Connected

Yesterday I handed my cousin a small envelope with a handwritten note tucked inside. I’d agonized for a few days about what I was going to write to the man who killed my daughter. I’d made up my mind to contact him quite a while ago, but had difficulty finding his current address, or maybe I didn’t look hard enough. Either way, my cousin sent me a screenshot with the info I needed. The first thing I noticed was how old he is now.

His age was listed as 34. The same age my daughter would be today if she were alive. That number instantly drove home the amount of life my daughter has missed. I know it’s been eleven years but this made me think about the life lived in those years. I realized my image of the drunk driver was still that of the 23 year old young man I had screamed at while I gave my victim impact statement. For a moment, anger washed over me as I considered the fact his life went on. His years were filled with living. Would he have lines at the corner of his eyes? Maybe a gray hair? How much had he aged physically in just over a decade? I told myself that I had forgiven him. I kept telling myself I had forgiven him. Forgiveness, even after having been decided upon, is an ongoing process.

I hadn’t considered certain aspects of learning current information about him. And I am wondering, if I do see him face to face, how it will affect me. As I mentioned above, he will have aged, a gift Becca never received. It’s one thing to know something and another to experience it. Will he have a wedding ring on his finger? Was he lucky enough to find someone to love in the years since my child’s death? Is he a father now? Or, maybe he’s caring for his elderly mother. A gift, sadly, I will never receive from my daughter.

Sigh.

Back to the note I wrote to him.

“This is Diane. I am Becca’s mom. You and I are bound to the same beautiful soul for different reasons. The past eleven years have been full of intense pain and deep sorrow for me. I imagine they have been difficult for you, as well. With this letter I hope to find a small portion of closure in my child’s death. I need you to know I have forgiven you and hope you have a long and happy life. If you could see your way to meeting me I’d be incredibly grateful. If you can not, know that you can reach out to me at any time. Sincerely, Diane”

As I said, I’d worried about what I wanted to say to him, and how I was going to say it. I knew, at the very least, I had to extend forgiveness within the sentences, in case he didn’t want to meet me face to face. This was most important to me. I want to see him, in person, but I may not get to and that

has to be acceptable for me. But, I’m not sure of what to expect if I do meet with him.

A friend of mine, playing devil’s advocate, asked me what I would do if he told me “I don’t need your forgiveness”. I thought about her question and decided that I would be ok with that. I would be sad that we couldn’t have a conversation. I would be content in that I did I what I needed to do in order to further my own healing. Forgiveness is a selfish act.

I had been at work on Saturday when the words just presented themselves to me. I left the deli counter and sat down with a pencil and let my thoughts spill onto the paper. The words came from deep within my soul and (I thought) were perfect to convey what I wanted to say.

So, I tried to neatly write the words onto unlined paper and didn’t do so well. My hands were shaky and some of the letters hard to make out. I considered rewriting it, placing lined paper beneath the top sheet, but decided not to. Why? Because I was full of emotion and writing a letter like that might not be meant to be a calm, neat experience. I folded it up and inserted it into the envelope. Done. Something I had been thinking of doing for a while was accomplished. Now, it’s out of my hands.

It’s Monday. The letter was mailed on Saturday., by my cousin, because I wasn’t sure I could drop it into a mailbox. Will it be delivered today? If so, will he open it or lay it in an out of way place because he knows it’s from the mother of the young woman he killed? How long until he lifts the flap of the small envelope and reads the message within?

I hope he opens it as soon as he receives it. I hope the words I wrote for him land softly on his heart. And, I hope the seed for meeting me is planted in his thoughts . . . even if it takes a while for it to bloom.

I’ll be waiting.

.

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Create Healing With Forgiveness

Late last year I decided to make another piece of art to put into “the world’s largest art competition” Artprize. I started to work on it just after the first of the year. This project was going to be much larger than the one I entered in 2015. That painting was one that depicted my boys and I holding a deceased Becca. I tried to show what it was like to have to say goodbye. It was much smaller than this year’s but conveyed much of the anguish and pain I felt in having one of my children die. Having to accept that my daughter is no longer here. It was a very difficult piece to work on, and in truth, took many years to finish.

This year’s entry “Touching Heaven” shows how far I have come in my healing process. It’s huge in size standing 10ft tall by 5ft across! Three panels layered with spackle, wire, papier mache, acrylic paint, stained glass, glitter, and feathers. The angel, I created, is my Becca in heaven. Look how far I’ve come!

When my boys move somewhere new I always ask them to send me a picture of their rooms. It helps me to envision them in their surroundings. Which makes me feel calmer about them being far away. A little trick I play with myself. With this piece of art I am doing the same with my Becca. In the three years, between the projects, I have accepted more fully her absence. I am ready to visualize her somewhere else. Away from me. Don’t misunderstand, I don’t like it, but I know it is the reality of things.

