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.

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The Old Moon Asked

When I woke up this morning . . . my heart was full of joy! There was no sadness present.

The smell of my daughter was still in the air when I hopped out of bed. Scents from her childhood hung heavy around me. Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. Applesauce. And, maple syrup. She loved pancakes. I truly expected her to be asleep in the other room.

Hadn’t I just put her to bed? Tucked safely under her Care Bear blanket? Her blond hair spread across the small Sesame Street pillow I’d bought her? I knew when I went into her room a wisp of her hair would be stuck to her cheek because we’d missed the syrup from last night’s dinner. I couldn’t wait to bury my face in the crook of her neck and just lay there until she woke from her dreams.

My eyes, still blurry from my own deep sleep, could see her bedroom door just across the room. For a moment I felt bad that her room was really a walk in closet because I couldn’t afford a bigger apartment. She’s so small, I thought, and we won’t be here forever. She’s safe. She’s with you. That’s all that matters.

Then the door to her room turned into a framed Matisse print on the wall. I wasn’t in the small apartment in Boston from 1986. It was 2018 and my daughter had been dead for eleven years.

We have dreams of our deceased child. Then there are times when we visit with our child. What I experienced last night was something completely different all together. I travelled in time . . . back to a moment when everything was alright.

In both the dreams of Becca, as well as the visits with her, I am acutely aware of the fact that she is dead. It’s a truth from which there is no escape. Until last night. There is no other answer that I can come up with other than I was able to access the past. I wasn’t burdened with the knowledge of her absence. I was light with the joy of her existence.

When I held her chubby little hand in mine I wasn’t preoccupied in trying to push her death away. I was a twenty one year old momma holding her three year old daughter’s sticky hand. Becca squealed with laughter as I put her palm on my mouth and made noises! She closed her eyes and whipped her head back and I listened to the music of her giggles. Pure delight for us both.

“Again!!” she said . . . over and over. So I did it . . . again and again.

When she got tired, I showered her face with kisses and my baby girl rested her head in the peaceful place on my shoulder. The day was quietly ending. As her breathing deepened and I felt her relax into my body I started to recite the poem she loved to hear every night before bed:

“Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night . . . sailed off in a wooden shoe . . . sailed on a river of crystal light and into a sea of dew . . . where are you going and what do you wish the old moon asked the three . . . we have come to fish the herring fish that live in this beautiful sea . . . nets of silver and gold have we . . . said Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.”

This is the first time I have been able to get through that bit of verse without stopping after the first sentence because it was just too painful to finish. I’m crying.

And, I realize I am rocking back and forth. I need to rock my baby again.

Again.

And again.

 

Note: The verse I’ve included above was written by Eugene Field and was published on March 9, 1889. It’s original title was “Dutch Lullaby”. I read the poem to my daughter in it’s entirety hundreds of times. It’s quite lovely and I hope you take the time to read it.

 

Be Still

No day will ever be perfect with my child gone. But, the painful truth is . . . some come close. Sunday was one of those days. Yet, I felt guilt in feeling content. I know I shouldn’t but I felt like I was betraying my daughter. I had to give myself permission to be happy.

Lake Michigan has always had a pull to me. Not because of the usual beach activities, though. It’s one of the few places I’ve been that I can feel spirit. Not spirits. But the creator spirit. I can feel the connection between everything. I believe it’s the closest I come to going to church.

Sunday afternoon, as Stacey walked way ahead of me along the water’s edge, I realized how quiet it was. So quiet, in fact, that it stunned me. Then I realized the quietness wasn’t because there was no noise. There was no man made noise. Because, when I stood still enough I could hear the world!

First, just one noise crept in: the ice cracking as the water rose and fell with gentle waves. Then, to my right . . . not only could I see the tops of the trees swaying, I could hear the creaking of the branches! The wind carried the cries of far off seagulls, ones I couldn’t see, to my ears. I kept thinking: this is what it must have been like hundreds of years ago when the Native Americans lived on this land. Very peaceful. I felt completely content. It was amazing.

One thought jolted me back to my reality: you are a horrible mom!! How can you feel content? Your daughter is DEAD. Shit. The voice was right. I am horrible. I have no right to feel content. Is Becca up there, somewhere, broken hearted because I am happy without her??

Then, I felt a presence beside me. Within me. My own soul. I felt her embrace. Her warmth. The understanding that flowed over and through me was electrifying. My soul, my shattered and tattered soul, was knitting itself back together. She wanted me to understand a simple truth. She didn’t tell me to toss the guilt aside. She knew it was part of child loss. She encouraged me to embrace it. The epiphany: the bad comes with the good and all are needed to make my journey complete.

I bought a sign a few years ago. It read “it is well with my soul”. When I saw it, I was having a halfway decent day and my mood was relatively good. I felt pride in being able to accept joy even if only for a moment. I thought, enough time has passed for me to be able to feel healing within myself. The sign resonated with me so I brought it home. Every day it was a reminder to find and feel the happy that still existed everywhere.

But, I was only getting part of the message.

The happy times can not be the only ones that make our soul full. Though important, they can’t be what we base our soul’s health upon. Our soul must accept the bad, too. To fight against it, to deny it, just creates chaos within.

Acceptance is difficult, believe me, I know. For a long time acceptance, to me, was the same as saying what happened is alright. My uncle molesting me will never be alright, but I’ve accepted it’s what happened. I’ve accepted that my childhood was stolen and I can not go back and change it. The same for the premature death of my daughter. Her life was taken by another. This will NEVER be ok with me, but I have to accept it in order to find some peace. I think, somehow, by accepting these horrible truths, by making the battle with them smaller, we make room for happiness to flow in.

I am grateful that the sounds of the beach were natural and pure enough to let me my soul speak. Or maybe it was divinity that I heard. Maybe it was both as we are all pieces of the divine, aren’t we?

As I waited for Stacey to come back to where I was, I lowered myself onto a large piece of driftwood, and turned my face toward the late winter sun. The waves had picked up and the wind had stiffened. Faraway honks, of Canadian geese heading north, floated down through the thin air. I stretched my legs out in front of me and dug my fingers into the cold sand. A sigh of contentment escaped my lips.

We need these moments. We deserve them. Our child wants us to have them. Divinity does, too.  Knowing all of this, I can say:

It is well with my soul.

 

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