Easy Forgiveness

Over the past month, or probably two if you count the time leading up to meeting with Joseph, I’ve had people say how much they admire me because what I’ve chosen to do. Three distinct feelings come over me when I hear these words.

First, is it really something to admire? Saving a life is admirable. Fighting for our country is, too. Working tirelessly to help those who need it the most in this world is also on that list. Giving one’s life over in pursuit of a better world is worth admiring. Those things, to me, garner admiration.

Second, I feel completely awkward when those words are used in conjunction with me. Many of the choices I have made in my past are not to be admired. They came from a broken place within myself. They hurt other people, both on purpose, and inadvertently. I have failed those closest to me. I feel like a fraud when someone says I am “to be admired” for the choice of forgiveness. I’m certain I do not deserve any words of praise when you take my life as a whole. Therefore, when I receive them I think: you don’t really know me.

Third, forgiveness should not be something that is admired in this life. It should be so common that it doesn’t stand out to others. I’ve heard so many people say: I’m not sure if I could do it if it was me. I truly wish that wasn’t the case. Can you imagine what the world would be if forgiveness happened more often? Or how much happier individual lives could be if forgiveness is what we based our actions around? Astounding.

I want to take a few moments and talk about what forgiveness means to me.

In forgiving Joseph I have not come to believe that what happened is acceptable. I do not condone my daughter’s death. I am most definitely not alright with her dying on the highway in a crash caused by another’s mistaken choices. Those things will never happen in my mind.

Quite often I have said that I struggled with the concept of forgiveness. For decades, I could not separate forgiveness with condonement. In some cases, today, those two are inexplicably intertwined . . . maybe forever. In discussing this with others I have come to the conclusion that forgiveness, hinges often, on intent.

I was told, sometime during the past twelve years, that my daughter dying in the crash caused by another was an “intentionless crime”. I did not care. I was angry. At times, people would say that “he didn’t mean for it to happen” and I would snap back at them and say “she isn’t less fucking dead”. His intention mattered little to me because the outcome wasn’t acceptable. She was gone, forever, whether he meant for it to happen or not. I remember thinking at one point, that if she could come back because her brutal death was unintended, then I’d care about his intent.

Then I met a mother who lost her daughter in a very intended violent attack. The killer had tried to end his sister’s life in prior incidents no one knew about. Her child was preyed upon and finally caught. Suddenly, the idea of intent shined a new light on my situation. Becca wasn’t hated. Nor was she hunted. She wasn’t looked at as deserving to die. Her death was an unpremeditated act that resulted in a few extremely poor choices and very odd timing in the universe. When Joseph saw her face . . . he didn’t choose to end her life. Yes, his actions led to this ultimate finish but he wasn’t heading toward her death with intent.

This really does make a world of difference concerning forgiveness. But should it?

A decade passed before I was ready to entertain the thought, seriously, of forgiving the person who took Becca’s life. I had to let go of the anger I held in the unfairness of it all. And, as I said, meeting someone whose child was taken with premeditation allowed me to consider Joseph in a different way. I could see her pain in knowing that someone thought her daughter deserved to die. I heard her talk of never forgiving him. And, I completely understand her position. As completely as someone can who’s child wasn’t murdered.

Would I be able to forgive Joseph if his intent had been to hurt Becca? I don’t know. I doubt it. Coming to the conclusion that forgiveness may not have been an option if he’d intentionally hurt her was enlightening to me. Somehow, forgiving him became easier. Then, an event happened very close to me that solidified my decision to extend forgiveness. Joseph was no longer defined by this one happening. . . he was a complete person.

It was easier to forgive when all of these things fell into place. When the knowledge of what intent can mean finally settled in my heart I was ready. Concerning forgiveness, easy forgiveness doesn’t really warrant admiration. The hard forgiveness, the deliberate wrong against us, is more difficult to come to terms with. My uncle molesting me for years. I’m not sure I’ve forgiven him completely. My father, who chose me to be physically violent with, hasn’t gotten my forgiveness yet. Those are just two examples of mercy I am not ready to extend because of the knowing intent of the individuals.

