Watch Over Them

My visits with her are always unplanned and over far too quickly. I can ask as often as I want but seeing her will always be in her time. Not mine. And, I’ve had to learn to be ok with this. It’s difficult but I have no choice.

Once, I asked her why she didn’t come see me much. Was it because I was always so sad and it made her feel bad? Maybe she was tired of seeing me cry all the time. Possibly, she had better things to do than visit me when she knew there would always be tears. Quite some time passed before she could explain to me why her visits were brief and infrequent. All of it was just too damn hard.

Not seeing me, though. She needed to see me as much as I needed to see her. The situation leading up to all of this was so sudden that we’d had no time to prepare. Our paths had diverged, violently, and only after some time had passed were we able to reconnect. I needed more time with her, though.

It’s so far to travel, she said. I’m new and I don’t know everything yet. When I am able to come my energy is depleted within moments. I’d stay longer if I could . . . I just don’t know how to yet. But, I’ll learn. I promise.

But, I’d reply (there is always a but isn’t there?) but . . . we had plans. Hundreds of plans!

I know she’d say sadly. She would grow pale. Not pale in color. But hazy in appearance. Please don’t go, I’d yell and reach out for her only to feel the remnants of her solidness wash over my skin as a breeze does.

Damn it. We had life plans. We’d planned on life. I’d already given the world the best I had to offer: my children. They were meant to make it a better place. And, Becca had been on her way to do just that. She’d chosen to teach children.

During one of our visits, when I was trying so hard to fight the case for her death being an error someone “up there” had made, I said that to her.

“You were supposed to teach children, though, honey! There are hundreds of children who don’t know their life was just altered because you won’t be their teacher.”

“But, mom, I still get to help children.”


“I’m waiting for them when they get here. Most of them are scared and don’t know why they aren’t with their family anymore. I make them feel safe and comfort them. It’s hard for them and I get to make it a little less so.”

I’m not sure if she explained it to me or just laid her hand on my arm and shared the information with her touch but I saw my Becca with the children. She’d pull them into her lap and hug them. Stroking their hair and singing softly . . . they’d bury their faces into the soft curve of her neck and relax. I’d seen her do this a thousand times with her brothers. Her hugs were healing. I need them now.

I just spoke to a friend who told me about a little boy who died today. I asked for his name so I could tell Becca to be watching for him. My friend shared his name and asked me to tell Becca that he likes his hair played with. I did. I know she knows what each child needs as she goes about helping them understand what’s happened.

My daughter is still the sweet soul I knew here. The soul I know is waiting for me. And, someday far from today, her brothers. I also believe she is helping as many children there as she was supposed to, here. I’d change this if I could, believe me, but my heart is happy that she is fulfilling one life goal. Even if it is in a way none of us expected.

My heart, however, hurts for the newly bereaved parents who didn’t go to bed last night expecting to wake up to this reality. They are facing the unimaginable.

Becca, please take care of their boy, honey.

Love your children. Hold them close. Don’t forget that they truly are a gift.


So It Begins (Too Early)

The first snow fell today. Intermittent flurries of fat white flakes mixed with cold as ice rain. I was about half way through a forty-five minute drive and taking my time travelling the slippery highway. The radio station was playing a decent mix of 80’s hits . . . to which I sang at the top of my voice. Complete with what my daughter would call “car dance moves”. She had some very good ones!

Since seeing a cartoon, earlier today, of two little kids dressed in costumes – but covered with coats, hats, scarves, and mittens because of the snow, I couldn’t stop thinking about an 11 year old Becca on a Halloween long ago.

The weather was much like this . . . with more snow. Her red and white cheerleader costume was covered with her puffy winter coat. I coaxed her into wearing mittens, a hat, and scarf. She wasn’t happy. At each house she insisted on removing all of it to show her costume to the person passing out candy. Just her and I traipsing through the frozen slush. By the time we got home, her voice was hoarse and her cheeks were red and wind chapped. But it didn’t matter because she had fun!

