Be Brave

Today, I sent another message to the driver that killed my daughter. It’s been a little over a week since we last exchanged texts. Or has it been two? In the last response he sent me, in connection with meeting each other face to face, he said I could take my time in setting a date.

I sat with his words from a Sunday to a Tuesday. Either nine days . . . or sixteen. I guess the actual length of time doesn’t matter. What matters is why I sat passively as the days clicked past. My idleness wasn’t because I’d changed my mind in meeting him. Rather, I needed to digest what making contact with him meant. I had a lot to work through.

I’d purposefully decided to veer off course and take a new path. A path that will lead me into his world. One that will allow him to set foot in my life, welcomed. We will be creating a new reality, together. A new ending to a tragic story that could have had multiples tragedies along the way.

But, before I could do that, I had to come to terms with many ideas and feelings I’ve been carrying since January 21, 2017. Where I am now, though it’s a painful existence, it’s safe. There is a security in knowing that I feel a wrenching anguish, each day, concerning the absence of my only daughter. Today was sad, every day is sad, and tomorrow will be no different. There is an odd comfort in knowing this. A solid painful place is still solid.

So, I had to slow down and just “be” in the place I am for a little longer. For eleven years I have lived with him being the “drunk driver” in my head. He has been faceless for the entire time.  An undefined male image. As I’ve said before . . . he’s remained the twenty three year old he was when this all happened. He’s been a fleeting picture in my thoughts. One of Becca’s friends recently said to me “he isn’t a faceless monster any more”. And, indeed, he is not.

In reaching out to him I have set into motion an entirely different future for us both. It reminds me of the in between space I stood in on that cold highway wondering if it was my child who was dead. Moving from the life we all had together into the new one that didn’t include her. Waiting in the dark for the information that would catapult me into the “after”. Those precious moments from when I was told it was my Becca until someone I knew positively identified her at the crash scene. Minutes I could almost convince myself that I could stay put in the life I loved. Having someone who knew Becca, tell me that yes . . . it’s her, closed a door on our life together and forced me into a new room. It will forever be the point marking the before and the after.

Meeting him will be the same kind of moment. In a different way. I feel as if I will be exiting the dark room I’ve existed in for a little over a decade and entering another that will be much lighter. It is another before and after moment. These points are always life altering. And, I needed to rest and gain strength in order to face the shift. So, I lay on the plateau I had reached by connecting with him.

The years since her death have been heartbreaking. The path I’ve been on has some sharp ups and downs. But now I realize it’s been on a steady incline since the day she died. I never noticed this until right now. I have been ascending, all this time, to the upcoming meeting.

It’s been such a long climb up to this most recent ledge. I’ve found myself bare, bleeding, and bruised. Not sure I had enough strength to go any higher. Then, this level ground appeared and I decided I needed to rest in the “in between” for a little while. Remain in this new light pondering this new life. However, I know that I can not stay here indefinitely. It’s not the end destination for me. Or, for this story. Instead, it’s a place to take a respite from the gut wrenching reality of her being gone. And, it’s a new beginning.

I liked it here. In the in between. As I said . . . it is safely predictable. A segment of time bookended by the letter to him and meeting him. I know I can not set up household here. It’s not meant to be my new home. Being here is starting to feel wrong because it’s been too long. Not a place of deserved rest as it had initially, but a place to hide away from this big thing. Today, I finally sat up and acknowledged that my time here is done. No more inaction. The time has arrived to start climbing again.

So, in the spirit of moving toward healing, I messaged him again. I asked him what days and times work for our meeting. He said weekends. Weekend afternoons. I replied with “A Sunday”? He said yes.

There it is then. A more concrete plan. Not completely worked out . . . but forward movement.

Today I stepped firmly on the path that will lead to our meeting. I am glad I had a chance to rest because it’s made me feel strong enough to traverse this new section of my healing journey.

We will meet on a Sunday afternoon, which seems appropriate because Becca died on a Sunday, but I’m not sure of which one, yet.

Small steps give surety to my footing and balance to this journey.

Always, in memory of you my beautiful girl.

 

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This New Path

My life has had some profound shifts the past few weeks. For the better. Changes I set into motion . . . and not something that happened to me. I think that is an important distinction to acknowledge because not many life upheaving events have been by my doing. Instead, they’ve been in reaction to an event thrust upon me. The major changes in life can be easier to handle when we’ve made the choice to make the change.

