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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Mending The Broken

 

 

At first glance, I know the statue I used as the featured photo doesn’t look like much. However, she’s become very dear to me.

When I acquired her it had been just over a year since I’d lost my Becca. I’d seen her, in the store I worked in, every day. Having just gone back to work after nearly a year of being unable to perform any job . . . I didn’t have the money to purchase her. When I saw her face, and it’s serene look, I knew she belonged to me. I remember hoping that she would be there when I could afford her. Thankfully, she was.

A decade ago, when I finally owned her, she was much different looking. Delicately sculpted arms reached toward the heavens. Her graceful hands curved around the thick edge of a bowl she held aloft. Almost as if she was making an offering. Or sacrifice. She was sending energy upwards.

One day, I looked at her and thought, “maybe she’s gathering whatever the universe let’s fall down to earth.”. A few days later I realized that it could be both. So, I started to place natural objects into her vessel as my own gift to the powers that be. Or, I’d put in little things I’d bought for Becca, in hopes she would see them. Every time it rained, and the bowl caught the drops, I’d dip my fingers into the water. I’d wipe the wetness, imbued with energies from above, across my forehead and over my heart.

The second winter I had her I decided to leave her outside instead of putting her in the garage. Crisp white snow piled up in the little bowl and her face looked beautiful decorated with the lacy snowflakes that fell onto it. Her dark gray figure surrounded by the pureness of the snow made life look like a black and white photograph. She was beautiful.
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Being that she was made of resin, and not cement, the weather weakened her arms. First, the bowl fell to the ground. Her arms, minus hands, still reached upward. I wasn’t sure if she was worth keeping any longer. But, her face remained peaceful.

Shortly after that both arms broke at the shoulder and dropped to the ground. She could no longer offer or receive anything, I surmised. Yet, the calm expression remained. This girl was armless and it hadn’t phased her one bit. Her delicate chin and closed eyes still faced the heavens. If she could stay centered, in the midst of her tragedy, then so could I.

In the past year I have moved five times. This statue has travelled with me to each new location. It’s one of the first things I need to unpack and find a place where I feel she belongs. Her presence is consistent.

If you look closely at her you can see the large cracks that wrap her body. More than once I’ve carefully spread glue along their edges and put her back together. On her side there is a hole that I can’t fully repair. The piece was lost when Cecily wrapped her leash around the statue’s waist and pulled her into the bushes. This hole has come to represent the piece, we all have, that is missing . . . never to be returned. We learn to live with the empty spot, don’t we? That is part of the healing, I believe, the acceptance that life will never be fully whole again. The realization that we have no other choice but to come to terms with our loss. Maybe that is the start of true healing?

When you heal you start from somewhere deep and unseen in your soul. The tiniest broken connection is mended together and a spark of the divine glows again. Then, like a ripple from a stone tossed into still water, the spark spreads outward. Broken pathways are reconnected. Our soul grows warmer as the spark travels throughout. I’ve learned it’s a slow process.A process that will continue occurring until we take our last breath.

Our new house has a large front porch with a wide staircase down to the front yard. On either side of the stairs there are wide pieces of cement meant to hold flower pots. Stacey placed a small statue, a little girl and her mother, on one side of the stairs. When I saw her put it there I said, “maybe I will put my statue on the other side!” Knowing what my statue looked like she kind of made a face. I said, “I know . . . she needs some fixing.”

But, she doesn’t, really.

She’s perfectly imperfect. My scars are represented by hers. If I fix her so that they don’t show should I fix myself as well? The line you can see across her abdomen is where the glue seeped out of the crack while she was drying. Now, that spot is stronger for having been repaired. That line is beautiful because you can see the repair! To make her physically perfect again would be a disservice to all she has been through.

Our scars are where people can reach into us. They show those around us that we are not perfect. Our inner healing can be seen beneath them. Their glow is a light to guide others. Scars, both physical and emotional, are the truth of our stories. They are the unspoken heartbreak that we have in common.