Today is the official start of the competition. My piece has been hanging since Sunday and I have gotten much positive feedback from those who know me. In the next few weeks, I’ll be standing by my angel talking with people, and I hope to get a positive response.

For those who don’t know, I have been looking for the drunk driver that killed my daughter, the man who ended her life here and sent her to heaven. This driver ENDED MY CHILD’S LIFE and I have a need to look into his eyes. Being born, and dying, are the two greatest occurrences in one’s life. I was there for one and, tragically, he was there for the other.

I awoke this morning to a message from my cousin, Tammy. She’d sent a few screenshots from some records she’d located. Her words were simple: I think I found him. And, she has. The 23 yr old man, that killed my 23 yr old daughter, is now a 35 yr old living not far from where I work. Everyday. I have his current address saved on my phone. All of the energy I had upon waking up instantly left me. I’ve been waiting for this information for a while and now that I had it, did I really want it? I mean . . . he’s 35. Becca will never be 35. He has a home. Becca was robbed of her future. He’s lived the eleven years that she lost. Could I really contact him? Should I?

I am pretty open about who I am and what I feel. I’ve shared about my desire to meet him. A few people have told me that they are surprised I want to contact this man. They would understand, they said, if I was doing so to scream at him. But that is not what I want. My soul needs to extend forgiveness to his soul. I have tried to explain to these people why I feel compelled to share forgiveness with him.

I don’t believe he set out, that long ago night, to hurt anyone . . . or to kill my Becca. Though his mother behaved reprehensibly, after the crash, I can not believe her wish was for her son to grow up and end someone’s life. His crime is categorized as an “unintentional death” which I now understand. If he had searched out my daughter, hunted her and preyed upon her, then I am not sure there would be any forgiveness in my heart. This isn’t the case, though.

If the circumstances had been different and it had been my child driving . . . I wouldn’t stop loving them. I would do everything in my power to help them overcome the emotional toll this would undoubtedly take. I’d be there every step of the way to help them put their life back together and find happiness in every day. How can I not want this for another mother’s child?

Becca’s life never had the chance to blossom to its full potential. Her chance to change the world and make it a better place was cruelly snatched away from her in a second. The lives she might have helped, especially the children she should have had the chance to teach, are less rich without her having touched them. She would have done great things. Don’t we all think this about our children? And, doesn’t every single one of us have the potential to do world changing things? Including this man. I don’t want the fact that the event he caused, that killed my Becca, stops him from being all that he can be in this life. One life, her life, was ended in tragedy. I don’t want two to end the same way.

So, here I sit writing this blog piece. The words coming easily as I put thought to the screen. Oddly, I’ve started three handwritten letters to him and can’t seem to put together the right words. Do I tell him I forgive him straight off . . . so in case he doesn’t want to meet me he at least knows? What should my first sentence be? How do I introduce myself? Do I put my name on the outside of the envelope? Or will that stop him from even opening it? Will he even meet with me? Will my appearance in his life cause him anger about an event he’s trying to forget? There is no way to know any of these answers. I must take the chance and extend the possibility to him. I sincerely hope he contacts me in return.

If I do meet him face to face and he has no desire to be forgiven by me . . . that is alright. Maybe he just doesn’t understand that his soul needs it. That my soul needs it. That Becca’s soul will have greater peace because of our meeting. I will have a sense of closure around the person who ended her life. I believe this is necessary for me to keep healing. Right now he is merely a foggy image, standing in the courtroom, as I screamed at him to look at Becca’s picture. I need his image to become more solid in my mind. I need it to be real.

Whether you agree, or disagree, with my attempt to contact him I thank you for reading this piece of writing. I am scared. Terrified. Anxious. But, most of all, hopeful.

I am hopeful that our meeting will somehow bring good to the world.

 

My Son

Saturday, I drove halfway across the state of Michigan, to pick up my son. Two weeks ago he was nearly killed in a car crash. I needed to have him with me so I could reach over and touch him to prove to myself that he was still alive. The momma soul in my yearned to care for him during this healing period. Burning in my heart is the need to nurture my child.

The weekend of the crash I rushed across the state after receiving the news in a phone call. When I reached the hospital, I parked my car crookedly, and sprinted toward the doors. My other son, his twin brother, met me in the lobby to walk me up to his brother’s room. Surprisingly, their father trailed right behind him. My son wanted to prepare me for what I was going to see when I got to the room. I immediately started to cry.

My twins father and I are no longer together. We don’t get along. Years of crap have built a wall that is high. And, it is much stronger than I thought, because I was hoping the near death of our child would break it down. It didn’t. He was icilly cordial to me the entire time. The last day I was at the hospital I asked him if his cell number was the same, he replied yes. Good, I thought, I can get updates and be contacted if something goes wrong.