There’s been a lump in my throat since I thought of her, then, this morning. Writing this down has brought forth the tears which have threatened to spill all day. I knew it was bound to happen. The tears coming at some point. Because, Halloween has always been the start of “the holiday season” for us.

So this evening, as I was driving home through the snow, I let myself get lost in the lyrics from four decades ago. I’d just finished a rousing sing-along to “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds when the station announced that tomorrow they would be starting ‘the all Christmas music all the time’ for the season. My forced good mood evaporated like the snowflakes hitting the warm windshield.

November 1 to December 25 is an awful long time to hear Christmas carols. Especially when the season ushers in renewed pain for those who are grieving the loss of their child. Nearly two months of joy thrust in our direction. Seven weeks of anticipated celebration. Fifty five days of being reminded our family is one less this year. One less if we are lucky. I know a woman who lost two of her daughters in one crash. I can’t imagine.

I say this every year: I HATE that the holiday season starts earlier each year. The stores try to get us to buy more – buy bigger – buy it all. Hobby Lobby had Christmas items for sale in September! That’s just ridiculous. Greed and materialism drive this time of year. There is no time for sadness! Yet, sadness still exists for many of us.

October 31 is the official start of my yearly personal boxing match. It lasts until the end of January. There are seven difficult dates sprinkled across that length of time. Halloween, Thanksgiving, the boys birthday, Becca’s birthday, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and the date of my daughter’s death. Spaced every two to three weeks. I barely have time to survive one when another is looming on the calendar. Punch after punch lands squarely on my body and by the time mid January comes around I’m never sure I will survive another 21st. Yet, somehow I do.

For those who have not suffered the loss of a child, please know, we try . . . we really do.

We don’t want to diminish your joy during this season. Or expect you to change what you do because of our loss. Be happy! Sing! Celebrate! Do all of the things we used to do when our family was whole. I know I am jealous I don’t experience the complete happiness I used to before losing Becca. We are happy you don’t understand the pain of an unused Christmas stocking – still hung every year – that once was filled candy canes and chocolate. It’s nearly unbearable.

To the bereaved mommas out there: I see you.

Hiding your tear stained face as you walk past the Christmas decorations for sale in every store. Gritting your teeth as you listen to “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…” for the millionth time this week alone. Reaching for something that you know your child will love . . . only to remember they aren’t here to receive it. Buying it anyway because you need to continue to give them gifts. Folding your empty aching arms as you watch a small child climb into Santa’s lap. Sobbing into your pillow at night to release the pain you held inside all day. I see you. I am you.

Be gentle with yourself. Be kind to each other. Feel joy when you can. Let the pain be felt, too. It comes from a place of deep love and is a natural emotion stemming from child loss. Join the festivities if you can and don’t be hard on yourself when you can’t. Reach out if you need me.

And, just breath.

Relevant Anger

Last month, a comment was posted on one of my blogs titled “Just F!ck” that left me irritated. The comment, from someone in my distant past, was condescending, snarky, and meant to let me know that I am doing this grief thing all wrong. Do you know what my reaction to this was? Fuck.

I replied to the uninformed comment before I realized it came from someone I used to know. I kept it brief and non confrontational as I believe learning could take place. Indeed, it won’t.

Upon learning who the author was I became very angry. My anger was disproportionate to what had been written. A stranger could have written that and I would have been irritated then I could brush it off. Seeing as it was from someone who has a god complex . . . who’d belittled me for decades . . . who hasn’t lost a child . . . I didn’t.

I did, however, do some research about anger and grief. One is a natural by-product of the other. Yes, anger can become complicated and be detrimental to healing BUT it is also a portion of the entire process that must be confronted, acknowledged, and worked through in order to gain healing “that sticks”. This being said: working through anger does not mean it won’t reappear as you travel the child loss path. It’s not a one and done kind of thing.