I won’t put her on the front porch, not because she is an eyesore, but because I don’t want anything to happen to her. She means too much to me.

Mend your brokenness but don’t ever hide it. It’s what brings us together.

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The Old Moon Asked

When I woke up this morning . . . my heart was full of joy! There was no sadness present.

The smell of my daughter was still in the air when I hopped out of bed. Scents from her childhood hung heavy around me. Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. Applesauce. And, maple syrup. She loved pancakes. I truly expected her to be asleep in the other room.

Hadn’t I just put her to bed? Tucked safely under her Care Bear blanket? Her blond hair spread across the small Sesame Street pillow I’d bought her? I knew when I went into her room a wisp of her hair would be stuck to her cheek because we’d missed the syrup from last night’s dinner. I couldn’t wait to bury my face in the crook of her neck and just lay there until she woke from her dreams.

My eyes, still blurry from my own deep sleep, could see her bedroom door just across the room. For a moment I felt bad that her room was really a walk in closet because I couldn’t afford a bigger apartment. She’s so small, I thought, and we won’t be here forever. She’s safe. She’s with you. That’s all that matters.

Then the door to her room turned into a framed Matisse print on the wall. I wasn’t in the small apartment in Boston from 1986. It was 2018 and my daughter had been dead for eleven years.

We have dreams of our deceased child. Then there are times when we visit with our child. What I experienced last night was something completely different all together. I travelled in time . . . back to a moment when everything was alright.

In both the dreams of Becca, as well as the visits with her, I am acutely aware of the fact that she is dead. It’s a truth from which there is no escape. Until last night. There is no other answer that I can come up with other than I was able to access the past. I wasn’t burdened with the knowledge of her absence. I was light with the joy of her existence.

When I held her chubby little hand in mine I wasn’t preoccupied in trying to push her death away. I was a twenty one year old momma holding her three year old daughter’s sticky hand. Becca squealed with laughter as I put her palm on my mouth and made noises! She closed her eyes and whipped her head back and I listened to the music of her giggles. Pure delight for us both.

“Again!!” she said . . . over and over. So I did it . . . again and again.

When she got tired, I showered her face with kisses and my baby girl rested her head in the peaceful place on my shoulder. The day was quietly ending. As her breathing deepened and I felt her relax into my body I started to recite the poem she loved to hear every night before bed:

“Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night . . . sailed off in a wooden shoe . . . sailed on a river of crystal light and into a sea of dew . . . where are you going and what do you wish the old moon asked the three . . . we have come to fish the herring fish that live in this beautiful sea . . . nets of silver and gold have we . . . said Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.”

This is the first time I have been able to get through that bit of verse without stopping after the first sentence because it was just too painful to finish. I’m crying.

And, I realize I am rocking back and forth. I need to rock my baby again.

Again.

And again.

 

Note: The verse I’ve included above was written by Eugene Field and was published on March 9, 1889. It’s original title was “Dutch Lullaby”. I read the poem to my daughter in it’s entirety hundreds of times. It’s quite lovely and I hope you take the time to read it.

 

Puncture Wounds

About ten days ago we had a fight between two of the dogs in our household. Both large animals, and used to being in charge, once in a while they have a scuffle. Neither wanted to back down, so I foolishly and without thinking, put my arm in to separate them. In the frenzy of fur and flashing teeth, my dog mistook my reach for her collar as the “death bite” and she laid into my forearm. When it was all said and done . . . I realized I had must have been bitten pretty bad. Blood was running down my hand and when I took my jacket off I could see two very deep puncture wounds.

My first thought was: shit. Now I have to go to the hospital and I can’t afford it!! The second thought was: shit. Now Cecily is going to have to be put down for being an aggressive dog. I was wrong on both accounts.

Fortunately, Stacey is an RN. She pulled out her emergency kit and went to work. Within a few minutes, the bleeding had stopped and I was feeling less pain. Twice a day she checked the wounds for me and, to her surprise, they began to heal up very quickly. Each time she said she was satisfied with how they were looking. I kept asking her if I should leave them uncovered so they could dry out. Her response: “No, puncture wounds have to heal from the inside out or all of the infection gets trapped inside and festers.”

