Tonight

I’ve always been more comfortable in the night than in the day. The sun’s light is warm and bright but the moon’s is soft, ethereally illuminating and draws me more often to it. I can remember, as a child living in the country, how the landscape looked when the moon was full and silver light washed across the fields. Otherworldly.

I believed the moon could see me.

Last year December, right around Becca’s birthday, I heard about the full blood wolf moon eclipse that was going to happen on January 21st. “Appropriate,” I thought. Makes perfect sense. Such a monumental event on a monumental day.

I thought the sun should have fallen from the sky the day my daughter was killed. It’s rising was a mockery to the fact Becca was no longer here. How could a new begin in her absence? Why hadn’t time stopped with her last heartbeat?

I was wrong. The sun shouldn’t have stayed below the horizon because of her death. The moon should have fallen to the ground and shattered into a million little pieces. You see, my Becca, was the soft energy in my life.

She was the gossamer lace design the tree branches made against a full moon flooded sky. The delicate curve of its shape was mirrored in her high cheekbones. Luminous was her skin and her energy was magical. My daughter held the wisdom of a thousand lifetime’s behind her brilliant eyes.

She is me and I’ve lost a part of myself. My daughter, the continuation of me being a woman, was an extension of the women before me. The feminine energy of the moon doesn’t have another vessel to move into in my future.

The veil between worlds is thinner at night, I think. And, when events happen like this full moon, I think it becomes even thinner. Gossamer threads. I was reading something about why tonight’s moon will appear red. Scientifically, it has something to do with the particles in the atmosphere. I wonder, if the particles are being reflective in a different way, will I catch a glimpse of Becca in the ring of glowing light cast from the total eclipse? Will my child be visible in the brilliant corona?

I am torn. I want to stay up and watch as this heavenly body travels it’s journey tonight. It’s completeness will take place at 12:12 a.m. For the first few years after Becca’s death, I stayed up during the time I was told she had died. I had to be awake and mark her death with tears and cries of anguish. I’d let her go through it alone the first time. I couldn’t let that happen again. Someone had to hold vigil for the end of her life.

This became too painful. My already broken heart would barely make it through until the next day. Instead, I would make sure I was fast asleep before that moment came. I didn’t think my weakened soul could stop the bleeding as my heart was torn from my chest again and again.

So, here I sit tonight. Balancing on the time before and after. Anxious because I still can’t stop her from dying. The passing of the years hasn’t made me any smarter or moved me any closer to finding out how to save my child. Tomorrow will come, without her, and I will have to go on.

To you, my dear daughter:

You were the magic I saw in the moon.
The beauty that comes from it’s fullness.
You brought an energy into my life I can only describe as true love.
I miss you with an ache that is never ending.
You are in everything I do. Everything I create.
The piece of my soul I am forever searching for.
Know that you are love, and are loved.

Maybe, if you have a chance, could you come into my dreams tonight and tell me what the moon’s glow feels like up close?

I love you my baby girl.

 

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The Year’s End

Last week, Stacey and I were sitting at a small pizza place waiting for our food to arrive. To pass the time we did what most people do – we scrolled through our Facebook feeds. After a few slides of my thumb I came across an article about the movie, “Steel Magnolias”. It’s been thirty years since the play that inspired the movie debuted on Broadway. Many of us know the story of the characters in the film. We love them. Some of us relate to them. Most of us cry with them. What I didn’t know was that the movie was based on a real story.

The playwright, Robert Harling, wanted to write his sister’s life story. She died young from complications of Type 1 Diabetes. Just as Julia Roberts does in the film. One passage from the article describes how the writer, Harling, wasn’t sure that his mother would want to watch the scene being filmed that day. She’d watched most of the other filming but this day would be a difficult. The scene was the one in which Susan, the writer’s sister, dies when her life support machines are turned off.

Harling had said he thought that it might be too difficult for his mother to watch the character based on her daughter, die. His mother’s response was: “I want to see Julia get up from the bed and walk away.” As a bereaved mother myself . . . I completely understand this concept.