Yet, I should act with grace in both of these instances. I know this in my head. After feeling the weight lifted from my soul upon forgiving Joseph I understand the freedom it can give the forgiver. I’ve seen the peace it can bring to the forgiven. Maybe I don’t want my uncle or my father to feel that peace. I’m not sure. I will probably spend years wrestling with this aspect of my life.

Which brings me right back to the beginning of this blog. I don’t deserve words of praise or admiration because I have chosen to forgive Joseph. Doing so was not a difficult choice when the time was right. I truly hope, that someday, I’ll be strong enough . . . wise enough . . . to forgive those things done to me that were deliberate.

Imagine how my life would change. How the world would change. Hurt people hurt people. Healed people heal people. Each a drop in it’s own pond that sends out incredibly different outcomes.

Saturday afternoon, Joseph and I sat at a table in a small coffee shop, having conversation about our shared history. At our first meeting he’d said to me that he had some situations in his own past that he needed to rethink concerning forgiveness. In our second meeting I asked him to explain this to me. As he did I realized that I had something to learn about forgiveness myself. The pardon one can find for the willful action against us.

I realize I have the opportunity to learn from him.

I am grateful for this chance.

 

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Keys

“Can you tell me about being engaged while you were in prison,” I asked last night.

So, he does, in detail. Painful detail . . . for both of us I imagine. Him, because the engagement didn’t result in marriage. Me, because it put a finer point on one of the things my daughter never had the chance to experience. True love.

Without giving too much detail into his story, as it is not my place to do so, I’ll quickly summarize what he shared. A previous girlfriend went to his side after the crash that killed my child. They rekindled their romance and even became engaged. The union broke while he was still in prison and she has since moved on. All of this, he told me through texts and to his credit, he was completely honest.

In my head, I started a parallel timeline of events in each of our lives.

He had someone at his bedside in those first few days. Someone who loved him and wanted to give him comfort. I was at my daughter’s side, for only a moment, at the morgue . . . once. A day later, they performed the autopsy. I was told I could not know when her body was being transported to the funeral home. All I wanted to do was be by my baby’s side through her last travels on earth. I just wanted to do what a mother must do . . . tend to her child. Whether alive or dead.

He had someone supporting him from his sentencing and into his incarceration. I don’t begrudge him this person, this relationship. But if I am honest with myself . . . it hurts me that something positive came from his choice to drink and drive and I faced nothing but anguish from day one. He found love. I found sorrow that soaked deep into my bones.

Two and a half years into our side by side journeys he had the opportunity to propose to his girlfriend. A momentous occasion. The decision to spend the rest of their lives together. Years to fill with love, family, and memories. Thirty months into my journey, I was still reeling and was making a mess of my life because I wasn’t sure I wanted it anymore. All I could see were years upon years, stacked up in front of me, full of empty spaces in which Becca would have lived.

About a year before his release he broke the engagement. He’s shared his reasons with me but I think they fall under the heading of: not mine to share, so I won’t. I am sure this was a painful time for him and there is a part of me that thought: now you know what it’s like to not have the future you envisioned. I don’t mean that in a cruel way . . . I’m just stating a fact. For one moment I feel he knew a portion of the pain of a lost future.

I wept for most of the night . . . even when I slept. My dreams shifted so quickly I couldn’t catch hold of them. Images were blurred. I got no real rest. Or, relief from my thoughts. I woke with a renewed heavy feeling of loss. A deeper sense of what my daughter lost when she died that night.

I struggled with whether I had the right to tell Joseph how his story made me feel.

My other thought was: what if I tell him, and he feels as if he’s caused me increased pain, and decides he won’t give me the full story next time. I sent him a text, that simply read, “full disclosure?” He replied, “About?”

“I cried last night thinking about how Becca never had the chance to be in love. Your story stirred profound sadness in me. No anger. Just bone deep sorrow,” I wrote to him.