The next day, I started to message him, asking when our son would be released from the hospital. No answer. Throughout the day I both called and messaged him at least a dozen times. With every inquiry that went unanswered the scenarios of what must be happening grew darker in my thoughts. Nearly eight hours had passed from the initial text to my first communication with someone in that household. Eight hours of wondering if my son had relapsed. Had the brain bleed started to grow larger? Did the MRI not catch a fracture in his neck and he moved into paralysis? By the time I talked to my other son I was frantic. I was sure that his brother was dying and that I wouldn’t make it over to say goodbye. My children die. A slow spiral had started, gaining speed downward, with each hour that ticked past. I found myself in a full blown PTSD episode.

With my son’s phone call I finally got some answers about his brother. I was anxious and highly stressed and not handling anything very well. I explained to my son that I’d been trying to contact his father all day long and didn’t get one response. He informed me that his brother was home and resting comfortably and all was as well as it could be. I asked if I could come to visit my hurt son and I was told that my visit with my child could be from 10 to 2 the next day.

Fueled by PTSD adrenaline I became mad and asked why I was being ‘granted’ four hours. He’s my child, too. No, I said, that isn’t good enough. I needed to see my son and I would spend as much time with him as I wanted. Here, I should state that my boys are staying with their father. The next phone call, just a few minutes later, my son told me that my hours had been shortened from noon to 2. To which, naturally, I blew up. As you might expect things disintegrated from there. The third phone call informed me that I had “lost my privileges” because I was being difficult and that I could Skype or Facetime with my injured son.

“Are you fucking kidding me!?” I screamed to my son.
Everyone, but me, was able to spend time with him. His father, brother, stepmom, and aunt were all at the house. But somehow keeping his mom away seemed a fair idea. Bullshit. I was told I was being unreasonable. Playing the victim when I wasn’t the one that had gotten hurt. I needed to respect their father’s rules for his house. (This is where it really hit me that the wall between us is never coming down). I was told that I “did it to myself” and I had to accept the consequences. A lot of words flew out of my uncensored mouth. Words crafted in fear, terror. Some of them were unkind and accusatory. My son told me that their father had blocked my number years ago so he got none of my inquiries. Seriously, I thought, who the hell does that? Who can be so cruel?

But, I had to accept not seeing my son. What choice did I have? I was told coming to the house was going to cause a domestic problem with police and did I really want to add that to what was already going on? My mind was on fire with anger and the pain from not being listened to.”I caused this??” I yelled at my son. “This is fair?? Do you understand what I am going through over here? And how it’s exacerbated by hours of no contact with anyone there?” That “the momma, who’s already lost a child, needs to see him to calm her fears.”

Didn’t matter. None of it mattered. A few days later I was able to more calmly convey to my son, the intermediary between his parents, why I was reacting the way I was. Still didn’t change my being able to visit but my son and I took the time to understand each other. Then, this past Saturday, my injured son said he wanted to come stay with me for a bit. We tried to arrange a time.

Last summer my boys went to Europe. The trip had no definite end date. So, the boys agreed to spend the night with me to have dinner and visit. While we were eating dinner I was told that they wouldn’t be able to spend the night after all as their father had planned a birthday party for their stepmother. He wanted them to be there. I tried not to be mad. Notice I said tried. After a quick dinner I kissed them both goodbye and went to bed and cried. This almost happened again on Saturday. In trying to coordinate a time to pick my son up he asked me “could it be a little later . . . today is McKenna’s birthday”. McKenna is their little sister. For fuck’s sake.

Not only have I had the terror of nearly losing another child to deal with, but, I’ve been given the feeling of not mattering. Of being a second thought. Of being a nuisance. Bothersome. Unimportant. Part of me feels as if my sons have turned away from me. I feel cheated out of helping to care for my injured boy. That I am viewed as unhinged and untrustworthy.

Invisible and easy to forget.

No longer needed.

That is a lot for a bereaved mother to shoulder. Having one child killed, another who seems to view me as their father does and nearly losing another, the weight of emotions was enough to send me far down into the black hole. The descent was quick because the spiral is greased with everyday fears, feelings of guilt, loneliness. Oiled with the absence of my daughter. It’s a lightning fast ride to the bottom. I spent almost fourteen days at the bottom this time. And, I was left there alone. Saturday I crawled up out of the abyss, got into my van, and drove east to get my child.

Eleven years have passed since I lost my Becca. This crash, that almost took my son’s life, brought me right back to that day over a decade ago. The treatment I received after anchored me in the dark. Picking up my son was like the sun rising after a very long night.

