In Her Presence

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the presence of my daughter around me. Tonight, I think, my soul was peaceful enough to allow her essence to reach mine. And, I felt complete.

The first year after Becca’s death I had dreams, which I now know were visits, from my recently deceased child. One of them, in particular, made my heart hurt even more than it always did. My daughter showed me how much energy it takes for their spirits to visit ours, especially when they are newly crossed to the other side.

In the beginning of the dream, she seemed full of light, her joyful self. As it progressed, though, she dimmed. Her colors became washed out. Curled up, she was exhausted, and very weakly, she explained that the energy she had to concentrate just to reach me shut her soul down for a while. I felt horrible at the thought of causing her more pain, more sadness, because I selfishly wanted her to visit me every night. I remember I kept telling her how sorry I was. Before she evaporated, she told me that even though I couldn’t see her . . . she would always be just on the other side.

Even, she explained, when she learned how to travel through the universe, she’d still be next to me.

Tonight, I know she was here. She’s still here, but for a moment, I could smell her. I could feel her.

When her scent enveloped me, I simply said, “Hello, my Becca”. And I smiled. I placed my hand, palm up, on the couch next to me and I felt a warmth solidness brush my skin. My daughter touched me. I touched her.

The moments before her appearance, I was sitting on the couch, with Cecily next to me. For those of you who don’t know . . . Cecily is my black lab shepherd mix. Near my feet was my other dog, Pepi. Under the huge window, Walter the cat, was on his back, his feet up in the air, relaxing. I was watching the moths fly around the light at the edge of my covered patio. I thought, they seem to be dancing. Light tinkling came from the half dozen wind chimes hanging just beyond my door. Past the edge of the patio, across a narrow dirt path, lay the dark woods. I was taking stock of how grateful I am at this moment. I thought, “I’m happy”. My animals surrounding me, nature everywhere I could see, I felt content. Almost everything was right with my world. Almost.

That’s the caveat grieving mothers often feel they must express when acknowledging joy in their lives. Yesterday, I even said to my sons, “I’m as happy as I can be without Becca.”. That meant a lot to them. It means just as much to me. But, that’s an different blog, back to this part of my story.

Immediately, after I thought how content I was, my mind snapped to, “I wish Becca was here, then it would be perfect.” And then, she was. I thought, I think I feel her presence. At the same time, her smell washed over me. Not the Victoria Secret perfume she loved, but the smell that clung to her when she came rushing through the door as a child after a summer’s day of play. Sunshine and innocence. The scent of her laughter warmed my skin. She was tangible. Touchable. So, I lay my hand down and felt her pudgy little girl fingers touch my own. The moment was perfect. For a minute, my world was completely as it should be. Then she was gone.

The past six months have been full for me. Both, with wonderful things, as well as difficult ones. All the “noise” has kept my soul from being still. Like static on a radio station. I believe the chaos, that had been in my life, prevented me from being able to receive the gift of her presence. Whether it’s good or bad, continual activity seems to interfere with souls coming together. The signs of their presence can be so very small . . . if we are distracted by the minutiae of every day life, we might miss them.

When my soul is at ease . . . it’s more open, and able, to connect on levels that have little to do with ugliness of life. Pain, it seems, is a part of every soul’s journey. Yet, it brings gifts with it’s arrival. Not everyone loses a child, but none of us get through life without pain disrupting it’s flow. It is the human condition. Joy and pain.

Tonight, I was blessed to feel utter joy. Blessed to feel my daughter, again. Has she learned how to visit me without it depleting her entirely? Have I been too busy, too distracted, to feel her presence? Did the planets, in my world, have to align in order to open the path? I don’t know. Maybe the right amount, in my life, is calm enough to allow the meeting. My peace was her beacon.

So, as I write this, I’m happy. Tears are streaming down my face. All of the animals are within touching distance from me. The moths are still dancing. The leaves, caught at the edge of the light, sway back and forth.

And, the wind chimes sound like my little girl’s laugh.

I love you, my Becca.