His reply, “I hesitated because I thought it might.”

I think our brain works in amazing ways we barely understand. It has an incredible ability to filter what we feel in order to keep our minds from imploding from the weight of the entire truth. It knows how to keep us safe. Maybe, our brain and our soul coordinate things and do their best to keep us from disintegrating completely. When they both are in agreement as to what time to dispense information is best . . . then we are allowed the knowledge. And, possibly, a key is required to unfasten the lock.

I have come to realize, and accept, that Joseph holds many of the keys I need to unlock deeper healing. I think it completely natural that his life is a sort of measuring stick as to what Becca has lost. The crash is a set point in the past that started a new future for them both. Lack of a future for my child, unfortunately.

Joseph apologized for causing me pain with his story. He said he didn’t want to bring those feeling about in me. I told him those feelings were already there. They are always there. I had dealt with some of them, already, to a point. Just like everything else . . . it takes more than one time to make it last. His story could have been the key I needed to unlock deeper mourning. Deeper mourning I need to do in order to bring about more complete healing.

The knowledge we gain is a chance for either more complete understanding, or increased pain, in any given situation. Sometimes we don’t have the ability to choose either one. Our mind and soul choose for us. Thankfully, they agreed that I am ready for broader healing within myself and concerning Joseph. Moving toward more understanding regarding my Becca’s death.

I think our healing capacity is not limited. Rather, it is boundless. Ever growing. Deepening and widening and can encompass all. I hope so, at least.

Sometimes, the key lies somewhere other than in ourselves.

We must keep searching to heal.

Becoming

I was blessed with easy children. I was also blessed to be given three children that have huge hearts and compassion beyond measure. I’m not sure that is something you can teach very well. More so, it’s what we are born with, or sadly, without. Fortunately, all of mine were born with the necessary raw materials to become good people.

More than once I have shared the story about the time my daughter not only made me proud but also showed me what kind of soul she housed in her little elementary school body. Without my urging, she made the right decision, even though it cost her friends.

The little girl, slightly older than Becca, who lived in the other side of our duplex had been born with challenges. Both mental and physical, she was loud, awkward, and teased by the other neighborhood children. On one sunny summer afternoon my daughter and handful of girls were playing with dolls outside in the driveway. Kari, the girl next door, was watching from her upstairs window. Becca saw her and wanted her to come out to play. The group of girls told Becca no, that Kari was weird and they didn’t like her. I proudly watched as my daughter gathered up her dolls and went to Kari’s back door and knocked. Kari’s mom opened the door and let Becca in. My daughter, still in her single digit years, was more compassionate than most people I knew.

After Becca died we received dozens of cards and letters and emails and posts about how amazing she was. People started to share stories with me about “the time Becca . . . “ and they all had the thread of caring woven through them. She always fought for the underdog. Was the first to jump into action when “something just had to be done”. In college, her major changed from Criminal Justice to Social Work to Elementary Education. Her dream, she told me, was to move to Chicago and teach inner city children. Bilingual intercity children.

“I want to get to them before they end up in the legal system,” she explained after telling me she’d shifted majors yet again, “I want to teach them when they are still teachable. When they aren’t hardened by the world. Before the ugly can change who they are.”

Again, I was so proud.

“I want to set them on a path that leads to a happy future.”

That was my daughter. Righter of wrongs. Perpetually optimistic. Full of laughter and goodness. Open heart and sensitive soul. Becca was forgiving and loved fiercely. She would be your biggest supporter . . . even if she’d just met you. But if you wronged someone she would be the loudest one screaming for justice and carrying the flag of the cause at the front of the crowd.

Now, where she is, I know she understands the bigger picture of existence. She’s told me so when she visits me in my dreams. It’s been a while since she’s come to me, though. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to hold her in my arms. Smell her sunshine hair as she squeezed me tight. Heard her call . . . momma.