PTSD is difficult to deal with. You never know what is going to trigger you. Or how long it will manifest. Surround yourself with others who understand and want to work with you, not against you. Find people who hand you a pair of wings when they see you in trouble . . . not attach a ball and chain around your ankle.

Most of all: believe you will rise again.

Because you will.

Again.

A few weeks ago one of my twin sons, Gabriel, came to visit me in the town to which I’d recently moved. I was so excited when he told me he was going to visit! There were two “firsts” I was looking forward to. One, he hadn’t seen the historic home we’d moved into and I was eager to show it to him. Two, he was bringing a young lady he’d been dating for a while and this was going to be our first meeting. The visit was everything I had expected . . . and more!

Since losing my daughter it’s been a struggle to feel truly happy. I have had moments of happiness, which have grown longer and larger, but the day he spent with me a few Sundays ago really made me feel confident that life was going to be ok. I told him this, too. Always with the qualifier “without your sister here” so as not sound like I’m over her passing. As I said those words to him, “I’m really as happy as I can be” . . . I meant them. Both of my sons were doing well. Working. Living. Loving. What else can a mother want? I have it all. (except for my daughter).

I felt certain that the hardest part of life was behind us. I was satisfied this was the truth. Then, on a beautifully sunny Saturday, lightning struck twice. It was as if some invisible hand had parted the clouds, picked me up by the back of my shirt, and dropped me right back into the day my daughter was killed.

I was at work when I received a phone call that began with these few words:

“Mom, listen to me . . . I want you to know he’s alive.”

I started to spin out of control quickly because my son, Matthew, kept saying:

“MOM! MOM! He’s alive . . . calm down . . . Mom, I need you to calm down . . .”

I flew out of the bathroom, already running and telling anyone that would listen, I had to leave NOW. Standing in the back warehouse, with all three of my bosses looking at me, I was asking my son if his twin brother was in a coma. I was yelling. I was spinning around, in place, with one hand across my forehead in disbelief. How could this be happening. Again. I’ve already lost one child . . . didn’t this mean the chance of losing another was nearly zero? Wasn’t closing down the life of your child like a vaccination of sorts?

What I remember hearing in that first conversation with my son was that his brother had been in a bad crash. He told me where Gabriel was: a hospital in Flint. Flint is 113.6 miles from my job. Travel time is 1 hour and 39 minutes. At that moment it might as well have been half way across the world. They were too far away. I was frantic

I have recollection of Matthew telling me there was no brain damage. Holy shit, I thought, this is really bad. There didn’t seem to be any paralysis, either. Holy fuck, how bad is it when they are checking for those things? I must have asked my son if he was telling me everything, or if he was telling me the truth, because he kept saying:

“I promise, Mom, I’m not holding anything back. Please, don’t rush here, I need you to drive safely. He’s ok.”

I didn’t believe him. I was CERTAIN he was holding the most devastating information back because he didn’t want me to speed and have my own crash. Was he downplaying the truth of his brother’s condition so I wouldn’t drive like a maniac to get there? Yes! My mind told me. YES!!! It screamed at me! “YOUR CHILDREN DIE!!” I kept shaking my head as my son tried to calm me, console me, make me believe his brother was, indeed, alive.

“I need you to be ok, Mom!! Promise me you won’t speed, promise me you’ll be careful!”

All I kept saying was, “I have to leave . . . I have to go . . . I have to get there now . . . I know you aren’t telling me the truth . . .”

I was in my car and on the street within seconds. I didn’t know what to do first. I needed air in my tires but I couldn’t waste the time getting them filled – there wasn’t enough gas in my van yet it would take too long to fill it up – how far could I get on what there was . . .

I think I drove in circles in the parking lot, trying to figure out what I needed to do first, because I had to keep moving. I had to be doing something. I was literally spinning my tires in panic.

Fortunately, a coworker messaged me and told me she didn’t want me going alone. I had it in my head that I just needed to get on the highway and get the hell across the state. She told me that Joe, a high school friend of the boys, would go with me. I almost ignored her message, turning left toward the highway instead of turning right and going back to work. I didn’t and having Joe with me for the long ride helped.

As we drove toward the highway I filled him in on what little I knew. Something inside of me told me that I had to hold it together for Joe. I was the adult, even though Joe is 24, and I had to appear calm for him. As I explained Gabe’s condition (as I knew it to be) I tried to hold back the tears. Why was I able to remain calm for someone else but not myself?

In between conversations with Joe, about mundane things, horrible thoughts were racing through my mind.