I’ve often likened this journey to travelling through a decimated landscape. One that only slightly resembles the land you inhabited in the “before”. You will find familiar landmarks but they won’t be untouched by the grief. Everything you knew is changed forever. Is this not reason enough to feel periodically enraged? And, when that rage consumes you . . . you must feel it and work through it – UNTIL THE NEXT TIME. Because, there will be a next time.

Do you know why? For the rest of our lives there will be triggers that thrust us into the depths of anger. AND, THAT’S OK.

We have triggers that push us over the edge into renewed deep sorrow. This is to be expected. Ones that pull a happy memory from the back of our minds. How wonderful when this happens!! Jealousies can be set off when we see a whole family enjoying each other. Of course, because we were robbed of our future with our child. And, anger. Anger is just one of the dozens of emotions we will run across again and again as we continually walk toward our horizon. The emotions felt after the loss of a child are too enormous for us to completely work through them in one pass.

DON’T let anyone tell you how and when you should be finished with each of them. Not another grieving parent and, especially, not someone who has no idea what they are talking about! For lack of a better word – they are outsiders. They do not have intimate first hand knowledge of what the child loss journey entails. Therefore, the best thing for them to do is keep their mouths shut. The best thing for you to do is ignore them. Period.

The comment I referred to in the first paragraph had the general tone of “I know better” when it spoke of me “not being able to let go of anger would never allow me to move forward in TRUE healing”. To this sentiment I say: fuck that.

I have very close friends who have lost children and even they don’t know what depth, or width, of healing I have done in the past twelve years. I also have friends, who have never lost a child, that can not even begin to understand the energy it takes to heal as much as I have. So, someone who hasn’t spoken to me in over a decade has no place writing hollow words on my heartfelt sharing about grief.

The two things I wanted to write about in this blog are: 1) Anger is natural and there is no time limit as to when it should be gone. 2) People, especially those who have not lost a child, have no right to make any judgmental statement about where you are in the process. I guess there is a third.3) You have the right to tell someone to exit your life when they think they know better than you just how you should be grieving.

Grieving the death of your beloved child is fucking hard enough without some know-it-all telling you that you are doing it wrong. The weight of what we carry does NOT need to be increased by shame or guilt that someone else decides to heap onto your shoulders.

Each of our journeys, all started with the death of our child, is unique and our’s alone. We have our own order of when things are dealt with . . . our own timetable, too. There is no handbook as to how we are to proceed in the “after”.

Proceed in the way that feels right to you. Your soul will lead you in the direction it needs to go.

Deeper Meanings

A friend of mine gave me an unexpected present this afternoon. She handed me a pink gift bag, that was heavy, and stuffed with glittery white tissue paper. Four items were in the bag: a little pink envelope containing a sweet note and gift card, a bottle of body wash/bath foam, a big bar of soap, and a bottle of lotion. All three are the same scent: Eucalyptus Spearmint. They smell amazing. She said, “That’s what I use . . . you always tell me I smell so good.” (Sidenote: she does) I couldn’t wait to get home tonight and wash the anxiety of the day away with this stress relieving scent!

Her gift made me feel cared for.

I have a very bad track record of not taking care of myself. Not so much self destructive behavior, though I know I’ve had a handful of years of that in my past, but of just not giving myself the care I give others. Somewhere in my twenties, after reading a book titled “The Courage to Heal”, did I realize this is a pretty common thing when it comes to survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The reasons we are this way are as varied as each individual story.

After digging through the layers of control my uncle used on me . . . I came back to one simple sentence he’d said to me over and over: you will never be loved because you will never be worth anything more than sex. When a child of four hears this, repeated over the years, it’s understandable that it’s ingrained in our self worth. So, I treated myself like I was not worth anything. For decades.

I was so bad I refused to look at myself in the mirror. When I did, I would always keep one closed so I would see as little as possible. Still, to this day, I catch myself doing it. I hate that I do it. But, it’s just part of me.

I’d give myself the bare minimum care. Quick showers. Hardly ever went to the salon. Cheap makeup. Goodwill clothes. (I still buy Goodwill clothes but that’s because I don’t like mass consumerism). I even allowed myself to scrape the bottom of the barrel in love and accept the bad treatment because, as my uncle said, I wasn’t worth loving.