There are aspects of meeting Joseph that have stirred up turmoil. Like a pond in which the sediment has settled to the bottom, silky and dark green unseen, but then disturbed when a stick is shoved into the depths. It floats up and swirls just under the surface. Moving in lazy circles as its exposed to the sunlight.

I must honor my children in everything I do. I’ve not always done so. I’ve been selfish. Not made them a priority when they should have been. Simply put . . . I’ve failed them. But all parents fail their children at times.

Which brings me to my latest struggle with all that has been happening the past week. Am I somehow failing Becca by continuing conversation with Joseph? In doing so, have I said her death is acceptable? I know this isn’t the case, yet, my mind still pokes at it like I’m stirring up the bottom of pond. I have to investigate it. See what’s down there. Is anything solid? Must it be brought to the surface for closer inspection?

I can feel my daughter, standing next to me, gently taking the stick from my hand and slipping her’s into mine. She is guiding me away from the dark bottom and telling me it’s time to be happy. It’s an odd thing, you see, to realize my daughter has surpassed me in “knowing”.

Where she is . . . she is complete love.

If she wanted to help children find the right path I imagine she wants the same for me. For her brothers, For Joseph. From her view she can see from one edge to the other and all that’s happening in the space between. The space in which the living reside.

The last conversation I had with her was profound, in hindsight. She told me how proud of me she was. That, though I’d had a difficult life she was proud of the woman I was. I inspired her because I was shedding the clothing woven from pain. I was “becoming”.

I’ve had mixed reactions from people when I say Joseph and I have continued talking. The majority of people have said that I should do what makes me happy. That which helps me heal. My cousin said: it makes perfect sense . . . you are both huge parts of her life. Those who can not understand, all I can say is, I am happy you don’t have to decide either way.

There are multiple reasons I’ve chosen to form a friendship with Joseph.

He was the only person with her when she passed. Is some of her essense with him? If so, I need to be near that sometimes. The world can be ugly . . . if I can make it more kind, isn’t that my duty? To ease another’s suffering? Am I trying to do what she intended to do by helping others? Or, am I fighting to keep another life from being ruined?

I don’t know the answer. I’ll probably keep searching within myself for my motivation. But for now, knowing Joseph and being in contact with him is a comfort to me. A peace I know Becca would want for me.

I love you little girl. Momma is trying to “become”.

 

In Coming Together

I didn’t start to feel anxious until my phone showed the time as 3:04. Swiping the home screen I hit the icon for messages and searched through the ones we’d exchanged. I wasn’t sure if I had said 3 or 3 ish. The latter being what I’d normally say for any meeting. But, this wasn’t just any meeting. I sent him a quick text that simply read: I hope you are still coming. Then, he was there.

The booth I was waiting in had very high backs. And, I’d sat close enough to the wall so I would be hidden until he was at the table. I don’t know why. Protection of some sort, I imagine. Angela, the owner of the restaurant and a very dear friend, motioned to me that he was there. I squared my shoulders, lifted my chin, and waited to meet the man who was responsible for my daughter’s death.

As he approached me I could tell he was nervous. His hand trembling, he reached out to shake mine. Our meeting was far too intimate a moment for that formal of a greeting. With ease, and knowing it was the right thing, I pulled him into a hug. His arms held me tight as he cried into my shoulder. My tears started to fall, too. That moment, those few minutes when we held each other and cried for the same beautiful girl, was the closing of a circle.

He slid into the seat across from me and seemed to struggle with his emotions, with his words. It hurt my heart. His pain was so palpable and raw. Just like mine. I reached across the wooden table and took both of his hands into mine and told him that it was going to be alright.

Tall and well dressed, he wasn’t what I had expected. I think he asked me if I recognized him from court and I told him no, not really. I explained that I had been put on a handful of different medications the day after the crash. And, that the intense agony of grief clouded much of those early months. But as he spoke to me, flashes of memory started to come back, and I could see the younger version of the man now in front of me. He had been thinner then, his head hanging low, hands cuffed behind him. A white shirt? Maybe khakis?