Recently, I’ve written of communication with the man who killed my child eleven years ago. I have had just over a decade of time to react to my child’s untimely death. To wear down the edges of it so I’m not continually sliced open with its existence. To accept, a bit more each day, that it really happened and this is what my life is now. To accept that someone else’s choice forced a life altering reality into my own. I have had to react to Becca’s death, in a thousand different ways, over the course of the past eleven years.

But now, I have the chance to alter my life again by choosing what path I will take. Each day is full of healing possibilities for me. For every bereaved mom, I think. Sometimes we see them and can hold them close and learn from them. Other times, the air around us is heavy and the light is dim and we can’t see what possibilities lie at our feet.

Then there are the times when we see a path veering sideways off of the one we are walking on. I am sure the path has exposed itself to me before but I just wasn’t ready to see it. It’s always been there, I think, but my eyes couldn’t accept it as being a possibility. I think, when I did finally notice it, I might have tentatively set a foot onto it . . . leaving the safety of the uneven ground I knew so well . . . to peer into its shadowy depth. There were times that I didn’t think this new path was for me. No thank you. I’ll continue to travel the hazardous road of child loss instead of venturing into somewhere I don’t know. I know, by now, the monsters I will face on my journey. I don’t know what hides in the dark curves of the unknown terrain.

This new path exposed itself to me a few years ago. It didn’t seem so daunting, for once. It wasn’t as dark as before. But, I still wasn’t ready to leave the security of what I have known for a decade plus. I stopped, looked at the spot where one path met the other and decided to stay where I was for now. I knew it would present itself again, eventually. And that, one of these times, I would be ready to confidently set foot upon new earth and move forward into it.

This new path didn’t so much present itself to me as I was actively looking for it. I had been seeing it more frequently in the past few years so I knew it wouldn’t be too hard to find. I just had to gather a few things before I set forth upon it. An address. My boys blessing, or maybe just their acceptance. A willingness to face whatever was on the other side in the heart of the other person. The person who killed my Becca. Finally, one day, I had all of those things. I took the step.

I chose to move toward forgiveness and deeper healing rather than not explore what it could be for me. For him. For all of those who were impacted by my child’s death. I didn’t know exactly what I would face as I turned the corner that hid my former journey from me. I had bravely decided to see where this change in my journey would take me. I wasn’t sure. Would it open old wounds? Is there unknown anger lurking just under the surface of my conscious mind? I don’t think so. I am done being angry. The chance that something wonderful could come from forgiveness is worth the risk of changing course.

When I think of where I have been and where I am going I really visualize a path. A physical place with rocks and water and bushes that scratch me when I pass too close to them. Quicksand catching hold of my foot and anchoring me in place while I slowly sink. Sections that are ink black because the sun is blotted out and I can’t see any light. Anywhere. Others that are sweet with tall grass and clean air where I remember my child alive. Places where the horizon looks like a duplicate of what I just passed through and fought so hard to overcome.

Is this new path, I have chosen, a shortcut to the end? The end being complete healing? I don’t think there is complete healing. So probably not. But, it’s a chance for my healing to be wider as I veer from what I know. Will it lead me back to familiar ground? Probably. When I get back to the original path I will be more equipped to fight through the battles that are waiting for me.

I’ve chosen forgiveness and I believe it’s made me stronger.

On Writing

There are multiple times each day in which an idea for a blog presents itself. They often come at inopportune moments, though. I used to tell myself I would remember them for later but I rarely did. To remedy this, I’ve taken to carrying multiple pads of paper to scrawl thought segments on (one pad would be too easy!) and I also send myself voice messages if one of the many pads isn’t handy. It’s not a perfect system, by any means, but I am remembering more than I forget now!!

Being constantly given connections for writing balances on a very thin line between healing and falling. My goal is to use my writing to heal myself, and hopefully help others, but at times the subject matter is just too heavy to delve into each day. On the days when it is just too much to write about I feel a tremendous guilt and shame. The fact that I am letting down my daughter keeps screaming through my head. Shouldn’t she be the first thing I do every day? Every time?

I’m reminded by the inner voice, if the wound is deep you can not let it scab for too long or the injury will become infected and start to fester. But, I reply, if I continually pick at it I’ll bleed constantly. A bereaved mother, trying to heal, is walking a razor’s edge. To slide down either side hurts.

The truth is: grieving the loss of a child is exhausting. Another truth: we must take short breaks from the healing work or we will wear ourselves down to nothing. Refilling our well is necessary to do the hard work we know we will face. It’s an ebb and flow.