Becca knew all of this stuff. When she was old enough . . . we talked about it. About my childhood and my uncle. The topic had come up because he’d just been released from prison and she started to ask me questions. She wanted to see his face. So I showed her. Her heart was broken for me. After that, she understood why I was the way I was. She realized I didn’t care for myself like I did everyone else. Becca, my beautiful daughter, took it upon herself to care for me in ways I couldn’t. She’d give me little gifts . . . always with words of love and support.

The last Christmas we had together she’d given me a basket of bath items from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. The scent was Brown Sugar Vanilla. All of it smelled delicious. She was so proud of herself for choosing the perfect gift and happy that she could help me see I was worth it. She made sure to tell me to “use it, mom, you deserve it”. I did. Even after she was killed I continued to use it. It was a tie to her. To her being alive. To her love for me. To our shared life and the bond between a mother and daughter. I would cry in the shower for my dead child while I washed with one of the last gifts she’d given me. Then, it was almost gone.

To me, the body wash and lotion were priceless. I had to save the last bit of it because another thing to her could not be gone forever. There would be no more intimate gifts, like this, from my daughter. None other would know the reason for the pain in my soul, watch me battle the demons that lived in my head, and support me in the fight and long journey back. She was gone. Her love for me was gone. She’d no longer be rooting in my corner.

I tucked the plastic bottles back in the rear of one of deep shelves in the bathroom closet. When I would open the door and see their shape against the wall I felt comforted. “Becca touched those” I would tell myself then cry.

There is no one in my life, right now, that would give me a gift like that. I thought. I have not boyfriend who would do so, or a family that remembers my birthday, and my boys (being boys and probably feeling creeped out by buying their mother bath items) don’t do it either. In full disclosure however: one of my sons girlfriends told him to get me bath bombs years ago – which I love – but don’t think it’s worth spending the money on. No pampering products for me anymore.

Then my friend brought me the little pink bag today. A present that says: you are worth taking care of. You are cared about. A gift of self care in a little bag that looks like it could have been chosen by Becca, herself. Pink, her favorite color at the time of her death, with glittery white paper. The memory of Becca’s purchase, twelve years ago, came rushing back.

After I got home tonight, and had let all the dogs out and fed seven hungry animals, I took the bag up to the bathroom and took a very hot shower. It felt like a hug from someone who cares about me. Of course, I cried. A combination of emotions ranging from missing my girl to knowing I can be loved.

I still have those nearly empty bottles that Becca gave me in 2006. My hope is to be washed with what’s left when I am prepared for cremation (or probably a green burial). To have the lotion smoothed onto my clothing before I’m cared for . . . for the last time. In my head, you see, we show up in Heaven in what we left this world in. I want to smell like Becca’s gift when I get there and I hold my daughter again. I want her to know I haven’t forgotten her. That I love all she did for me. That she is cherished and I never let her go.

Until then, I will let the people who love me . . . care for me when I can not care for myself. And, I’ll keep using this Eucalyptus Spearmint stuff until then.

Thank you Miya.

Bereaved Fathers

I started this piece in the morning of June 16th. Father’s Day. It’s no longer the holiday but I wanted to share this regardless. 

Today is Father’s Day.

A day I have not celebrated in over a decade. I have not been in touch with my family for almost twelve years. Don’t feel sadness for me, or pity, please. It was a choice I am thankful I made when I did. If I hadn’t . . . I know I wouldn’t be where I am now in terms of my healing and emotional health.

My family was broken. I am assuming, maybe incorrectly, that they still are. Being that my son was told, by my sister, half a dozen years back that “her” parents were not interested in seeing them as “their life was full and happy” as it was . . . I lean toward their continued dysfunction. Without going into great detail I will share a few facts. My father was physically abusive with me. To the tune of two (probably three) broken noses and his choking me to near unconsciousness as recently as the one year date of my daughter’s death. I was continually told that I pushed him to these actions. My mother scolded me, in an emergency room because of an injury caused by my father, for even thinking of making a police report and “getting him into trouble”. Abuse, neglect, indifference, blame. I’d had enough.