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Healing Places

I’ve always been an artist. Not necessarily a good one, but drawing did something for me that nothing else could do. I was centered and no where else when I had a pencil in my hand and a sketchpad in my lap. After my daughter was killed, I spent hours silently on the couch. Doing drawing after drawing of rocks. My mind was soothed by the sound of the lead on paper. My body, wracked with pain, would turn it’s attention to the fine motor skills needed to draw, and I’d have a period of lessened physical torture. When I draw, or paint, I am nowhere but right there, in that moment. It’s the closest I come to meditating.

When we lose a child, our life is permanently divided into two distinct time frames. Before and After. The letters used to denote periods of time, BC and AD have a new meaning to me. Before Crash and After Death. It’s how our lives are segmented now. We exist in the after but long for the before. Living in this limbo is exhausting. We know we must participate in the life around us but we can’t help letting our minds wander to days long ago. Or maybe not so long ago. Days so close we can almost touch them.

The only place I’ve found, that gives me a reprieve, is in my studio.

Let me say this: writing helps me heal, as well. But, writing is where I purposely access the emotions and examine them. I have to allow them to wash over me and take over my mind so I can write, as truthfully as possible, about my experience. It’s a painful and exhausting activity. Often, I feel completely worn out need to just finish the day by going to bed immediately after I’m finished. I write because I HAVE to. There is a story in me that I need to share, to lighten it’s weight on my soul, and to hopefully help others not feel alone in this. But painting soothes my emotions instead of bringing them to the surface.

As I said above, we live in an world that has been dissected by the death of our child. We are continually assaulted with “used to be” and “should have been”. I know I often feel as if I am talking myself from the edge of a ledge that leads to all engulfing pain. My heart can only take so much, in one day, before all my closely held emotions spill free. The closest I’ve come to that ledge, lately, is when a pregnant girl and her mother stood at the deli counter where I work. They discussed the cravings they had in common during their pregnancies. A special bonding conversation for mother and daughter that nearly caused me to come unhinged. I’ve learned to hide these moments from others. Most don’t understand.

When I get home, after a day like this, I sit down at my easel and can feel a sense of calm enfold me. I’ve read that meditation helps us detach. It reduces stress and alleviates anxiety,but not for me. I have tried numerous times, over the years, to use meditation as a means to mental well being. Not once has it worked for me. My mind races and starts circling unpleasant thoughts. I begin to worry that I can’t do anything right, even meditation, like other people. I end up feeling worse than when I started. Let me add, I do know meditation works for people and I don’t want to sound as if I think it’s a waste of time. It isn’t. Fortunately, I’ve found my meditative activity.

In the past year, I’ve started doing something I never thought I would have, or could have. I lead painting events for groups of people. Some have been for profit, but the ones that mean the most to me are the ones that I donate my time to help raise funds. Because of being a grieving mom, I’ve met other bereaved moms who have foundations to help others, in the memory of their child. Generally, the painting we do is simple, only taking a few hours, but for those hours I am helping others learn about the healing quality to creating.

Creating, for me, isn’t about the end product (unless I am doing a commission for someone else.). It’s about the process. The journey, not the destination. I’m not looking at the two pieces of my life, the before and after, I am existing in the now. My daughter is with me, I haven’t forgotten her,she is happy because I have found a moment of peace.

The smell of the paint, feel of the brush in my hand, and the colors on the palette are all very soothing to me. My two dogs at my feet, the warmth of the cat on my lap, all work together to create harmony in my soul. Though these moments are brief, they can save a very difficult day from complete ruin.

I’m currently working on a series titled “Healing Places”, which for me, are always in nature. The image above is the canvas I am working on currently. Bringing the two types of healing together for me, being in them and painting them, is having a very uplifting effect on my soul. A peace I so very badly want to help other grieving mothers find. Whether it be painting, writing, running, gardening or meditating. Whatever it is. Our souls NEED this in order to heal. To remain strong. You deserve this time for yourself and your soul.

In that spirit, my studio is always open to anyone who feels the need to paint.