I think of my sons, now twenty four, and try to picture them in his situation. To me, they are still so young. Only having been children just a few years before. This man had been younger than my boys when this happened. And, my daughter had been younger than her brothers when she died. Two lives changed forever.

Our conversation threaded its way back and forth between the past and the present. I don’t think he trusted that I was there to truly extend forgiveness until about halfway through our hour together. I could see him visibly relax. His voice became steady. His hands stopped shaking. As I listened to him speak . . . he became a real person to me.

A man, who’d made a terrible decision that cost my daughter her life. A man who was living with this every single day since that night. Not because he had to, but, because he chooses to. I, as her mother, have to live with her absence every moment of every day, whether awake or asleep, the truth is there. The weight he is carrying is immense. Different than ours, but heavy just the same.

He told me that he knew he needed to talk to me. I told him I knew that, too. I’d had a feeling, for a very long time, that I might be the key to unlock healing for him. But, it had always felt arrogant when I’d said that to other people. Like I was some sort of miracle worker that was his only way to finding peace. I had kept telling myself “quit being so conceited”. Yet, the idea that I, as her momma, was the one person he needed forgiveness from kept crowding my thoughts. Personally, I think he would have found peace without me . . . it just might have taken longer.

So, there we sat. Two strangers bound to the same moment in time. I felt no anger. I felt no hate. I wasn’t uncomfortable. I was grateful to be so near this person. This man who had been with my daughter when she took her last breath. Yes, he is responsible, but he is also a victim in this as well. As is his family.

The pain in his eyes was intense. When I looked into them I could see the trauma he carried within himself. But, I could also see my sons faces. I saw my daughter’s face, too. He’s someone’s child. He deserves compassion just as my children do. That is the thought that kept coming back to me: he deserves compassion and forgiveness . . . just like the rest of us.

He isn’t what I had expected. I wasn’t prepared for the person he is. The concept of him, that I have carried for a dozen years, isn’t factual. He told me that a friend of mine had visited him in jail just a few days after Becca died. She’d told him that she wanted him to know the beautiful girl he had killed. “Now, you have to live a life that honors her.” He told me that he never forgot that and that is what he has been trying to do. And, as I listened to him talk about his job, what he does to help others, and the way in which he lives his life . . . I know he is doing just that. I believe Becca is a motivating force in everything he does.

So many people were scared for me when I shared that I was going to meet Joseph. Most, I have learned, didn’t think it was a good idea. They can tell me this now that it’s been done. They were afraid for me and what I might find on the other side of the table. I was prepared for it to be good or bad. Either way, extending forgiveness and meeting this man was as much for me as for him.

As I share with those who care about me, how the meeting was . . . I can see relief in their faces when I say it was better than I could have ever hoped it to be. The only way it could have been better was if he had been able to bring Becca to the table with him. I am happy that the experience that changed all of our lives forever isn’t just a footnote in his story. I am grateful beyond measure that he is working her death into a positive theme in his life.

I believe our meeting is the beginning of another phase of healing for both of us, all of us. We each, he and I, live the same reality from different sides. Both of us carry something the other needs in order to deepen our understanding of what happened and how it’s changed us. And, where we must go from here to continue forward. I think the next part of this journey will be taken together. Our story has the capacity to help others, and heal ourselves. Good MUST come from the horror of my child’s death for it to settle in a place inside of my heart, gently.

I always knew my daughter was going to change the world for the better. Joseph is helping me realize that she still can. Even in her absence.

Thank you for that, Joseph.

 

Be Brave

Today, I sent another message to the driver that killed my daughter. It’s been a little over a week since we last exchanged texts. Or has it been two? In the last response he sent me, in connection with meeting each other face to face, he said I could take my time in setting a date.