She continued on to say that I needed to keep the wounds covered and moist so they wouldn’t form a scab and seal themselves off. I was intrigued by this concept. As a kid, I was always told to uncover cuts so they would heal faster. I told my children the same thing. Always checking the outer condition of the wound without thinking of what was happening inside the flesh. I’m very glad my lack of knowledge never cost my children in their healing!!

I kept picturing the bottoms of the wounds on my arm. How they would heal and become less deep with each day. Eventually, working the healing up until there was no longer a hole. Amazing!! Then the itching began. It drove me mad and I wanted to claw at the skin. I mentioned this to someone else and they said: “That’s just your flesh literally knitting itself back together.” Not quite as clinical as Stacey’s explanations but it made sense to me.

As I have explained before, much of what happens to me passes through the spider web of Becca’s loss that stretches around my mind. We process things through our experiences and perceptions.So, as I often do, the facts I had learned about puncture wounds wrapped themselves around the aftermath of my daughter’s death. How could they not?

The two words themselves are so accurate as to what happens to our hearts, aren’t they? Our hearts were punctured in a single moment. So deep that we are sure there can never be healing. Puncture wounds take time to heal. And, time is all that can help us heal the loss of a child. There are many other ways these two things heal that run parallel in my mind.

The wound must be kept moist so it doesn’t dry up, scab over and seal what’s inside. My heart wound was moistened by my tears every day. For hours I would cry until there just weren’t any tears left. I wonder, can you become dehydrated from turning all of the liquid in your body into tears? (I’ll have to ask Stacey tomorrow.) In those first months, I remember sitting still, and having wave after wave of tears falling down my face. I couldn’t stop them. Now, I don’t think we should. They serve a purpose. Our pain is moved up and out and isn’t left to fester inside of us.
If we don’t start to move the anguish around it will quietly grow into something much worse.

Covering the punctures keeps other infectious material from getting into the wound. We are protecting it from further problems. Our damaged hearts need to be protected, too. There is never a time when a person is more vulnerable, I think, than when their heart has been cleaved in two by the death of their child. Cover yourself with your faith. Or your family. Or your beliefs. Or solitude. Or whatever you choose. Just protect the wound.

It’s going to take time. A puncture wound takes much longer to heal than a cut. A cut heals in a linear fashion. Across its length. A puncture, in it’s depth. This takes time. And patience. And the belief that the healing is taking place even though we can’t see it. Even though it’s not evident as quickly. But we can feel it . . . oh we can feel it.

The image of my flesh knitting itself back together immediately made me think of my wounded heart. We heal in the smallest of places every day. Though we don’t often see it we feel it in our spirit. We laugh, genuinely. Or see the beauty in a flower. We walk into the sun and realize it isn’t making us angry that day. The laughter of children is a pleasing sound again. It’s amazing to have a singular experience wherein we can say: “That tiny piece has changed. Has healed.”

A puncture wound that appears to be healed on the surface may be holding back a very dark truth. Just as if we fake being “more healed” in order to make others happy . . . our dark truth is we are carrying the pain in a way that will eventually erupt. For healing to stick it must be true. And for it to be true we have to handle it enough to make it’s edges smooth.

Two days ago I took the bandages off of my puncture wounds. I am going to have a set of nice scars. It looks like a vampire with a crooked smile chomped on my arm. Even without stitches the skin healed together nicely. The edges are raised and red still. There is a hard bump under each. Scar tissue Stacey said. For the most part, though, I think they won’t be very noticeable.

This, too, is common to both. My heart will heal as my arm is. But, I’ll always have a scar. When I run my finger across my arm, there is some pain when I hit the healing wounds, and it’s the same for my damaged heart. I just have to give both injuries time to do so.

