Her Wings

Earlier this week I started to build the wings of a very large painting I am doing of my daughter. When I started to cut the chicken wire to shape the wings, I wasn’t sure if I was doing it the right way, but I forged ahead regardless. You see, I didn’t go to art school so I have no formal training in anything I do. I just do it. Sometimes it works . . . other times it doesn’t. This time, it did.

Let me give you a little back story about the painting to which I am referring.

Last year, I started to paint angels. Partly, because my mind is grappling with the fact that my daughter is one. Initially, I painted angels which were non descript. No characteristics which belonged to my daughter. In a sense, I was circling around the truth of her being in heaven, without getting to the center immediately. It’s a hard concept to accept even if you have seen your child’s dead body. I think painting angels has brought me closer to accepting the truth. In little steps.

Mid January of this year, I decided I was going to confront myself, and my hesitancy to see Becca in the form she is now. To do this, I started a project that has blossomed into something so much bigger than just me accepting my daughter’s latest incarnation. I’ve found it is also a way for others to join me in my grief journey. I think this is going to be something big.

The painting consists of three separate 4’x5’ panels, hung vertically on the wall, giving it the appearance of one big canvas. Each day, upon waking, it seems I have an addition to what I plan to do! Building the wings to project out of the panel was something I knew I wanted to add. Chicken wire was the best way to form strong wings, which would fold slightly at the top, and look like I picture my Becca’s.

So, I grabbed the staple gun and went to work. Now, I often feel Becca near me, but that day I knew she was there without question. I was listening to U2 and the song that was playing at that moment was “Walk On”. “I know it aches . . . and your heart it breaks . . . you can only take so much . . .” and I just lost it. The words felt as if they were coming directly from her. I sank down onto my knees, dropped the staple gun, and cried into my hands. That’s when I felt her presence envelop me. I could feel her wings wrap around me and I felt her warmth. My daughter was holding me because she knew I was working through something enormous. She’s the wise one now.

I didn’t get very far with the wings that afternoon. Crying hard really takes it out of me. I stopped, shut off the lights, and went upstairs. Thinking I’d cried all the tears I had in me. I was wrong. There are always more tears.

Laying in bed, I decided to send a few of the photos to my friend Teresa. She is running my angel project for me. She also knew my daughter. While we were discussing the pictures. and expressing excitement about watching it come to fruition, I started to cry again. I told Teresa and she did her best to comfort me. But, as I lay there I wondered why this was hitting me so hard. Then I remembered the other time I had made wings for my daughter. When she was five.
Becca desperately wanted to be Tinkerbell for Halloween. I couldn’t afford an expensive costume so I decided to make it myself. I bought green felt material and cut out a dress with the little points at the hem. The top of the dress resembled Tink’s attire, but instead of letting Becca go strapless,I sewed it to a white turtleneck. White tights with little green socks were on her feet. I pulled her hair up into a tight bun and gave her a wand. Her wings, though, her wings were the best part of the costume! I used two wire hangers and attached the curve that you hang them from to each other. On the longest part of the sides I pulled the metal out slightly to give them a more natural appearance. I stretched a white gauzy remnant material over them and voila! She had her wings.

Becca loved the costume. She loved the wings the most. At the Halloween party we threw she kept running around, tapping people with her wand, and asking them if they liked her wings, too! Even though I told her it would be uncomfortable she insisted upon sleeping in them that night. I remember peeking into her room after she was asleep. Her hands clutched the wand. The tight bun was coming undone. Her face was smeared with chocolate. But she lay flat on her back because that was the only position the wings would allow. My heart filled with joy just looking at her.

I’d forgotten about that day, until the wings I am building now, shook it loose. At one point during the party, I had seen her standing across the room from me, not moving. She looked at me intently, holding my gaze for nearly a minute, then flashed me with a huge Becca smile.In her eyes, I could see happiness and a thank you, and it was as if no one else existed. Time stood still. Just me and my girl. She was perfect.

I am building her wings for the wrong reason this time. She shouldn’t be dead. It wasn’t her time to become an angel. I desperately want to be back in the chaos of that day. Staring at my child while our souls connected without words. And, that’s why I was crying so hard. I needed to birth a memory. Birth is always painful.