I sat with his words from a Sunday to a Tuesday. Either nine days . . . or sixteen. I guess the actual length of time doesn’t matter. What matters is why I sat passively as the days clicked past. My idleness wasn’t because I’d changed my mind in meeting him. Rather, I needed to digest what making contact with him meant. I had a lot to work through.

I’d purposefully decided to veer off course and take a new path. A path that will lead me into his world. One that will allow him to set foot in my life, welcomed. We will be creating a new reality, together. A new ending to a tragic story that could have had multiples tragedies along the way.

But, before I could do that, I had to come to terms with many ideas and feelings I’ve been carrying since January 21, 2017. Where I am now, though it’s a painful existence, it’s safe. There is a security in knowing that I feel a wrenching anguish, each day, concerning the absence of my only daughter. Today was sad, every day is sad, and tomorrow will be no different. There is an odd comfort in knowing this. A solid painful place is still solid.

So, I had to slow down and just “be” in the place I am for a little longer. For eleven years I have lived with him being the “drunk driver” in my head. He has been faceless for the entire time.  An undefined male image. As I’ve said before . . . he’s remained the twenty three year old he was when this all happened. He’s been a fleeting picture in my thoughts. One of Becca’s friends recently said to me “he isn’t a faceless monster any more”. And, indeed, he is not.

In reaching out to him I have set into motion an entirely different future for us both. It reminds me of the in between space I stood in on that cold highway wondering if it was my child who was dead. Moving from the life we all had together into the new one that didn’t include her. Waiting in the dark for the information that would catapult me into the “after”. Those precious moments from when I was told it was my Becca until someone I knew positively identified her at the crash scene. Minutes I could almost convince myself that I could stay put in the life I loved. Having someone who knew Becca, tell me that yes . . . it’s her, closed a door on our life together and forced me into a new room. It will forever be the point marking the before and the after.

Meeting him will be the same kind of moment. In a different way. I feel as if I will be exiting the dark room I’ve existed in for a little over a decade and entering another that will be much lighter. It is another before and after moment. These points are always life altering. And, I needed to rest and gain strength in order to face the shift. So, I lay on the plateau I had reached by connecting with him.

The years since her death have been heartbreaking. The path I’ve been on has some sharp ups and downs. But now I realize it’s been on a steady incline since the day she died. I never noticed this until right now. I have been ascending, all this time, to the upcoming meeting.

It’s been such a long climb up to this most recent ledge. I’ve found myself bare, bleeding, and bruised. Not sure I had enough strength to go any higher. Then, this level ground appeared and I decided I needed to rest in the “in between” for a little while. Remain in this new light pondering this new life. However, I know that I can not stay here indefinitely. It’s not the end destination for me. Or, for this story. Instead, it’s a place to take a respite from the gut wrenching reality of her being gone. And, it’s a new beginning.

I liked it here. In the in between. As I said . . . it is safely predictable. A segment of time bookended by the letter to him and meeting him. I know I can not set up household here. It’s not meant to be my new home. Being here is starting to feel wrong because it’s been too long. Not a place of deserved rest as it had initially, but a place to hide away from this big thing. Today, I finally sat up and acknowledged that my time here is done. No more inaction. The time has arrived to start climbing again.

So, in the spirit of moving toward healing, I messaged him again. I asked him what days and times work for our meeting. He said weekends. Weekend afternoons. I replied with “A Sunday”? He said yes.

There it is then. A more concrete plan. Not completely worked out . . . but forward movement.

Today I stepped firmly on the path that will lead to our meeting. I am glad I had a chance to rest because it’s made me feel strong enough to traverse this new section of my healing journey.

We will meet on a Sunday afternoon, which seems appropriate because Becca died on a Sunday, but I’m not sure of which one, yet.

Small steps give surety to my footing and balance to this journey.

Always, in memory of you my beautiful girl.

 

This New Path

My life has had some profound shifts the past few weeks. For the better. Changes I set into motion . . . and not something that happened to me. I think that is an important distinction to acknowledge because not many life upheaving events have been by my doing. Instead, they’ve been in reaction to an event thrust upon me. The major changes in life can be easier to handle when we’ve made the choice to make the change.