Two weeks ago I chose an audiobook from the library to listen to as I drove the 45 minutes, twice a day, so I could spend the time a bit more productively. This is my third one. The first was “The Ocean at the end of the Lane” by Neil Gamain. A wonderful tale. Then “Travels with Charley” by my favorite writer, John Steinbeck. This choice, my third, was of a book I’ve read multiple times. I am continually drawn back to the characters and the story. As well as the tale woven between women’s lives.

I don’t want to give too much away about the book but I will say . . . it is so worth reading. Also, skip the next couple of paragraphs if you plan on reading it because I talk about some very key happenings.

There is a part near the middle of the story when the narrative character has found love, true love, and finally she is married to him. He happens to be a prince. A prince whose family has very different religious customs. To appease the way the way the whole marriage occurred, her father demands that all the men of his daughter’s new family be circumcised. To which the young prince quickly agrees. But, before this can happen, her enraged brothers kill her new husband.

The story of this young woman, Dinah, starts before her birth with the story of her mothers and their family history. Up through the births of all of her siblings into her coming of age. The writer does an incredible job of weaving Dinah’s story into colorful strands of sentences that knit together around us into something as real and comforting as a favorite blanket. There is a description, in the book, which tells us how rough wool is taken and cleaned and worked until it can be woven together on a loom to make soft and durable material. This small snippet of the whole story is mesmerizing. All of it is mesmerizing.

Dinah, and her aunt/mother Zilpah, are called to the castle where they tend the birth of a baby by one of the king’s concubines. By happenstance, Dinah meets the young prince, Shalem in an anteroom just outside of the birth chamber. They fall instantly in love and the prince’s mother, the Queen, arranges for them to meet up again and her intuition is correct. They are meant to be together. From this point we are told of the deep love between these two young adults. The writer goes on to describe this joining in great detail and with sensitivity that causes my heart to ache. The first time I read this book the next events, which were unexpected but shouldn’t have been, broke my heart. Dinah’s new husband is murdered by her enraged brothers for what they saw as “the rape and kidnapping” of their sister. The bride-price that had been agreed to by the two father in laws wasn’t good enough for them. In reality, I think their motive was jealousy not revenge.

On my way into work one morning, I came to the part when Shalem crawls back into their marriage bed and whispers that an agreement had been reached and he was to go under her father’s knife in three days. The two rejoice at the happiness they feel and the future they will share. Except, they won’t. These two characters, which in my head are as real as you and me, are blissfully unaware of the tragedy about to befall them. But, I’m not. I know what is going to occur in just a few pages. I know dark figures will breach the castle walls and silently move from one shadowed corner to the next until they find their targets. The end of a life will end quickly and with much blood shed.

Knowing that this is where the story would go next I reached up and stopped the disc. I thought to myself. No. I am not going to let this happen again. Shalem won’t die. Dinah won’t mourn. I can create the future they should have had in my own head. Or, at the very least, stop the one that inevitably follows in the book. I knew I could not bear to have Dinah suffer again, as she had, every other time I’d followed the story through. The disc stayed in the player for almost a week until I took it out and put it back into it’s numbered place in the box and readied it to be returned to the library tomorrow.

If a bereaved mother could change one thing about her past life I know it would be to stop the death of her child/ren. Or, the events that led up to her child’s dying. The days prior to the date of our child’s passing are filled with dread, anxiety, longing, anger. And, more emotions I have not been able to put into words yet, even after a dozen years without my daughter.

I’ve shared often about my difficult time of year. It subtly starts as appears at the edges of the trees leaves. The air begins to carry a chill in itself. October 31st is a clear demarcation of “the difficult months”. The dates, which fall concretely within these weeks, can be seen on a calendar. Marked days of renewed sorrow and increased anxiety. Each one ticking away the time until the moment of her death. As always, there is nothing I can do to stop this event from happening.

Nothing.

