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.

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

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

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

Sigh.

Back to the note I wrote to him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll be waiting.

.

As We Sleep

A few months have passed since my daughter has come to visit me in my dreams. I find myself going to sleep earlier in the hopes she’ll finally appear as I slumber. When she doesn’t, I don’t awake with the immediate realization my dreams were empty of her presence. I just feel the normal ache that one feels when their hands haven’t touched their child’s skin in years. The profound need to hold our child close again never really leaves us . . . but at moments like this, it’s amplified a thousand times over.

I’ve often talked about the first time Becca came to me in a dream. She stood at my front door and begged to be let in. I stood a room away, watching through the door, as my daughter’s voice broke with sadness. They didn’t want me to see her, the way she looked, after the crash. But I didn’t care. I just wanted to hold my daughter again. I needed to help her and she needed me to hold her. We needed each other after the tragedy that had happened.

There should be a place, an in between space, where Heaven and Earth overlap. Always lit with the slanted late afternoon sun that casts a golden glow over everything. The smell of new growth in the dirt is heavy, it mixes with the scent of silvery strands, and somehow we know we’ve been here before. Here we can sit next to our deceased loved one. Laugh and cry, and say good bye, until it’s our turn. Maybe we can only reach this place as we sleep.

This first dream I had of my girl was this. But not quite as comforting. As she walked around the table toward me, I could tell her neck was broken, so I reached out my arms to draw her close. One of her hands steadied her head because she wasn’t able to hold it up anymore. I gently laid it against my chest and I felt her both arms circle my waist. She wanted my help. She asked me to fix it. Sorry. She kept saying I’m sorry, mom, I’m so sorry.

I had to tell her I was sorry, too, because I couldn’t fix this. Everyone around us looked at her as if she was something unnatural. As if I should be horrified at the sight of her. I wasn’t. I couldn’t understand why the others were. We stood together, holding each other, swaying back and forth, crying. At this moment, I can’t remember exactly how this dream ended. Maybe it’s written somewhere in one of the many journals I’ve kept. Or maybe the ending doesn’t matter at all. She was there. I held her. We cried because we both knew the life we’d had together was over.

This dream was the absolute hardest one I’ve ever had. About her, about anything. I’ve called it a dream through the first part of this piece of writing because that is what most people would believe them to be. I believe, this was a visit from my dead child. That was the first time she’d been able to get to me. Some time had passed before she had. I’ve wondered why. Because her death was so violently traumatic and instant and unexpected? Was her soul confused at what had happened? Did it take her a while to learn how to move through her new world to find me? I imagine it was something like this. I am so glad she did. And still does.

As I said initially, it’s been a while since Becca’s come to visit me. Some nights my last thoughts are: please visit me baby . . . momma misses you so much . . . please please please.

I miss my girl more than any words can express. The ache is wider and deeper and more full than a few sentences can hold. It’s scream that continually pounds in my chest. A loss that no words can adequately convey. There is nothing I can say to a mother who has not lost a child that will make them feel, even for the smallest slice of a second, the pain that has taken permanent residence in my soul.

When I am sitting across from another bereaved mother, and the haunted part of me sees the same in her eyes, I ask Becca to lead her lost child back to her. Show them how, my sweet girl. Help them sink into their mother’s dreams and let their souls touch for a while. Lead the way, my Becca.

But when you’re done . . . please come back to me. I know there is so much to see where you are, I understand. Tonight though, tonight . . . please come to momma. I miss you.

I need you.