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.

Pieces Of Her

This past Monday, I drove over the spot where my daughter was killed. My friend, Stacey, knows I try to avoid the north part of the city at any cost, especially that section of highway. She’s even shown me an easy off, then back on, so I can bypass that area. As we drew closer to the exit I would need to take to in order to do so, I decided that I wasn’t going to avoid it this time. Heading onto the segment of road, where my daughter took her last breath, was something I needed to do. I wasn’t sure why, though. I just did it.

I tossed and turned for most of that night. Sleep eluded me. When I nodded off I was barely under. The thin dreams, I did have, were full of Becca. Young Becca. Older Becca. Angel Becca. It wasn’t until mid afternoon the next day, when I realized that a new truth about this journey of child loss, was being birthed. My soul struggled with the enormity . . . trying to put it into a concept I could understand. The dark uneasy hours were labor. When daylight came, the truth revealed itself and was born into existence.

Grieving mothers must gather the pieces of their children that are scattered across the world.

Last week, I went into a grocery store that my daughter and I had visited, years ago. The layout of the store was the same. I could picture her moving back and forth, across the aisles, as she had long ago.. In my heart, it was as if I had stepped back into time. But my head knew differently. I doubted anyone, working in the store now, had been there that day we had gone shopping. No one would have seen Becca skipping around, chattering continuously, as I followed her wherever she went. To me, though, her spirit was still there. I could see her.

When I left the store, my heart was torn into pieces, and I was overwhelmed with feelings. Being somewhere our child had known, for the first time after their death, is very difficult. The only way I can describe the feeling of longing and pain is to say it’s akin to a starburst exploding from our hearts. The ache is just too powerful to keep inside our chest.

A small voice, speaking from the center of my soul, whispered to me on the day of this truth’s birth. The soft words said: “Yesterday, you gathered the pieces of her she left there that day. Your soul whirred around her and she was pulled into your being. You carry them now, and forever. You are putting her life back together.The pieces of her life are still there . . . for you to find. Keep looking.”

This thought makes me feel joy! It makes me want to sing! I can still care for my child in this very intimate way.The life we had together has not been destroyed completely. Don’t misunderstand me. I would give anything to have my girl back with me. Without a second thought I would give my own life.

There are days when the anger rages and I hate the unfairness of it all. Other days, I’m so bogged down in the sadness, I can only see a few more minutes of being able to survive this pain. Jealousy, of your intact family, comes to the front and threatens to spill out. Those are the hard days. The darkest of the days. When all I can think of doing is lying down and refusing to continue with this new broken life. The thought of watching the snow, fall from the sky, as it covers me . . . seems a peaceful way to join my child. Like I said, those are the dark days. And I know, they will always come. I’ve accepted this.

Yet, now I know, there are going to be days when I will come across a piece of my daughter, unexpectedly. A beautiful golden moment where she existed, we existed, together. The initial pain will lay my chest open, yes, but it will also allow my soul to gently call to her’s and bring her home.

Our souls are entwined with our children’s long before they are conceived. They are tethered to us. Always connected. When I looked at each of my children’s faces, for the first time, I thought “well there you are!” They were familiar before I even saw them. They are part of us, and we, them. This is how it is meant to be.

My days will still hold much sorrow. It’s the price I pay for loving my child beyond comprehension. Now, I know there will be moments of blinding beauty and immense healing, too. What I do on my journey has become even more important. As her mother it is my calling to search for and gather all of her pieces.

And, carry them with me until we are together again.