Recently, I’ve written of communication with the man who killed my child eleven years ago. I have had just over a decade of time to react to my child’s untimely death. To wear down the edges of it so I’m not continually sliced open with its existence. To accept, a bit more each day, that it really happened and this is what my life is now. To accept that someone else’s choice forced a life altering reality into my own. I have had to react to Becca’s death, in a thousand different ways, over the course of the past eleven years.

But now, I have the chance to alter my life again by choosing what path I will take. Each day is full of healing possibilities for me. For every bereaved mom, I think. Sometimes we see them and can hold them close and learn from them. Other times, the air around us is heavy and the light is dim and we can’t see what possibilities lie at our feet.

Then there are the times when we see a path veering sideways off of the one we are walking on. I am sure the path has exposed itself to me before but I just wasn’t ready to see it. It’s always been there, I think, but my eyes couldn’t accept it as being a possibility. I think, when I did finally notice it, I might have tentatively set a foot onto it . . . leaving the safety of the uneven ground I knew so well . . . to peer into its shadowy depth. There were times that I didn’t think this new path was for me. No thank you. I’ll continue to travel the hazardous road of child loss instead of venturing into somewhere I don’t know. I know, by now, the monsters I will face on my journey. I don’t know what hides in the dark curves of the unknown terrain.

This new path exposed itself to me a few years ago. It didn’t seem so daunting, for once. It wasn’t as dark as before. But, I still wasn’t ready to leave the security of what I have known for a decade plus. I stopped, looked at the spot where one path met the other and decided to stay where I was for now. I knew it would present itself again, eventually. And that, one of these times, I would be ready to confidently set foot upon new earth and move forward into it.

This new path didn’t so much present itself to me as I was actively looking for it. I had been seeing it more frequently in the past few years so I knew it wouldn’t be too hard to find. I just had to gather a few things before I set forth upon it. An address. My boys blessing, or maybe just their acceptance. A willingness to face whatever was on the other side in the heart of the other person. The person who killed my Becca. Finally, one day, I had all of those things. I took the step.

I chose to move toward forgiveness and deeper healing rather than not explore what it could be for me. For him. For all of those who were impacted by my child’s death. I didn’t know exactly what I would face as I turned the corner that hid my former journey from me. I had bravely decided to see where this change in my journey would take me. I wasn’t sure. Would it open old wounds? Is there unknown anger lurking just under the surface of my conscious mind? I don’t think so. I am done being angry. The chance that something wonderful could come from forgiveness is worth the risk of changing course.

When I think of where I have been and where I am going I really visualize a path. A physical place with rocks and water and bushes that scratch me when I pass too close to them. Quicksand catching hold of my foot and anchoring me in place while I slowly sink. Sections that are ink black because the sun is blotted out and I can’t see any light. Anywhere. Others that are sweet with tall grass and clean air where I remember my child alive. Places where the horizon looks like a duplicate of what I just passed through and fought so hard to overcome.

Is this new path, I have chosen, a shortcut to the end? The end being complete healing? I don’t think there is complete healing. So probably not. But, it’s a chance for my healing to be wider as I veer from what I know. Will it lead me back to familiar ground? Probably. When I get back to the original path I will be more equipped to fight through the battles that are waiting for me.

I’ve chosen forgiveness and I believe it’s made me stronger.

Know The Truth

“I love watching all the amazing things that you and Stacey do. You’re both really living life and I’m proud of you.”

Another bereaved mom, that I know, sent this message to me recently. I thanked her for the kind words but inside I felt like a fraud. A few days later, I read them to Stacey, and remarked that people see us as an inspiration. Her reply: maybe you, but not me. I felt incredulous that she felt this way. But that’s the truth . . . we feel as if we are not the good that people say they see in us.

These feelings are more complex than simply feeling worthy of such praise. I feel as if the image I create is a smokescreen of half truths. That I share enough of the “good” to trick others into seeing me for more than what I am.