When I need to step back from writing about my journey of loss, love, and healing, I find some other creative outlet to spend time doing. Sometimes, it’s writing about something else. For nearly two years I wrote my own zombie apocalypse story! My main characters were so far from who I am . . . a female dog trainer who is blind and a 14 year old Indian boy . . . that I don’t have to think about myself or my situation. My mind swirls with ideas and spirals down into back stories for each character! I can lose hours writing imaginary worlds filled with people I create and name. If you’ve never tried it . . . I suggest you do!!

Do you know why I suggest you do? No matter what we are writing . . . we will find healing. The words you put to paper need not be for anyone but yourself. They don’t even have to spelled correctly and your punctuation doesn’t matter. Just let the words flow! Let the the thoughts loose! Make up a character and put her through outlandish situations!! You’ll be surprised what you end up with! Some of what you read, after you’ve written it, will ring true to who you are now. You may find answers to questions you didn’t know you had. Or find questions in things you thought you understood fully. You will come to know yourself deeper and connect with the world around you, wider.

I recently wrote a blog about the century old house I am living in. The Irish part of me is drawn to the history the walls have seen. I imagine the sorrows they have absorbed. Laughter that bounced around in the corners. Little lives that took their first breath here . . . and those that took their last. Growing families and stories unfolded. I desperately wish the walls would whisper the houses secrets to me. Maybe she is but I don’t know how to hear them. I’ll have to figure out how to listen more clearly. Or more deeply.

The first week I was here I saw the bottom edge of a curtain ruffle itself from one side to the other. I was walking from my bedroom into the dining room and to the kitchen. Nowhere near the parlor. The ceiling fan was broken at the time. None of the animals were in the room and all of the windows were closed. I had hung a lace curtain over the rather large window that faces the neighboring home. I glanced in that direction when, from left to right, it appeared someone had run their hand along the bottom seam. It just fluttered out, rippled along, and then laid flat again.
At the time, it unnerved me slightly, but now I’ve come to think maybe it’s one of the home’s former occupants. A sweet lady, from the early 1900’s, admiring the lace and joyful to see the home being returned to its former finery. And, just like that . . . I’d created another character!

In my Google drive I have four unfinished blogs waiting for my attention. Each day that passes, without me opening up the documents and writing, adds anxiety to my already anxious existence. I know I must complete each one. They were important enough to start and they deserve my full attention to reach their completion. Upon waking, I have every intention to do so, but lately I’ve had shitty follow through. I silently yell at myself for not making the ramifications from my daughter’s death a priority. Losing her was the biggest thing that has happened to me. It should be of utmost importance to write about. But I get stuck. A form of writer’s block, I guess.

Today, I told myself: You are going to write. Period. Instead or attacking one of the half finished blogs I started an outline for an idea I have for a novel. A story inspired by the blog I wrote about hidden healing. A novel I am going to write with my cousin, Linda. The outline maps out characters and time periods and important events. As I was writing it . . . dozens of scenarios presented themselves to me and I couldn’t write fast enough!! I thought, it feels so good to be writing about something that has nothing to do with my child dying! (insert tremendous guilt here). I was checking historical dates and meeting new characters as they formed in my head and it was magnificent!!

Then, as I re read what I’d written, I realized (again) I was writing about myself over and over. The words held the questions that I wanted answered. If I re read it again, maybe there are answers I haven’t been able to see.

In the zombie story I mentioned above I have a character named Allison. She is a mother of four who lost her husband in the first wave of dead. The first zombie she encounters happens to be the young daughter of a neighbor. Allison decides to end the child’s unnatural condition and upon doing so, takes the little girl’s bracelet to give to her mother, if she ever sees her again. This starts Allison’s “job” in the apocalypse. She believes her meaning in life is to collect artifacts from those she must kill and return them to the relatives. To let them know their loved one is no longer here, in any condition, and they were treated with mercy at the end.

I find myself in those paragraphs. A part of me exists in Allison’s character. Just as a part of me can be seen in the blind heroine. And, maybe, the Indian boy she is traveling with is me, too.

I can assuage my anxiety by continually realizing that writing, any writing, is working through my grief. Whether it’s a blind woman, a disenchanted psychologist, or a spirit . . . it all stems from my mind, my experiences, and my existence. I still feel bad that I haven’t been able to sit down and tackle one of the blogs. The shame and guilt is still there.

But at least I sat and wrote today.

The secret is to start.