“Now I’m the one going ahead . . . I’m not afraid . . . I can be brave, too . . . “ – Beth, Little Women
For a years, I’ve gone over nearly every aspect of losing my child. I imagine there are ones I’ve not thought of yet . . . but I have the rest of my life for them to find me. I’ve healed in some ways, not completely (never completely) and there are others which I’ve not inspected too closely. Simply, I’m not sure I will survive them. Yet, they stay visible in my peripheral vision . . . waiting their turn. This one, the one I’m attempting to write about, has been heavy on my heart since the moment I knew my daughter was dead.
Each detail of that night is like an autumn leaf that I keep pressed between the pages of the book of our lives. Most are worn from being held, in my hands, multiple times. If I turn to one page, in particular, one I’ve skipped past dozens of times . . . the leaf is in perfect shape. Vivid colors, the veins still strong. The smell brings me right back to the moment my boyfriend stepped out of the back of the police chaplain’s car.
I could tell by the look on his face that the young woman’s body was that of my daughter, Becca. As he held me, he told me they had allowed him to kiss her still warm forehead. I kept screaming, “I need to help her . . . I need to help her!” Later, he told me her spirit had ridden back with him in the car. I believe him. I asked him what she looked like. He answered, confused . . . lost.
When I think about this, anguish rises in soul and I can’t help but think I failed her at the most important time of her life. The end.
Mothers teach their children about life. I wasn’t given the chance to help her through her death.
When I took Becca to school, the first day of kindergarten, she and I both cried. She didn’t want me to leave and I didn’t want to go. But, I knew at the end of the day, she’d be home again. I could talk to her about all the new things. She would know I would be there to pick her up and she could trust that I wouldn’t leave her. Our time apart was more acceptable because we would hold each other again. This made the separations much easier on both of us.
Her death, I couldn’t hold her after and tell her everything was going to be alright. Lately, I’ve found myself wondering what that conversation would have been like.
“Mom, mom . . . what happened?”
“Come here,” I’d say, taking her in my arms, “you were killed in a car crash, honey.”
“But why? Why? How?” she would ask, confused, as I held her close to my chest.
“A drunk driver killed you . . . oh baby, I’m so sorry!”
“What do I do???? Where do I go? Do I have to leave you?? I can’t leave you, momma, the boys, I can’t go. I’m afraid. I don’t know what’s there!”
“I know honey, and I’m so sorry I can’t go with you. I don’t want you to either, but we don’t have a choice, my Becca.”
“But what do I do??? How do I go??? How do I leave you??”
“You have to be brave, sweetie. You have to be a brave girl. I know you can do that. I know you are strong enough to do this. It’s scary, I know, but just like when you went to school . . . I’ll see you again after, I promise.”
“Mommy . . . momma . . . I don’t want to go!!”
“You have to turn around and walk away, honey . . . “ even with these words, neither of us loosens our grip.
I take her face in my hands and look into her beautiful green blue eyes, “You have to go before all of us. I didn’t want it this way . . . but it’s what we have to do right now. I will always be your momma and you will always be my Becca. My only daughter. The one who made me a mother. I know you are scared, I’m scared to be without you . . . but our love will never fade. You are beautiful and smart and strong and brave. I promise I will be there with you one day. We will all be there. The boys will come. We will all be together again, I promise.”
I can feel her head shake slightly in my hands.
“Go now, my Becca, go and wait for us. Be strong. Soar through the heavens. Glide past stars. Dance in the winds that blow around the entire world. Play. Laugh. Visit us when you are lonely. And know, you are always loved. It’s been such a privilege to be your mother . . . you were my first true love, my girl.”
I would gently kiss her forehead and let my hands drop to my side, as my daughter turned away and bravely walked into her heaven.