At the beginning of this blog I shared my fear that Cecily would have to put down. She doesn’t. I talked to a few people who work with dogs and it was explained to me that the fight wasn’t about aggression. It’s called a “kennel fight” and happens when dogs are stuck together, in small places, and get sick of each other. Like kids. Cecily is an old lady with arthritis and she needs her space. So, I patiently maneuver the animals around so none of them are in tight quarters.

I was also told that this isn’t a situation we can fix. Rather it has to be “managed”. This piece of truth is also applicable to grief and a punctured heart.

We can never fix the death of our child . . . we have to manage it.

Heal yourself, slowly. You deserve it.

 

The Path

Often, I describe the journey of child loss in a physical manner. In my mind I see the path, we walk, as a dark and sometimes treacherous trek. We have no choice but to keep moving forward into the unknown terrain.

The first time the sun rose, after Becca was killed, the land around me wasn’t the same as before. A haze hung in the air and muddied my view. Hills rose where once the land was flat. Deep fissures had opened across what I could see. Landmarks, which previously stood proudly, were reduced to rubble. And, worst of all, there was no clear way for me to set off on my journey. Scattered everywhere were pieces of her life, our lives. There was nothing to help me get my bearings because it had all changed in an instant.

I wanted to stay balanced in the moment between what life used to be and what it was now. We can’t, though. The moment comes, when every bereaved mother, has to decide where to place her first step on this alien land. And we do so . . . woefully unprepared.

My path is long buried, heaved to the surface through trauma, rich dirt. The size varies: sometimes wide, other times barely there narrow. There are times when it stretches out in front of me and I can see for miles. My difficult times are when there is a sharp turn into thick woods and I have to walk by faith alone. Storms come, and drench the earth, making it difficult to keep my footing. I’ll slip and reach to grab at something, I know was there, only to find out it isn’t. And, down I go . . . covered in mud and hopelessly overwhelmed.

Continuously, obstacles loom ahead of me. Often times, they are ones I thought I had overcome previously. A handful of years had to pass for me to realize . . . these obstacles will keep appearing until I have dealt with them fully. They are too large to overcome in one interaction. When we realize this, that we will have to work through certain things multiple times, we start to feel a bit more in control as we travel the length of our grief path. We have no other choice but to attend to our obstacles or they will keep reappearing – larger than the last time.

I’d like to take a moment here and give you some hope. It’s ok that some things keep appearing in front of us. The enormity of what we must come to terms with, and accept, can not be done in one interaction. You have not failed because an issue has reappeared for the tenth time. This is a life long process . . . integrating what we’ve been through into our every day. We didn’t say good bye to our child, completely, at the funeral, we do so in little moments each day. So goes the process of acceptance.

Though everything on this path seems to be fixing the shattered . . . there are moments when we see beauty and can just “be”! I’ve come around a dark corner to have the sunshine splashed across the path in front of me. I’ve made it to the top of hill, after much hard work, and been rewarded with a panoramic view of a green valley spread below me. I’ve come upon others, who walk their own grief path, and for a bit . . . we sit and share our stories. Giving each other hope, strength, and understanding.

Though being with others in “down time” is healing . . . we must also turn away and continue on our own. As I have often said: this is a solitary journey that can not be taken alone. So, on we go. One foot in front of the other, not knowing what is going to appear ahead of us, just trying to survive. We do the best we can . . . which changes from moment to moment.

This trek is arduous. It makes me feel bone weary most of the time. My hands are raw from dragging myself over the rubble. Wounds from Becca’s death reopen when I catch their edges on a branch I didn’t see. I muddy my own way as my tears fall upon the earth. So many times, I sit on a boulder, convinced I can not move a muscle because there just isn’t any strength left in me.

Turning my head, I let my gaze fall upon the stretch of path ahead of me. A slice of sunshine illuminates a small section. Inside the beam of light, I see my Becca, standing and waving at me. Her smile widens as she sees me push myself off the boulder. With her hand, she beckons me toward her, and renewed . . . I continue on my journey.

