WHEREVER YOU GO . . .

When my daughter was killed she had been preparing to study abroad for a semester. Becca was earning her degree in early education with a minor in Spanish. Her dream was to move to a large city and work with immigrant children. Her semester overseas was to be spent in a coastal Spanish town. She could not have been more excited! Unfortunately, she never got the chance to live anywhere else in the world or follow her dream in education. The saying “life is short” couldn’t be more accurate in her case. I don’t want it to be so in mine.

I always thought geographical therapy might be a good thing. I just never had the means or the courage to do it. 

Right after losing Becca, it was unbearable to drive past places that had held my child, our life. I’d take circuitous routes to get to a destination so I didn’t have to see a house. The funeral home. Where her first apartment was located. Her high school. Where we all went trick or treating. There were so many haunted spots in my city that it was hard to avoid them. Living in a haunted city is exhausting, so I stayed home. I hid.

As the sharpness of her death started to dull (a little bit) those haunted places had started to become comforting. I could physically be in a place my daughter had inhabited before her death. Before I was forced to live in a world that had forgotten her. I’d purposely drive to her old apartment and replay the times I’d seen her run out the door and hop into my car. I’m surprised no one called the police on me. A woman crying in a car for hours should have raised suspicion. Thankfully no one did.

I would go into a store where we had gone together just so I could touch the handle she had touched. I sat in the parking lot of the funeral home because I could see the “exit” sign that had been in the viewing room where I had touched her body for the last time. Sometimes, I think I was trying to prove to myself that she had existed. My beautiful Becca wasn’t a dream. I had actually had a daughter that was no longer here. But she was mine, once.

Those physical places had comforted me for a lot of years. I didn’t think I would ever be able to move away from the city where I had raised my family and lost my daughter. But, after the passing of years, I was able to. Not a huge move, mind you, but another city completely. After moving to Muskegon I gave quite a bit of thought to the term I mentioned above, geographical therapy. There was a lightness in moving from Grand Rapids. I realized the memories of my child are carried within me. They are in my heart and mind. And, on paper and on the computer. The city that had held comfort had become uncomfortable. Cumbersome. Moving to another place had been a very healing move. The future wasn’t heavy with the past any longer.

I’ve had three summers in my new hometown. I’ve felt myself grow. There have been huge strides in my healing. I know leaving one town for the other was exactly what I needed to do. Now, I believe, this move was my training wheel move. There is another one I am in the process of making, it will take a while, but I am committed to making it happen. 

A few weeks ago I saw a Facebook article about an Irish island that was looking for Americans to move there. I playfully shared the article and made the comment that I wished my job would allow me to move there. A yearning started to build within my chest. I had people telling me to do it. My sons both told me to do it. One friend even said that of all the people she knows I would be the one who COULD do it. I kept thinking about that comment. Amazed that people thought of me this way. I consider myself unconventional but not sure I am the bad ass that moves overseas. Turns out . . . I am. Well, I might be.

This past week I had an epiphany that washed away all of my “buts” when it comes to choosing my future. I was in a wolf enclosure helping to microchip them. Though I was outwardly cool (I hope) I was screaming inside. I was actually touching these animals. It has been a dream of mine to be able to near wolves. (In all transparency, these are wolf dog hybrids, but they were cool as Hell.) I realized that I could mark this off of my bucket list. Then, I thought, why the Hell am I not crossing more things off of my list?? Why not move overseas??

Why not. I have no reason except not having the courage. I am not part of a couple. My kids are grown. There is no one I have to answer to. My future is what I decide to make it. Why not make it somewhere else in the world. I am bad ass enough to do it. I’ve done harder.

I won’t be going to Ireland though. I have the opportunity to move to Sicily, my ancestors’ island of origin, and spend time there. I am very early in the process of making this happen. There is a lot of work to be done but I know it is something I need to do. I want to do. It won’t happen tomorrow, sadly, this move will be about a year in the making I think. Which might be a good thing. I have a good friend who was born in Sicily and she is helping me make all of the arrangements. She even connected me with a woman, in the town of Partinico, who runs an animal rescue! I talked to this woman tonight, via messenger, using Babel translation because neither of us spoke the other’s language. Everything is falling into place for me to make this move. 

I’ve had the drive, since losing Becca, to do some of the things she had wanted to do but never had the chance. I honestly hadn’t thought about her doing a semester abroad in a number of years. This decision brought it back to me. I can do this for myself and for my girl. I can be strong enough to do this for the both of us. We, she and I, will be walking hand in hand as I traverse the streets of my future new hometown. I want to fall in love with the world, again.

I have survived losing her. Now it’s time to find myself. 

I know the future me is out there, somewhere, waiting.

Author: Diane Neas

I'm a mother, artist, and writer. A decade ago I lost my daughter. I find writing, and painting, heal me. Sharing my story of loss and healing lightens what I carry. And, hopefully, my words help another along the way.

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