I can not watch an actress play my daughter, die underneath a flipped car, get up and wipe the blood from the right corner of her mouth. Neither can I switch off the narrated story of her life when the words start leading down the cold highway in the early morning hours. Her last hour. Last minute. Final breath.

I want to. I always feel as if I am failing my child again. I just can not figure out how to stop past events from happening. Or, how to trade places with her. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. Another fixed point in time that I have no power over. The year will change, time will move forward, and I will be farther away from my child’s last living moment. Tomorrow night I will go to bed early, as I always do, because the change of one year to the next is incredibly painful. I can’t face it anymore. I face enough pain in my everyday life . . . I think I can take a pass from experiencing yet another one. I will wake up January 1, 2019 and accept that time didn’t stop when my Becca was killed. I will be firmly in another year without her.

I would give anything to rewrite the story of our lives. To unlock the secret which allows me to change past events. To watch my daughter wiggle out from under the black car and walk toward me with a smile on her face and hear her say ‘momma” in the sing song way she had when she called to me from another room. Or, to just be able to shut off the narrative of impending events.

So here I sit, spilling my thoughts onto the screen, hoping for relief? An answer? I’m not sure. Neither? Both. I guess, as morbid as this sounds, I will take some comfort in knowing the arrival of 2019 will bring me closer to the moment I hear her voice call to me again. When I can catch her in my arms and pull her close forever. I know this meeting won’t happen soon, and probably not for decades, but I can look forward to that reunion and it sparks joy in my heart.

I hope 2019 brings you all love, light, and peace.

 

Included in this blog:

Steel Magnolias – a play written by Robert Harling in 1987.

The Red Tent – a book written and published by Anita Diamant in 1997.

Both

In Michigan, we are lucky enough to enjoy all four seasons. Though some years, it seems, that we are hurried through one of them by Mother Nature’s insistence to hurry on to the next. Winter has always been my favorite season of the four. For two very different reasons.

First, I absolutely loved snow days when the kids were home from school. The outside world, and all its problems, didn’t matter for a while. There was nothing to worry about except what was right in front of us. The pure whiteness of the fresh snow begged the children to go outdoors. I’d spend about half an hour bundling them all up from head to toe then send them out the front door. Becca always seemed to come in before her brothers were ready. Little kids seem to endure cold temperatures much better than those who are older. When they did finally give in to the elements they’d come inside with sopping wet clothes and wind chapped cheeks. Becca would help them get out of their snow stuff as I made hot cocoa for all of us. Somehow, they would be sweaty under their clothing, their hair curly from the moisture and their hats, and they’d wrap their small hands around warm mugs. Sometimes, they even had whipped cream with peppermint sticks to stir their drink!

When they were very young . . . a nap usually followed an afternoon of outdoor fun. Little ones can endure the cold but when they get back into the warmth of indoors they tend to become drowsy. They’d fall into a deep sleep, bellies full of chocolate and faces sticky from the peppermint candy. Becca might take a nap, too. Or if I was really lucky she’d nestle up next to me on the couch and we’d watch a movie cuddled together under a blanket.

As they boys grew older, naps tended to fall away from favor, and I’d often be able to cajole them into a game or two. Our family has only two games we play together. Yahtzee, which I absolutely love . . . and Sorry! which generally ends in a fight because Gabriel hates how Matthew counts the squares by tapping his finger. And, I think Matthew might aggravate his brother on purpose. We STILL talk about it to this day!

Snow days, when we were all home together, were perfect every single time.

The second reason I prefer winter over any other season is because the outer world matches my inner self. Not icy, though I’ve been accused of that a few times in the past. But rather, I am not all sunny and happy and full of fun. Even before Becca’s death I wasn’t. Winter just matches me. It makes sense. Isolation isn’t seen as something bad when everyone is stuck inside of their homes. The beach isn’t full of throngs of people – every one of them having the best day of their lives. Michigan is beautiful in each season though summer here is the one that is talked about the most. It seems almost taboo to not be full of life during this time of the year. In winter, no one is insisting that you “come to the beach” or “come out on the boat” or “we’re having a campfire”. Fun things, yes, but hard for a bereaved mother to enjoy when all she can think of is her own child missing out.

