conversations were difficult for Garcia because of her public-eye marriage to Prince. After losing their child, six days after his birth, to Pfeiffer Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, Garcia and Prince went through the intense emotions and grief that can result from a complicated pregnancy and child loss.
“I remember not understanding completely for the the first time in my life that my body is its own being,” said Garcia in a phone interview. “I had no control. It was above and beyond what I ever imagined. Fear. Confusion.”
While Garcia and Prince struggled with the loss of Amiir and a subsequent miscarriage, the emotional exhaustion took a toll on their relationship.
“Unfortunately when couples lose, women and men deal with it in a different way,” said Garcia. “It’s hard. We never had problems before that. You start to question yourself and the other person. Communication is so important.”
After the loss of Amiir, both Garcia and Prince coped with the healing process in different ways. Garcia initially remained quiet about her feelings, while Prince poured emotion into his music.
“Before, I couldn’t even talk about it,” said Garcia. “I would have a knot in my throat. A lot of people feel a sense of failure that affects them throughout the years.”
In honor of Amiir, Prince wrote the song “Comeback.” Of the song, Garcia said, “It was hard to listen to it for many years, but now I can. When I first heard it, I thought it was amazing and beautiful. I told [Prince] that I could smell [Amiir], and he used that in the beautiful lyrics that he wrote. He would put his emotions in his songs […] I hear intense sadness, but with that sadness, for me now, I acknowledge it, and turn it into something positive.”
“Music is so important,” said Garcia. “If I didn’t have that song, I would have gone crazy in my own way. For me, it’s a connection to him [Amiir].”
Garcia believes that Prince also referenced Amiir in another song, “Way Back Home” from his album Art Official Age, as he continued to process his feelings about the loss of his son through his music.
“If you listen to it, the rhythm sounds like a heartbeat,” said Garcia. “It made me realize that he hadn’t forgotten about him. I think that the loss was intense for him. I can’t speak for him, but I definitely know that it affected him. If you listen to that song, you will hear it. I am not saying it is his heartbeat, but there is no way he is not thinking about him in that song.”
Eventually, Garcia found ways to commemorate Amiir, and take time to reflect on her own feelings once she was able to speak more openly about her loss.
“I take a moment and I acknowledge the fact that he was born, he was loved, and I still think about him,” said Garcia. “It makes me feel better.”
Now living in Las Vegas, Garcia formed a non-profit dog rescue that helps adoptable dogs find homes. Garcia is passionate about finding homes for these animals, including dogs that are disabled.
“There is something that links my son, who would have been disabled,” said Garcia. “I never got to experience that, so a part of me is lacking and wanting to do something. That is why I like helping animals that are disabled and have special needs.”
As time moves forward, Garcia continues to speak and write openly about her life, as well as advocate for other women who have suffered child loss. Garcia promotes a platform of recognition, open conversation, and celebration during her seminars, The Most Beautiful You.
“There should be more communication about it,” said Garcia. “Talking about it and acknowledging the loss is important. Make a date when your child would have been born, and celebrate that — not the death, or the time you lost them, but celebrate the fact that you had a beautiful life.”
“I believe wholeheartedly that these spirits and souls find their way back to you,” said Garcia. “It took a lot of time for me to realize that. I think about Amiir, especially in October. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about him, or he crosses my mind. He is part of my life.”
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. To celebrate Amiir’s birthday today, Garcia has re-launched Love 4 One Another Charities, a foundation that she and Prince created together for their son. The board also includes Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson and close associate Kirk Johnson, as well as Mayte’s sister Janice Garcia. As the foundation’s web site explains:
Love 4 One Another Charities is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that was founded in 1996 by Prince Rogers Nelson and Mayte Garcia. The foundation honors Prince’s philanthropic legacy by building upon his mission of helping people up and helping people out, as these were the two key components of his charitable giving. L4OA Charities continues to strive and drive better outcomes for humanity, by supporting a variety of philanthropic programs and initiatives that are aligned to the core values of the foundation, through delivering resources that enrich and strengthen communities worldwide.
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Marla Khan-Schwartz is a writer for The Current’s blog who has a specific background and interest in counseling psychotherapy, and public health emergency preparedness.