The past month has been a whirlwind of activity centering around the local art competition known as Artprize. Both Stacey and I had pieces that were accepted and shown to the public. Each of our entries has to do with the death of our child and where we are at this point in our healing journey. Much time was spent by each of us, standing beside our project, explaining its meaning to those who were kind enough to listen to our stories of loss. Truthfully, Stacey spent more time than I did and even when I was there I let her do some of the talking for me. It was just so hard to do . . . repeatedly.

Please, for every positive thing I do, know there is negative not far behind.

Being a part of Artprize allowed me the platform from which to speak about my Becca. There were so many people willing to listen that I put myself into a dark place and danced at the edge of depression, again. I’m happy it’s almost over.

We had the chance to open our home to other artists who needed a place to stay during the competition. Many of them traveled from far away just to be a part of this. The expenses of creating art, shipping art, traveling here . . . are high. When you add the cost of staying here, it’s often times undoable. We are lucky enough to be relatively close and have a very large house. Offering to host artists was really a no brainer. But, it came with a price. An emotional price.

Home is my sanctuary. Where I retreat when the outside world becomes too much for me to process. It’s a (mostly) controlled environment shutting out the uncontrollable. I am by no means a perfectionist. If I was I wouldn’t be living with five dogs and two cats. My things don’t need to be in order or in precise condition. Nothing needs to match. I just need my personal surroundings to be as stress free as possible and generally quiet. Calm. Or, not calm if I need to fall apart. It’s my soft safe place where I give the most vulnerable parts of myself, freedom.

The freedom to be ugly and undignified. Petty and jealous. Furious and damaging. Because . . . all of these emotions are part of this journey I am forced to take. When I blow up at something that shouldn’t elicit such a reaction, Stacey understands. And, that goes for her, too. It’s hard to control these feelings when someone else is in your space. When I’m the host, it’s up to me to make sure my guest has everything needed to insure a pleasant time. There were days, while we had our artist guests, that I didn’t think I would be able to do it. I’d spend time talking about my dead child, sharing her story over and over, only to have to pick up one of the artists from their venue and drive them home. Upon reaching home, I had to cook them dinner and spend the evening chatting about the day. Or, chat happily as one of them cooked dinner for us. Lovely to have a French man cooking our meal but there were many times I just wanted to climb into bed and cry myself to sleep. When my space isn’t my own, I tailor my behavior to those around me and this can be damaging to my well being. I was relieved when they left and the house was empty . . . except for us.

It was fun to tell people we were cool enough – interesting enough- bohemian enough to house artists but it was exhausting. I would love to say that the entire experience was wonderful from start to finish but, as I’ve explained, it wasn’t. Not because of them, mind you, but because of me. So, all the “how awesome!!” we got from people envious that we were living such a colorful life make me feel fraudulent. I often feel like a lie. A misconception to others. A hollow inspiration.

I’m not always living. It might seem that way but most days, in all honesty, I am just surviving.
Surviving in a world that doesn’t include my child is difficult on the best days. Imagine the days it’s harder. The days when I don’t give a fuck what’s happening outside of my bedroom door. What kind of role model am I then? I desperately need people to know that I am not always doing great things. I am not always hopeful and positive. I’m not squeezing every moment of joy out of this life.

I have my down days. Many bad days. Days when I am a bitch because I am jealous that you still have your child with you. Ones in which my anger rages because I have to talk about Becca in a past tense. A lump in my throat because I have to swallow what I really want to say. Hopelessness because I know I just can’t do one more day without my daughter by my side. Those days are as real as the good ones I share on social media. Please, please, know this.

I don’t want to mislead anyone in any way. It wouldn’t be fair to them or to me.

So, I’ll just keep bumbling along this uneven path my feet are on for as long as I am here. If I have given you the impression that “I’ve got this” . . . understand, I don’t.

I do my best. Accept my worst. And, keep moving through.