Would my child have a cognitive disability. I know Matthew said no brain damage but he could be just saying that. Gabriel is sarcastic and fast witted and intelligent. In a lot of ways, he is my most difficult child, always testing the boundaries and not caring about consequences. He’s thoughtful and philosophical and questions everything. Full of angst. At times, it seems, he carries the sadness of generations that have come before him. An artist’s soul with a deep well of emotions. What would I do if I had to look into his beautiful eyes and know he’s lost part of who he was? Would he be aware that he had been permanently changed? Somewhere deep in his mind would he know he wasn’t fully himself anymore? Would this realization sadden him? Or was there a chance that he might never know who he was before this crash?

These thoughts rushed in but I kept pushing them back so I could concentrate on the highway.

Oh my god. What if he is hurt badly enough that he spends the rest of his life in a wheelchair? I know Matthew told me there wasn’t that kind of damage but my son knows me well enough to be concerned that I would drive well over the speed limit to get to them. What if Gabriel could no longer use his legs? Both boys played soccer in high school and continue to play to this day. Gabriel recently discovered a love for disc golf. Are the courses wheelchair accessible? His arms. Paralysis could include his arms! How in the world would he feel if he could no longer run or kick or shoot a baskeball?

Which would be better? A cognitive issue, or a physical one? Would one be easier to overcome than the other? How would Gabriel approach the loss of either one? OR BOTH?? Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god.What the fuck!! Why did the miles seem endless as I sped toward the east side of the state?! I needed to touch my child. Matthew needed me there, too. I am the mom. I am supposed to make everything right. No matter their age . . . children still look to their parents for guidance. I had to get there and DO.

I was told the car flipped between 40 and 50 mph. No airbags deployed. Unsure of seat belts. The crash happened in a construction zone and wasn’t found for a few hours. A female officer knocked on their father’s door to ask if they knew a Gabriel Kelly. She said there was a crash and he was in serious condition. I was told by the boys’ stepmother that Matthew anguished over what to say when he called me. He had to give me the news yet keep me calm enough so that I didn’t freak out (which I did anyway) and hurt myself getting there. Then Matthew had to sit next to his twin brother’s bed, while doctors and nurses tended to him, all the while wondering if he’d just lost another sibling. Trying to remain calm as old wounds were opened and blood started to spill. Angry at his brother but thrilled he was alive. Matthew had also been placed in a space from eleven years ago . . . instantaneously.

On a beautiful late summer day, the kind that can only be found in Michigan, Matthew and I were standing on that cold gray highway in January again.This time it wasn’t me trying to protect him, but instead, him attempting to shelter me. Side by side, we sat at the foot of Gabe’s bed, and just looked at him. Grateful when he surfaced out of the drug induced sleep long enough to say something. Crying when he would moan from the pain. Matthew told me how much it hurt to see his brother this way. That he wished he could take the pain away. I wished I could take the pain from both of them into myself.

A few days after the crash, when my mind settled down enough to move from the emergency state, I thought: Damn it! That is what I get for saying I was happy. For thinking life was going to be good. To be openly optimistic and hopeful. Life said: Yeah? Watch this. Then it proceeded to recrumble the ground beneath my feet. Why? Why did another tragedy have to happen? I’ve had enough! My family has had enough. In the past I’ve half joked around about having been Hitler in my previous life because I was getting a good amount of karmic payback in this one, it seemed. There should be a quota for the number of children on mother can lose. Can we ink that in somewhere? Who do I need to talk to?

My son is alive. We have a future together . . . all three of us. Matthew will heal from the terror and pain he’s been feeling for the past week. He’ll be carefree and optimistic and full of joy again. His playful nature will resurface when he can put the weight of this event down. Gabriel’s healing will be slow but eventually he will be back to the sarcastic funny kid we know. And, out walking the disc golf course “meditating” as he calls it.

Lightning does strike twice in the same place. I have no immunity because my daughter was killed. Any confidence I had that my two boys would be safe because we’ve already faced this is completely gone. There are no rules in child loss. We must not take any part of being a parent for granted. I don’t think life came after me because I was too smug or cocky. Well, most of me doesn’t. But it’s going to take a very long time until I feel “safe” concerning my children again.

Gabriel will be coming to stay with me for a while soon. I will be able to mother him and help him heal. I can hold his hand and tell him how much I love him. We can talk about what he’s feeling. He can tell me about his sister being at the crash, and watching over him, more completely.

Please, for me, if you are able . . . go hug your children.

You never know when a storm might be brewing.

 

Excavating Muskegon

I found another piece of my Becca.

A piece I knew I would stumble upon, sooner or later, it just happened to be sooner than expected. That’s ok, though. I wasn’t completely prepared to find it . . . but all of a sudden, there she was.

Muskegon holds very little history for my children and I. In fact, it’s the place that has the least amount of history along the Lake Michigan shoreline. There are other places, beaches mostly, that we spent much more time together. One in particular, Kirk Park, is the most difficult to think about visiting. My stomach clenches and my legs feel as if they can’t hold up my weight. I’m not ready to visit there, yet.