I often think of other “father figures” in my life. Not to me . . . but to my children.

My daughter’s father didn’t truly come into her life in any real way until after she was eighteen. And, only because, she pursued the relationship. They had three, maybe four, years spent as father-daughter together. During that time she got to know her baby brother so after her funeral I wanted to give her father something to give to her little brother. He and I were in my sons’ bedroom alone, talking, when I asked him if he regreted not having been in her life for a longer period of time. His response? “No. I am satisfied with the time we had together.” I was incredulous. I’m still saddened by his response.

Through his own actions, my sons’ father removed himself from their lives for a period of time by going to jail. A good portion of their younger years were spent without him. They’ve had years of anger with him, anger towards me, anger at their sister’s death, anger at circumstances but have come out on the other side, whole. I am in awe of them and know, if they choose to, will be great fathers some day.

Recently, I was scrolling through Facebook and stopped on an article that said losing a pet can be as difficult as losing a family member. As always, when reading this “fact”, I feel angered. I don’t know why I do it, but I read through some of the comments posted, and could feel myself getting madder. This time, I read a comment posted by a bereaved father who said he’d lost pets, and a son, and he could tell you which was worse. My heart hurt for him: both for his the loss of his child and because other’s were saying “don’t judge someone else’s loss”. I felt the need to let him know he was understood. So I responded.

I told him I could relate. That others who had not lost a child couldn’t. And, that I was thankful they couldn’t. But, that I knew his pain and shared his point of view. He ended up private messaging me and we chatted. We shared stories about of deceased children. How we lost them. The time that’s passed since they died. How we feel now. How we felt then. We have had good conversations.

It’s not often that I get to talk to a bereaved father so intimately. To hear about a man’s emotions after child loss is interesting. His words made me consider how the men in my daughter’s life had grieved her death. Not well, I told myself. But, after talking to this grieving dad, maybe I am judging them a bit too harshly.

Are they so different from grieving mothers merely because of gender? And, it it is because of gender, does the difference lie in our physical makeup or rather the emotional? Men are taught to be “strong” and “stoic” and keep their feelings to themselves. Crying is a weakness. Boys don’t cry. Crybaby. Young boys grow up learning what society will accept from them in reference to their emotional behavior.

If it’s not so much the nurture part of things . . . then is it nature? Do hormones play a part in how demonstrative each sex is? Women are said to be “more emotional” when they are on their periods. We are told that our hormones are out of whack during this time and that’s why we cry so easily. Or, get angry. Even rage. This is why we are irrational we are told.

Or, is it because we carry our child tucked under our hearts, for months before they are born? Is our son or daughter more real to us because we are physically bound together for nearly ten months? A father isn’t physically affected by the pregnancy which produces their child. Only the mother. Before the child enters the world . . . the mother has already felt the baby move separate from herself. The baby hears its mother’s voice from the inside . . . from all around them. Mother and child are in love with each other long before the father has a chance to forge that kind of bond.

I am not saying a father’s bond is less. Just different. How could it not be? So, in truth, I have no way to begin to understand what a bereaved father goes through. Maybe Becca’s father wasn’t being so callous afterall. I am going to have to give that idea more thought before I reach a conclusion.

I am thankful I got to talk to a grieving father just prior to Father’s Day. I am sad that I know another parent who has had to survive the un-survivable. I am happy to know my two sons will make much better fathers than the one I have.

There is now a deeper interest inside of me to understand the point of view of the bereaved dad. I think men suffer alone after this loss. They have to be strong for everyone else. They have to “fix it”.

This man told me he had written his first blog about child loss from the father’s perspective. I applaud him for his courage in opening up in such a transparent way. It takes courage to write about the ugly stuff. To lay pain open for the world to see. To be brave enough to say: damn it . . . I hurt and I can’t do this alone.