Mother’s Days After

18578515_10209592102466738_978814193_nI haven’t written a blog entry in a while. I’d have to check to see just how many days it’s been. The exact number isn’t important, but the reason I haven’t written is. To me. Mother’s Day just hits me like a punch in the stomach. The days leading up to it are full of anxiety, the day of is difficult, and the days following are full of sadness.

This past Sunday marked the tenth time the day of celebration for mothers passed without my daughter. As I’ve done since the first one, I pulled out a few things I have from past holidays, that she gave me. I ran my fingers over the paper of homemade cards as if they were made of precious materials. To me, they are. These things are irreplaceable. Let me take a moment to give you some advice: save it. Save it all. One day you might be happy you did.

Though this holiday is difficult for me . . . I know it’s harder, in a different way, for newly bereaved mothers. The first one is full of moments of denial. This can’t be real, you tell yourself. Images of last Mother’s Day flash into your mind as you line up the time, to a year before, and think about what you were doing with your child. Every piece of your soul aches to travel back to that day. Any day before your child died, really. Then the weight of the new reality crushes those memories with it’s truth.

On Sunday, I sat at a small Mother’s Day celebration that my friend’s family had. As we chatted, sitting in a circle in the shady backyard, I couldn’t help but notice the four kids sitting across the expanse of grass. Cousins, laughing with each other. Except, one of them was missing. You see, there used to be five. Until one was killed. Her mother, my friend, sat next to me, quiet. Curled into herself.

A few times, I asked her if she was alright. She said yes. We always say yes. The rest of the family, though aware of the huge hole that was left by murder, had all of their children around them. I know they carry immense and indescribable sadness but they can’t experience the pain that my fried carries for the loss of her daughter. I know they understand that holidays will be difficult . . . but I am not sure others can truly understand the depth of our pain on such days. Seeing my friend steeped in her pain, pain that was so real it flowed off of her in waves, broke my heart. I wish I could make it better for her. That I could make it better for all the bereaved moms I know. But I can’t. I can barely make it better for myself.

The Saturday night before Mother’s Day, my friend and I accompanied another mom to the site where her child died last year. She’d spread out a blanket under a huge pine tree, a tree that must have been over a hundred years old, and talked about her son’s last day. We listened to her as she shared her son’s death story. We all need to share the death story of our child. The creek slipped quietly by below us as tears fell upon our cheeks. There is sacredness in these moments. A connection to each other and to life. And death. It’s an honor when mothers share these stories with us . . . let us into their very small and intimate circle of pain.

Being a mother is a sacred act. Raising a child, caring for them, loving them, protecting them, teaching them . . . it’s the most important thing we can do with our lives. Both joy filled and heartbreaking.

The days that led up to Mother’s Day were filled with apprehension for me. I know it’s going to be hard . . . I just don’t know how hard. So I worry I might not make it through. The day of, though it’s been a decade, still brings memories from previous celebrations into my mind. I wonder if she knew how much I love her. If she knows the cards her little hands made were among the most precious gifts I ever could have received. Does she see me get them out every year and cry as I read them over and over. I hesitate as I look at the gifts from my sons, wondering if I should save them “just in case” and then think I am courting death if I do.
The days after are hollow and painful. There is a type of re-realization that Becca is gone for good. She’s not coming back. Even if I cry to the heavens that it’s been too long since I’ve seen her so she should be sent back. It’s a kind of bottoming out . . . again.

I’ve traveled far upon the path in my grief journey. I learn new things every day. But Mother’s Day will forever be one of things I circle back to again and again. One of the many times each year that I need to enter a space I’ve been in before, and work through it again.

Then I can use the knowledge I’ve gained to help the moms who are new to the grief of child loss. Next year, if you know someone who is a bereaved mother, please reach out to her. You will add some happiness to a sometimes very dark day by letting her know she is still a mom. And is remembered as one.

In The Understanding

I remember sitting, numb, in the big room inside the funeral parlor. The chair was uncomfortable. There were boxes of tissue on every flat surface. Scattered on the shiny table in front of me were multiple binders. Binders which held images of caskets and linings and flower arrangements. I kept thinking it all was a bad dream. That at any moment, my alarm would go off, and I’d wake up. Of course, this didn’t happen. Instead, I went to the store and wandered around, trying to find something for my daughter to wear at “her visitation”.