The knowledge that there is a soccer field, in Muskegon, that we’d been to has been in the back of my mind since moving here. I think a few weeks had passed before I remembered the name of the street we took to reach it happened to be the same one I drive down to get home every day. The field is about half a mile to the right of the first intersection I pass through when I exit the highway. In my memory, it wasn’t that close the freeway at all. In trying to figure it out I recalled that we had gotten lost and driven right past it and had to backtrack a good ways!

The sad thing is: I can not remember if Becca rode with us for the long drive or if she met us out there. I can’t call her to ask, either. That is one of the things I hate, among the thousands there are to hate, about her dying. I am the keeper of all the memories . . . and when I can not remember a detail, I fail. And she is erased a little more.

My car, at the time (and many other times in our life) wasn’t the most reliable, so the drive was stressful for me. I wonder if the boys could tell? But, I wanted to at least seem as if we were as carefree as all the other families seemed to be. I should have realized we had what really matters, love.. Anyway, I remember Becca and I sitting on the small section of bleachers next to the soccer field. Was it a hot day? Or a cold one? I can’t remember. The feeling of my daughter next to me, and my boys running around on the field, is what I can remember. I am happy I have not forgotten how she feels.

Becca was always over the top when it came to emotions. She was a very dramatic girl! Which grew into her being a very dramatic young woman. One of the things I both loved and admired about her!! She was not shy when it came to expressing her feelings! Happy or sad, you knew!. On that day, long ago, my girl – the boys big sister, jumped up and rushed down the bleachers. Before I knew it, she was running up and down the sidelines, jumping like a fool, and cheering for her brothers. She possessed an ability to behave ridiculously without any fear of what she might look like to others. Becca was wise. Wiser than me. I didn’t conquer that fear (and some days I haven’t at all) until after she’d been killed. What is there to fear? I’ve lived through the worst, haven’t I?

I imagine her brothers might have been a bit embarrassed, then. I wonder if they remember this day? Or how much their sister loved them. Could they tell they were everything to her? I hope they could. I hope they both realize that now. That girl would have done anything for them. And, I know, they would have done anything they could for her, too. The three of them loved each other more than I ever could have hoped for. She was theirs and they were hers and I am so blessed to have been a part of this family.

My boys have had days when I know they could have used a big sister. For advice. Or support. Maybe kick someone’s ass. (She would have done all three, happily.) I’ve had days when her words would have jerked me out of my low places and set me right again. Every day without her is hard, but, there are days that are nearly unbearable because of her absence.

Then there are the days when I find a bit of her and, for a moment, she’s next to me. Maybe my journey isn’t meant to be moving away from the explosive impact of her death. Instead, what if it’s about going forward to excavate the pieces of our life that landed far away?

When I was young, I wanted to be an archaeologist, digging up treasures from civilizations long gone from this earth. Like most children that dream about this career, we envision ourselves in a far away land, digging up the tomb of an ancient ruler filled with gold or finding proof of a people we weren’t sure existed. My younger self (the one who was still in consistent contact with my soul) possibly knew I would be searching out a different kind of treasure one day. Searching for and gathering my most precious memories.

Discovering this piece of Becca has allowed me to remember the joy of life in that girl! Her laughter is ringing through my head! The love the three of them felt for each other is warm as it surrounds me. The happiness we all had together, even though we didn’t have much materially, brings a smile to my face and new tears to my eyes. I found a perfect moment, again.

Carrying the weight of my dead child is exhausting. But, it’s a heaviness I can not put down. Yet, picking up pieces of her while I travel makes the weight a little lighter. It doesn’t make sense, I know, but I’m glad that those of you who don’t understand, don’t.

Maybe tomorrow I will be strong enough to walk up those bleachers from years ago. Or, maybe all I will be able to do is glance in that direction. Either way . . . I’ve found gold.

My Becca.

A Deserved Death

“You’re a witch!” my coworker joked, leaning away from me and forming her fingers into a cross.

“Why?” I asked.

“You curse people!” she laughed.

I don’t curse people, of this I am sure, but something with uncanny timing happened this past Monday. Not until I was working through the news I had just been given did I realize how the moments lined up.

Monday, I was having lunch with a prospective employer, at an Italian restaurant she and her husband have recently purchased. Conversation floated between things having to do with the possible job position and personal chatting. As often happens with me, the death of my daughter came up while talking about who I am and my everyday life. The woman I was meeting with shared a story about the loss of her cousin and her cousin’s husband. Both killed in a crash.

She then said that she believes everything happens for a reason. Maybe, she continued, we don’t learn the reason until we’ve passed on.