Summer isn’t me. Winter is my time. The quiet solitude of the lake, beach, and forests. The coldness in the air is sharp. Images, in front of my eyes, seem clearer and more focused. I feel more alive. More at peace. Calm. This is the space for introspective and contemplative thinking. The darkness that comes as night falls earlier across the land lulls me into a dream like state. My thoughts have endless hours to chase each other and form themselves into something with weight. There is time to poke and prod and investigate what my soul is trying to tell me. The world, covered with a blanket of snow, is quiet enough for me to hear them. Still enough for me to listen. I find myself to be most creative during these coldest months of the year.

But, with the turn of the seasonal wheel, winter brings my most difficult days. The holidays are hard, for sure, but I have my own personal important dates mixed in with them, too. I’ve often said this time of year is like being in a boxing ring for me. Though I try to prepare, one hit after the other lands on me with stunning accuracy. Halloween marks the beginning of the match and Feb. 1 is the ringing of the final bell. Roughly every two and a half weeks during that period I am gut punched and I fall to my knees. Barely on my feet . . . another punch sends me to the mat.

Interestingly, my favorite season is also my most painful. I guess, in an odd way, this makes perfect sense. The deepest love I have in this life, that which I hold for my children, also causes me the most intense pain. With great light comes great darkness.

I guess that is the truth of the world. Without warmth would we know what cold actually felt like? Sorrow isn’t as deep when we don’t have the joy to measure it against. Life isn’t as precious unless we know the void left by losing it. We grieve as deeply as we love. It’s the price of being human.

So, here’s to winter. It blew in last night appearing to have every intention of staying for a while. I am joyful to know the world matches my soul again and will rejoice in the beauty it brings. The love I have for my deceased child will be matched with intense anguish that is brought to the surface during these icy days.

Beautifully painful. Or painfully beautiful.

I imagine . . . it’s both.

 

Gifts Given

Each one of my children has an artist’s soul. This is one of the good things I have passed down to them! I’ve watched as they’ve heard the callings of the artist’s song and turned this into a creation! From when they were all little, chubby hands wrapped around thick crayons, each spent hours drawing at our kitchen table. As they grew so did their chosen medium change. Gabriel is a very talented illustrator. Matthew can capture an image with perfection. Both can weave words into stories that will captivate the reader. They have the expressiveness that a child of mine would come by naturally.

Watching them create, through the years, has been wonderful for me. Recently, I’ve seen my twin sons talents blossom exponentially. Even using these gifts to work in media and make the world a better place. I can not wait to see what the future holds for them . . . and their art!

But, for my daughter, the story is different. All that she will create has been created. There is no waiting excitedly for the next thing she does. Her contribution to the artistic world is complete.

A few years before Becca lost her life she had started to work with oil paints. In my closet I have the small wooden box she used to carry her supplies. Little tubes of paint, a few brushes, a palette knife, and some crumpled up paper towels. I’ve opened the box, a few times, to peer inside. It’s too painful to do this too often. So, usually, I just hold it and cry.

I have a small watercolor she did, with my father, when she was about eleven. You can tell where he started the line of trees and she took over and finished them. I also have a frame which holds four crayon drawings she did when she was three or so. The red one is me, blue my mom, green my sister, and purple my father. I remember the day she drew them.

She and I were sitting at the kitchen table together. I was sketching and she was trying to copy me. At such a young age she managed to capture the important details of our likenesses very well. I love looking at the pictures and remembering that day.

I thought I had, in my possession, all of the pieces of her art that I would ever have. Then, Friday happened. And, I was given an incredible gift.

In 2004, my daughter was dating a young man named Jose. His family is Catholic. My daughter decided to make both he, and his mother, gifts. One, I knew about, the other I did not. The one I had seen was an oil painting depicting a religious figure. I remember her agonizing over whether it was good enough to give to her. I told her: it’s beautiful, honey, she’ll love it. And, she did.

