Ordinary Days

The past few days my thoughts have particularly active in my head. This is nothing new for me. I seem to go through “dry times” when I can’t put enough words together to make a coherent sentence let alone write a blog! I often doubt, during those times, if I’ll ever have anything worth saying again. Maybe I have used up all of my words. Or, thought of everything I can think of. Weird, I know. I think it’s a writer’s thing. After time passes, the floodgates open and new thoughts and connections come tumbling to the forefront. All at once.

I carry a small notebook with me everywhere I go because I learned the hard way that not all thoughts resurface. Some of them come but once and if you don’t catch them you’ve lost them forever. I know I’ve let, what I consider gems, slip through my fingers. Hence, the notebook. I mean, if spirit is going to send me words then I damn better receive them!

Thursday, Friday, and especially today, the gates opened and the thoughts that have been forming flowed full force into my notebook. The half dozen different ideas, on the surface seemingly very different, all connected beautifully . . . each a pearl strung on the same cord. I am amazed when this happens.

In my apron pocket, at work, was the small yellow notebook covered with butterflies. In between customers I scribbled my thoughts onto clean pages. I filled up three of them. On the drive ,I let my mind nibble on each, trying to choose one for tonight’s writing. I thought I’d chosen one, pertaining to tomorrow, Mother’s Day. Upon arriving home, instead of writing, I decided to work on an art project I am entering into a local contest. The featured picture above this blog is a photograph of the project thus far. I am creating an image of my daughter in heaven.

As I was applying the plaster to the area which is the angel’s dress . . . I froze.

With a different past . . . in another future . . . this could be my daughter in her wedding dress.

The thought, the loss, what was taken from her, from us all . . . came crashing down on me like an avalanche. As I cried, but still continued on making her gown, this blog came to me nearly complete. I won’t be writing about Mother’s Day in the way I had intended.

Instead, I will be sharing my thoughts on the anguish held in ordinary days.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I know far too many women who will be barely surviving while they miss their deceased child. The pain, especially on days like this, is just to immense to be able to describe adequately. We try to find a way to make it through the day. So, we are told to make plans. Make a plan that doesn’t leave us alone. Make a plan to have someone check on you if you insist on being alone. Make a plan to visit your child’s grave, if you want, or a plan to volunteer somewhere. The most important plan is the one we have that saves our lives if it all becomes too much.

With so much emphasis on how we are going to maneuver these harrowing hours on milestone days we are unprepared for the ones that hit us in the ordinary days.We don’t see them coming until they are upon us. We are caught off guard. Our defenses are down. We don’t expect to be blindsided so when the blow lands it’s crushing. Today, for me, was one of those very ordinary days.

I often think of my daughter when I am creating. Even when the subject matter is not how I view her in heaven. When I am holding a paintbrush my mind is calm and she drifts back and forth through all of my thoughts. Today, the art and real life collided in a way I hadn’t expected. And I lost my balance.

I guess the message I hope to share in this short blog is to tell other grieving mothers to prepare as much as you can to survive the “big days”. But also keep in the back of your mind that the very ordinary moments, we all experience, will be just as painful. Actually, maybe even a little more. Our feet are upon a very difficult path, our footing is not always stable, and we are easily toppled. Expect to fall.

To those who love and support a bereaved mom: Expect her to fall. Just help her get back up, please.

She will need you again and again.

Especially on the ordinary days.

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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.