I’ve explained, in past writings, how this belief doesn’t sit well with me. I’ve not found a reason that is adequate for me to accept that Becca had to be killed. But, this isn’t what this blog is about. This is about something completely different.

While we were talking about loss, and the belief that things happen for a reason, I said my relationship with deity/divine/universe was complicated. In explanation I said the words: Why did my beautiful daughter have to die yet my pedophile uncle is still alive?

Lunch finished, we said goodbye, and I was home by 2:30 Monday afternoon.

At 3:46 PM, my phone binged with the sound that indicates a message has been sent to me. I looked at it and the simple message, sent to me by my cousin, read:

“I’m only mentioning this in the chance it gives you peace. Teddy is dead.”

My initial thought was “it’s about damn time.” Then “good, he can’t hurt anyone else.”

I asked my cousin how he had died. Part of me hoped his passing wasn’t peaceful. When she told me he’d died of cancer “throughout” I felt satisfied. She also added the time at which he died, 1 PM that afternoon.

As I lay in bed, pondering how I felt about my abuser’s death, it dawned on me . . . he had died at nearly the precise time I had been talking about him and the questions I had surrounding his still being alive. I can not know if the two moments were lined up perfectly in space but I do know they had to be very close. Hence, the reason my coworker made the comment about me cursing people. I had commented right back to her: if only!! But, I am not sure the power to hex a person with death would be worth having. I wouldn’t want to have that ability.

But, Teddy’s dying brought up many other thoughts in the process of digesting his death. I feel cheated out of peering into his eyes, which look too similar to my own, and telling him that what he did to me over a seven year period, did not break me. He almost did. I nearly ended my life by hanging myself when I was just nine or ten. I was too short to get the rope over the rafter in our garage, thankfully. I survived. It affected so much of what I am and what I’ve done, yes, but I wanted him to see who I am now, in spite of his cruelty. Not only did I survive, I thrived.

His death also made me think about who gets into heaven.

A dear friend of mine, a mother who has known me since grade school and also lost a daughter, was the first to comment on the post I shared on Facebook calling the world a safer place in his dying. She said: Karma luv ❤ I hope it was painful. In another comment she said: You can be sure he’s not anywhere near Becca. A second commenter said: I hope his suffering never ends in hell. Both of these comments have stirred up what I believe about the afterlife.

My mother, who’s brother was Teddy, has said she doesn’t believe there is anything after we die. We merely cease to exist. After Becca was killed, she said she welcomed death, not because she would see her granddaughter again, but because her pain would be over. She would no longer think about Becca.

I can not believe there is nothing when we die. I think a commonality of belief among bereaved mothers is that our child still exists . . . somewhere (depending on what belief system they follow). Maybe having the belief that our child’s soul continues on is a necessity for us. I know it is for me. Otherwise, how could I continue to move forward?

Most religions have a concept of a hell. For some Christians, hell is a place in which souls are made to suffer for the acts they committed while on earth. I don’t think I share this belief. Instead, hell seems to be here, on earth. But, let’s say there is a punishing place after death. Is Teddy there? Will he suffer for eternity? Or, did he make it to heaven? To where I believe Becca to be. Is deity all forgiving? Are we all forgiving when we reach the next destination? Will Becca face my uncle, in my stead, and slap his face? Or will she hug him in total forgiveness? I don’t know. I won’t know until I’ve passed.

I do know this: the pedophile uncle that molested me for seven long years, who changed who I was supposed to be at a soul level, who handed me years of self hatred and shame and guilt when he slipped into my bed on the night’s he babysat us, is no longer drawing breath from the same air I breathe. And, I’m okay with that and wherever he ended up.

I feel lighter. Burdens that were not mine to carry fell away upon hearing the news of his passing. In the coming days, years even, I will struggle with and try to understand what all of this means.

Today, I am content he is gone.

On Writing

There are multiple times each day in which an idea for a blog presents itself. They often come at inopportune moments, though. I used to tell myself I would remember them for later but I rarely did. To remedy this, I’ve taken to carrying multiple pads of paper to scrawl thought segments on (one pad would be too easy!) and I also send myself voice messages if one of the many pads isn’t handy. It’s not a perfect system, by any means, but I am remembering more than I forget now!!

Being constantly given connections for writing balances on a very thin line between healing and falling. My goal is to use my writing to heal myself, and hopefully help others, but at times the subject matter is just too heavy to delve into each day. On the days when it is just too much to write about I feel a tremendous guilt and shame. The fact that I am letting down my daughter keeps screaming through my head. Shouldn’t she be the first thing I do every day? Every time?

I’m reminded by the inner voice, if the wound is deep you can not let it scab for too long or the injury will become infected and start to fester. But, I reply, if I continually pick at it I’ll bleed constantly. A bereaved mother, trying to heal, is walking a razor’s edge. To slide down either side hurts.