There are no words to explain the pain which accompanies a mother choosing her child’s last outfit. Up one aisle, and down the other, I searched for the perfect outfit for Becca. Finally, I found myself in the sleepwear section of the store. I saw a beautiful white silk nightgown with a matching robe. It looked so much like the simple dress she’d worn for her senior prom. This was what I had envisioned her in. Something that made her look like the angel she now was.

With the clothing chosen, I now had to decide how she would “look”. I told them I wanted her to look like the little girl that I had raised. Very little makeup. Her hair simple, in a pony tail, I wanted her to look natural. I needed her to look like herself. Even now, writing this, my heart is torn in two as I remember her laying there . . . covered by the Care Bear blanket she’d had since she was three. I’d always thought that blanket would cover her children someday, not be cremated with her.

Earlier today, I was in a position to hear two people talking about autopsies. Their conversation was light with some laughter. You need to know, one of the participants in this conversation is going to be a doctor. A discussion about viewing an autopsy is not perverse but expected of a medical student. Though this topic isn’t out of the realm of what is talked about . . . it completely ripped apart my insides as the memory of my daughter’s visitation rushed into the middle of my thoughts.

Because Becca’s death was brought on by the actions of another, she was autopsied. My daughter was killed on a Sunday. She was kept in the morgue, in one of those refrigerated drawers, until her autopsy sometime on Monday. I spent that time frantic because I desperately wanted to sit beside her, so she wouldn’t be alone. I wasn’t allowed. In my bedroom I sat, looking out the window into the snow, aching to be with my child.

The first opportunity I was able to see her was a few minutes before her visitation began. I was led into a room. In the center of the room, there lay my Becca, her hands crossed atop the Care Bear blanket. She was on a gurney because I couldn’t bear to see her in a coffin. A coffin made it too real somehow.

In a future blog, I’ll share more about the visitation. For now, I’ll talk about her autopsy scars.

I remember, hysterically thinking, why are they called scars?? A scar indicates healing. When I gently parted the robe across her chest, and saw the Y shaped incision, my heart nearly stopped. They were not scars. They were cuts. Cuts that were never supposed to happen to her body. Distraught, I felt wild to know if her organs were put back where they belonged. Was she treated with respect? Oh my God, I pray that she was treated with tender care. She was my baby. She deserved to be cared for, even at the end.

As I stood next to my daughter alone, having asked everyone to leave so I could say good bye, I arranged her robe back over the stitches and kissed her farewell. Turning and walking away from her was so incredibly difficult I couldn’t do it. I had to be forced to leave her side.

I’m writing about this today to convey a very simple truth. The meaning of something to us will rarely be what it is to another person. If I had heard the conversation I shared above, a few years ago, I would have exploded. There is too much raw emotion, for me, around the term autopsy. I am a mother who witnessed the remnants of the procedure on her child. The person who talked about it today is a medical student. Worlds apart. Completely different sides of the same thing.

We bring our own experiences to every situation. The little ones, and the big. In no way did these two people mean for their conversation to raise memories about my daughter. They couldn’t know it would shatter any peace I felt today. If they had, I am certain they would not have talked where I could hear them.

Most people are like this. They can’t know the memories behind every day things because they have not experienced them in the way a grieving mother has. I imagine, most of the time, people don’t realize why what they have said has hurt you. I doubt there is much intent in hurting us, further.

If you need to explode, then do it. Those who are close to you will understand. It took me a very long time to realize what I’ve tried to explain above. If you haven’t realized it yet, that’s ok, you will . . . in your own time. And your time is all that matters.

If you are one of the people who’s been hit by the fallout from just such an explosion . . . thank you for sticking around. We are doing the best we can to come to terms with all that’s changed around us, and within us.

The key is attempting to understand each other, even if we fall short in it’s completion, there is deep connection in the act.