I have a photograph of the painting. Looking at it makes me obsess about getting real thing. Then, the stars started to move into place to allow me to do just that!

Joseph, for those of you who don’t know, is the driver that took my daughter’s life almost twelve years ago. Joseph works with a young woman who is engaged to my daughter’s boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend? Old boyfriend? I’m not sure how to describe him. Anyway, there is the connection to me getting my daughter’s painting. Joseph asked the young woman, the young woman asked either her fiance or his mother, and Friday the painting was given to me. Not just one, however, but two pieces of my daughter’s art!

I told Joseph I would come to his office to get the paintings on my lunch hour. Waiting for noon to arrive was very difficult. I kept checking the clock. I was actually going to get the painting I’d wished I could have! Then, a text from Joseph, he was going to lunch and would be back at twelve thirty. Alright. I adjusted my plans. At about twelve twenty I left my job and drove to his.

When I was walking up to the double glass doors into his building I began to shake. The feeling you get when you aren’t sure your legs are going to hold you up anymore nevermind propel you forward. I entered the lobby and there was a young woman sitting behind the desk. I know I stuttered when I said I was there to see Joseph. I told her my first name and she finished up the exchange with my last. A minute passed before I realized that THIS was the woman engaged to my daughter’s boyfriend.

I was ready to pick up my daughter’s painting but I was not ready to be face to face with this young lady. Let me be clear, I do not have any ill feelings toward her, I just wasn’t prepared to see who had taken Becca’s place. As a bereaved mother, it is hard to see the world move in and fill the hole left by the death of our child. I instantly started to cry even though I fought against the tears.

Joseph was running late so I sat on a couch and waited for him. The young woman, so kind, came around the counter and asked if she could give me a hug. I think I was in a type of shock. Overwhelmed at the very least. We made small talk while I waited for Joseph.

With apologies, he came through a glass door carrying a red bag that held the painting. I hugged him, thanked him, then said I wasn’t ready to look at the painting there. I would wait until I was alone. On legs I was afraid were going to betray me . . . I hurried out of the building.

I pulled into the first parking lot I came to and wiped my tears away. I reached into the bag and there were two pieces inside! Joseph had told me there were actually two but wasn’t sure I could be that lucky until I was touching both of them. First, I pulled out the larger canvas that was the painting I had dreamed of getting back since my daughter died. There, in front of me, was the image of Mary my daughter painted in oils. She was breathtaking. Simple lines. Vivid colors. Religious imagery. Just perfect. And, now it was mine.

The second piece of art was framed in gold. A color pencil drawing of Jesus Christ with a prayer written in Spanish below it. I’d never seen this one before. A piece of my child that I hadn’t known existed was now in my possession. I can not tell you what a rare gift this is for me! Knowing that all that my child will add to the world has been done it’s amazing to find something new and unexpected.

As I held the two pieces I felt as if I was holding a bit of my Becca. An extension of her soul. It’s taken me a few days to write this blog because I selfishly wanted to keep these pieces of my child to myself. I feel contentment in having them near me. I believe they are where they belong.

I did show photographs of the art to a few people close to me. My spirit soared when two of them made the comment: wow, she paints in the same style that you do! Someone else told me that her Mary painting was very reminiscent of the painting I entered into Artprize 2015 “Our Becca”. And, incredibly, it is. My heart is warmed with the thought that I passed down my ability to paint to my daughter. I can see myself in the things my boys do, artistically, and now I can see it in Becca, as well.

I would like to extend many thanks to the people involved in getting these priceless objects to me. I imagine it wasn’t easy to give up a piece of a girl you loved, too. Thank you, Joseph, for being the bridge connecting the two sides together. I did not think my wish for the painting would be answered but it is very fitting that it was answered through you.

The world is an amazing place. Gifts are given all of the time.

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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.

 

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”.