The truth is: grieving the loss of a child is exhausting. Another truth: we must take short breaks from the healing work or we will wear ourselves down to nothing. Refilling our well is necessary to do the hard work we know we will face. It’s an ebb and flow.

When I need to step back from writing about my journey of loss, love, and healing, I find some other creative outlet to spend time doing. Sometimes, it’s writing about something else. For nearly two years I wrote my own zombie apocalypse story! My main characters were so far from who I am . . . a female dog trainer who is blind and a 14 year old Indian boy . . . that I don’t have to think about myself or my situation. My mind swirls with ideas and spirals down into back stories for each character! I can lose hours writing imaginary worlds filled with people I create and name. If you’ve never tried it . . . I suggest you do!!

Do you know why I suggest you do? No matter what we are writing . . . we will find healing. The words you put to paper need not be for anyone but yourself. They don’t even have to spelled correctly and your punctuation doesn’t matter. Just let the words flow! Let the the thoughts loose! Make up a character and put her through outlandish situations!! You’ll be surprised what you end up with! Some of what you read, after you’ve written it, will ring true to who you are now. You may find answers to questions you didn’t know you had. Or find questions in things you thought you understood fully. You will come to know yourself deeper and connect with the world around you, wider.

I recently wrote a blog about the century old house I am living in. The Irish part of me is drawn to the history the walls have seen. I imagine the sorrows they have absorbed. Laughter that bounced around in the corners. Little lives that took their first breath here . . . and those that took their last. Growing families and stories unfolded. I desperately wish the walls would whisper the houses secrets to me. Maybe she is but I don’t know how to hear them. I’ll have to figure out how to listen more clearly. Or more deeply.

The first week I was here I saw the bottom edge of a curtain ruffle itself from one side to the other. I was walking from my bedroom into the dining room and to the kitchen. Nowhere near the parlor. The ceiling fan was broken at the time. None of the animals were in the room and all of the windows were closed. I had hung a lace curtain over the rather large window that faces the neighboring home. I glanced in that direction when, from left to right, it appeared someone had run their hand along the bottom seam. It just fluttered out, rippled along, and then laid flat again.
At the time, it unnerved me slightly, but now I’ve come to think maybe it’s one of the home’s former occupants. A sweet lady, from the early 1900’s, admiring the lace and joyful to see the home being returned to its former finery. And, just like that . . . I’d created another character!

In my Google drive I have four unfinished blogs waiting for my attention. Each day that passes, without me opening up the documents and writing, adds anxiety to my already anxious existence. I know I must complete each one. They were important enough to start and they deserve my full attention to reach their completion. Upon waking, I have every intention to do so, but lately I’ve had shitty follow through. I silently yell at myself for not making the ramifications from my daughter’s death a priority. Losing her was the biggest thing that has happened to me. It should be of utmost importance to write about. But I get stuck. A form of writer’s block, I guess.

Today, I told myself: You are going to write. Period. Instead or attacking one of the half finished blogs I started an outline for an idea I have for a novel. A story inspired by the blog I wrote about hidden healing. A novel I am going to write with my cousin, Linda. The outline maps out characters and time periods and important events. As I was writing it . . . dozens of scenarios presented themselves to me and I couldn’t write fast enough!! I thought, it feels so good to be writing about something that has nothing to do with my child dying! (insert tremendous guilt here). I was checking historical dates and meeting new characters as they formed in my head and it was magnificent!!

Then, as I re read what I’d written, I realized (again) I was writing about myself over and over. The words held the questions that I wanted answered. If I re read it again, maybe there are answers I haven’t been able to see.

In the zombie story I mentioned above I have a character named Allison. She is a mother of four who lost her husband in the first wave of dead. The first zombie she encounters happens to be the young daughter of a neighbor. Allison decides to end the child’s unnatural condition and upon doing so, takes the little girl’s bracelet to give to her mother, if she ever sees her again. This starts Allison’s “job” in the apocalypse. She believes her meaning in life is to collect artifacts from those she must kill and return them to the relatives. To let them know their loved one is no longer here, in any condition, and they were treated with mercy at the end.

I find myself in those paragraphs. A part of me exists in Allison’s character. Just as a part of me can be seen in the blind heroine. And, maybe, the Indian boy she is traveling with is me, too.

I can assuage my anxiety by continually realizing that writing, any writing, is working through my grief. Whether it’s a blind woman, a disenchanted psychologist, or a spirit . . . it all stems from my mind, my experiences, and my existence. I still feel bad that I haven’t been able to sit down and tackle one of the blogs. The shame and guilt is still there.

But at least I sat and wrote today.

The secret is to start.