Tomorrow, I am going to spend time working on her wings, again. They need to be huge so she can travel far. They need to be strong because I know she is doing a lot of flying where she is.

Fly high my baby girl. I know you are smiling because our souls are still connected.

I love you.

 

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Dark Truths

There are things about grieving the loss of a child that are very ugly. Thoughts we have may seem cruel to outsiders. Honestly, they seem cruel to us, too. You don’t see the world through the shattered glass which covers our view now. The spidery cracks change the image we see. Like a kaleidoscope, when we move just a bit, everything looks different. Before, we knew how things appeared. In the after, we see sides and pieces we hadn’t realized existed.

Yesterday, I was taking a box of pictures out of my car to finally put in the house after my recent move. As moms usually do when photographs are near . . . I started to leaf through a few bunches of them. I came across a photo from the late eighties that started my mind down a very dark road. I’m not happy my thought process took the path it did, in fact, I’m a little ashamed. But pushing the shame aside, and examining the thoughts I had, is more important than any attempt to remain kind in appearance.

One of the biggest questions we have when we lose a child is why. Why? Why my child? Why in this way? Why did this happen? Why am I left living without my baby? Even if we were to be given the answer . . . would it be acceptable enough for us to completely understand and agree with the reason? To be alright with their absence? Never.

Yet we still ask.

The picture I found both instantly made me angry and guilty at the same time. I remember the day it was taken. If I close my eyes, I can hear the delicate laughter of two little girls. Second cousins who had basically grown up together. Both daughters of young single moms. Five year old girls who were more like sisters than anything else. When I read my daughter’s journal, after her death, she had a poem written about her cousin mixed in with those about life. Their relationship shaped them both, almost.

You see, one of the girls took Path A while the other, Path B. The girl who took “A” went to college, worked two jobs, and was building a future for herself. Path “B” led the other girl into a life of young motherhood, drug use, and criminal activity.

In the past, I’ve written about my inability to understand why my daughter died and my uncle who molested a large, unknown, number of young girls, still lives. When I verbalize this thought most people understand. Yes, they say. It’s unthinkable that a young innocent woman should be killed but a pedophile, recently released from prison (who has undoubtedly molested since) remains alive. It’s completely understandable that I think this man should have died long before my child, isn’t it? But what of my dark thoughts that Becca’s cousin should have died before her? Is that as easy for you to understand? Or does it make me a monster in your eyes?

As I held the photograph in my trembling hands, my mind ran a mental checklist and ticked off the accomplishments of both girls. I know both girls. I have loved both of them. Each was a small baby, held in my arms, that I kissed as she slept. So why does my mind keep saying it wishes the other had died in the place of my child?

The night Becca was killed, I sat a mile from the crash scene in my parents red pickup truck, waiting for my friend to come back after seeing my dead daughter. Waiting to hear if the woman that had been killed was really my child. I kept praying, pleading, begging that it not be Becca.

“But there is a dead girl up there. It’s someone’s daughter if it isn’t yours,” a voice in my head told me.

“I don’t want it to be Becca!!” I screamed.

The voice replied, “Then it’s another mother’s child down there.”

“I don’t want it to be anyone’s child,” I wept.

“It’s your child, or it’s the child of someone else. Which would you prefer?” it said to me.

Neither I kept saying to myself. I couldn’t imagine another mother finding out their child was dead. Yet, I can look at the picture of a child I loved, cared for . . . and can say, I wish it had been her, instead. You have no idea how difficult it is to have this thought and to have to admit to it. But there it is. My truth.

I don’t think I am a monster. I certainly don’t wish this young lady dead now. I haven’t talked to her in years. I don’t have much communication with my family so I am unsure as to what her life is like now. I hope she is doing well, I really do, because having a life is an incredible gift to waste. She’s friend requested me a few times on a popular social site but I’ve declined each time. It’s painful to see Becca’s friends attain life goals she’ll never get to . . . somehow, seeing this young woman do so would be utter anguish. Again, I’m not proud of this. It’s just my truth.

My daughter’s poem surfaces as I look at the photograph of two beautiful light haired little girls. Especially this part:

“She was my sister,
not by birth but in my heart.
Our days together consisted of
Play-Doh, swing sets, and Barbies.
And it was like the time would never end.”

Oh my Becca, I miss you so much my beautiful girl.