Maybe, if I’m honored, he’ll let me share one of his pieces of writing in my blog. I believe it will be helpful to so many people and informative for me. Pain connects grieving parents. When we find someone, who is like us, it’s easier for us to open ourselves and be vulnerable

My story, my loss and subsequent path, will hopefully be a survival guide for the unfortunate bereaved mothers (in the future) who stumble across my writing. I think his writing will be a guide for other fathers who have experienced child loss, too.

When we share our stories . . . we help others in numerous ways. Be brave.

Share your story tomorrow. I guarantee there is someone who needs to hear it.


Lost And Found: Joy

Words have eluded me for months. I’ve been incredibly stuck in my own thoughts. I decided to “shake it up” a bit and give myself a real challenge. Something far out of my comfort zone. I chose to write a short play. I was shooting for ten minutes but I’m not sure how close I came to that mark. In truth, I am just happy that I was able to write as much as I did. And . . . dialog. Yikes! I forced myself to shut off the inner critic and just write.

My intention was to share this piece without asking anyone what they thought. Just write it and share it. Opening myself up to vulnerability – as Brene Brown says – and authenticity. I caved. I shared it with two people. One a writer, and the other not. I listened to what they had to say but didn’t change a thing I’d written. Edited pieces may be smoother and more palatable but I think first drafts tend to be the most honest.

Let me state this: I am not a playwright. I’ve thought of writing a play (what writer hasn’t) but never seriously sat down and attempted to do so. My format is one of my own making and does not follow any rules, I am sure. I hope those of you who are trained can find a way to forgive me for bastardizing the format.

So, here it is. I am happy with it. I am thrilled I’ve started writing again. I can, again, work through the loss of my child with the written word.

I love you Beccabug.


Scene opens with two women on an empty stage. The stage is dark except for a single light directly over each of the characters. The first (W1) is disheveled and dressed in dark colors. She’s clearly agitated. W1 is far stage right. The second, far stage left (W2) is humming and wearing light colorful clothing. Their backs are to each other. W1 is getting noticeably more irritated while glancing over her shoulder at W2.

W1 (turning toward the audience but looking at W2): Aren’t you going to say anything to me? You know I’m here.

W2 (without turning around) I do. I was waiting for you to be ready to talk to me. (continues humming)

W1 (turning toward W2 and walking halfway to center stage): I don’t want to talk to you . . . but you’re irritating me with your humming and you’re ignoring me. I don’t care what you have to say, really. You just bother me, that’s all.

W2 ( turning fully toward W1 – causing her to flinch and take a step back) I’m sorry. I’m not ignoring you. I just don’t want to add to your pain or make you angrier . . . but it seems I have, anyway. You have enough to deal with.

W1 (crossing her arms defensively across her chest) that’s not true! You haven’t said one thing to me! You just keep humming like an idiot! (imitating W2’s humming in an exaggerated manner while flailing her arms around – suddenly stopping and rushing toward center stage) And, anyway . . . I have a good reason to be angry. ( looking at W2 accusingly) You should be angry, too (her voice breaking) you lost her just like I did.

W2 (flinches slightly) You are right. I did lose her. (placing her hands over her heart) there is a part of me, deep down, that will always carry the anger in the unfairness of it all. I understand why you are full of rage. (reaching her hands toward W1) are you ready to talk?

W1 (putting her hands up toward W2 in an attempt to ward her off) Don’t! Don’t you come near me!!You don’t love her as much as I do! If you did . . . you wouldn’t be able to smile. Or, laugh, or fucking hum!

W2 (letting her hands drop to her sides) I . . .

W1 (clenching her fists) Don’t. You don’t get to say anything. If you cared, at all, you wouldn’t be so god damn happy.

W2 (flinches again becoming slightly defensive) that’s not fair! You don’t know how hard it’s been to get here!

W1 (loudly and slowly punctuating each word) I . . . don’t . . . give . . . a . . . damn. (she turns and walks toward far stage right turning away from W2)

W2 (attempting a calming tone) That’s not true. Why are you being hurtful toward me?

W1 (with a sarcastic laugh) really? Why? Because you’ve forgotten her and I am not going to let that happen, that’s why.

W2 (shaking her head) I have not forgotten her! I remember everything!

W1 (turning toward center stage and with each question she takes a step toward W2) What was her favorite doll? What was her name in the foster home when she was going to be adopted? What birthday cake was her favorite? (coming right up to the center of the stage, without crossing, but leaning into it) what does her voice sound like? You haven’t heard it since the day she was killed.

W2 (crumbles to her knees and sobs into her hands)

W1 (crosses her arms in a satisfied manner) Good. Now you remember her. (listening to W2 cry) Now you REALLY remember how much it hurts. Bet you won’t be humming anymore.

W2 (remaining on the floor, wiping her eyes, looks up at W1) I remember every little thing about her. Her doll? Baby Laurie. I sleep with her every night. Cuddling her close, holding her little plastic hands, with the fingers chewed off, in mine. Smelling her matted hair. Kissing the well worn cheeks like she used to do. Caroline was the name given to her in the foster home. It still hurts me that someone else named her, even for a short time, before I did. And it nearly kills me to know that she might still be alive if I’d released her for adoption. And, the cake? I made her favorite. Chocolate. I decorated it with deep purple frosting which stained all of our mouths for a few days. Remember?

W1 (with a little smile nods her head)

W2 (continues) I worked so hard on that cake! It was one of the best I’ve ever made! She deserved all the beauty I could give her. I made a frosting basket on the top of it and filled it with a dozen colorful flowers cascading over the sides. She absolutely loved it!

(they both fell silent while remembering the little girl who squealed with delight at seeing her cake) (the sound of Becca squealing and clapping her hands can be heard from backstage “oh mom, it’s perfect!)

W2 (continuing with a catch in her throat) her voice? Her voice is the music in my thoughts every day. I hear her constantly. Her laughter mingles with my own when I find a reason to laugh. My voice is her voice.

W1 (falls to her knees then lays down and sobs her whole body heaving)

W2 (scooting as close to W1 as possible without crossing center stage) Her laugh! Remember how she loved to make us all laugh? Especially her brothers. She felt happy when she could make another person feel joy. After she died, after her funeral, I read the cards and notes people had written about her. Nearly all of them said “her smile lit up a room”. And, it did, didn’t it? (W1’s sobs start to lessen and her body becomes calmer) Like I said before, I am angry, too. There is a rage that resides inside of me. You (reaching out and touching W1’s head) you are the rage that lives deep within my soul.

W1 (stops crying at W2’s touch)

W2 (taking W1’s hand) I know you have to be angry. I know it’s our honest feeling. I just can’t live in the middle of it every day. So, I’ve left you to exist in the most painful part of my soul. Sometimes, I think I’ve sacrificed you so I could find some happiness again. I feel guilt because I have found a way to “go on” but have not been able to take you with me. That’s why I come back. To try to make up for leaving you behind. So that you know you are not truly alone.

W1 (pulling her hand away and sitting up . . . now the two are knee to knee on the floor) I have to stay here. Our anger will never be gone completely. And . . . I don’t ever want it to be. We will always be mad that she is gone. Her life was cut short. She didn’t deserve that end.

W2 (taking W1’s face into her hands and putting their foreheads together) No she didn’t. I understand that. But, she also deserves to be remembered with joy. She was . . . is . . . our joy. That light was the biggest part of her. We can not let her legacy be one of anger. It must be one of happiness. She deserves that.

W1 (bends forward and puts her head on W2’s shoulder – W2 wraps her arms around W1) I can’t leave here though. I have to stay.

W2 (holding W1 and rocking her back and forth) I know. And, I will always come back to check on you. You know (she chuckles) it didn’t take you quite as long to talk to me this time. I think we are making progress!

W1 (pulls away and smiles) You’re right.

( Both women get to their feet, still on either side of center stage)

W2 (reaches for W1’s hand) do you want to come over here for a while?

W1 (accepting her hand) ok . . . (she steps over center stage and W2 starts to walk to backstage far left) I . . . I can’t go that far though (she hesitates and pulls back)

W2 (changing course so she is walking slightly off center stage toward the back) ok, not too far. (they slowly walk toward the back curtain) Did you recognize the song I was humming?

W1 no

W2 (putting her arm around W1’s shoulder) it was “you are my sunshine” we used to sing it to her every day.

W1 oh yeah . . . I DO remember that!

W2 I guess we have a lot to teach each other (she starts humming the song again)

(they walk off center stage through curtains and the lights go dark


After Solitude

When I take a break from writing, which happens every so often, it seems to be difficult to start up again. The longer the time I spend away from the keyboard the harder it is to return to it. I wonder if other writers feel the same way.

My breaks from writing allow me a chance to turn inward toward my healing. I always liken it to an animal, that has been hurt, who needs to find quiet solitude in which to tend to its injuries. To rest. Find strength. Quiet the mind. To lick the wounds. And, heal. All energy turned toward the pain. Then, to return to the world, prepared.

Last year held two events which shook my life. The first: the near death of one of my children. Second: meeting the man who killed my daughter. I don’t think I realized, until the end of January, that I hadn’t fully processed either one.

Because December through January is the most difficult time of year for me I was already carrying much pain and anxiety on my surface. My cup was full . . . so to speak. So, those two events just sort of sat perched on a shelf waiting for me to pick them up. I knew they were there and I could see them sliding slowly toward me on the slanted wood. I would have to face them eventually and I had to do it before they smashed to the ground spreading broken pieces around me. I kept pushing them away, not able to deal with all that comes with grieving a dead child, and these new truths, too. To be honest . . . they almost fell. Taking time away from writing was what I needed to do. I needed to turn inward.

I painted.

Painting is prayer. It’s meditation. It’s therapy. Though I am intent on what I am putting on canvas – I am also able to wander around my own mind. Search new places, delve into dark corners, sit in the middle of the storm. Pick up the constructs of the new events and hunt for the places where they fit. Spaces in which they are secure and won’t damage me anymore. Or, do as little harm as possible, at least.

I didn’t write because I didn’t know what I needed to say.

I’m not sure I would have survived the death of another child. I think my already fractured soul would have shattered completely. I can not let my mind go to the place where it asks the question as to how I would truly react. The first two sentences in this paragraph are as far as I can go toward that outcome. I needed to find the place where the consequence of Gabriel’s death resided and make a decision as to how to proceed. While I was painting . . . I found myself at the threshold of this possible aftermath and quickly (and firmly) shut the door. That traumatic event is over. It did not end in his death therefore I can leave it behind.

Meeting Joseph. I’ve talked about this in a few other blog posts. I had to ruminate on what meeting and forgiving him meant. Possibly, I had to see if the forgiveness “stuck” after the emotions of the initial contact dissipated. Again, I needed to whittle this event down to it’s smallest piece and inspect each shaving. I had to make sure there was nothing hiding in the pile that would come back and become a splinter to my soul. Did I really forgive him? Yes. Would this help him? I believe so. Did it help me? Yes. Will it help my boys? I hope so. Is forgiveness really needed? Yes. If so, is it more for the person forgiving or the one being forgiven? Both. Then the big question: am I dishonoring Becca by extending forgiveness to Joseph? By hoping he has a good life? By being willing to help him do so in any way I can?

I think I am honoring Becca’s life by wanting to nurture life. At least, I hope I am.

As I’ve said, the two months that bookend a new year’s arrival are painful for me. Cold months in which I remember, heal, mourn, learn, and reevaluate. I’m licking wounds, both old and new, in order to prepare for the coming of the spring and the advent of new life.

I love you all deeply, Becca, Gabriel, and Matthew. And, I want to be a better person – a better mother, for the three of you.