Choosing Life

Walking along the beach one evening I spotted two teenage girls taking pictures of each other and themselves.  They were setting the timer on their camera and trying to capture an image of them jumping into the air as the shutter snapped.  It reminded me so much of Dannica to hear them laughing as they viewed the results and then tried again and again, laughing harder each time.

Smiling sadly, I moved on toward the waves wanting to stand at the edge of their journey’s end.  I found myself feeling a great sense of gratitude that the earth exists and that it sustains us all.  I stood, watching the sun set between dark clouds, the waves churning, rolling in and in and in, and I felt at home, a sense of peace and belonging.  I also wondered what it would be like to walk slowly into those waves and keep walking and breathing deeply until I could do neither of those things any longer.  My life would be simply…. over.  Like hers.

Such a fine line.

Was there really an agreement; as Caroline Myss calls it a “Sacred Contract?”  There is in every moment the potential for anything and everything, I understand this, but what brought about this particular one?  Do we truly create our reality with our thoughts and emotions and actions?  Some do believe this completely.  Did I think, feel, and somehow act in ways that brought the loss of my daughter’s precious young life into my own?  The loss of her life has touched so many so deeply.  Did we all who feel this loss so profoundly think, feel, act her out of this world?  Did it have anything to do with any of us at all?

It was her life, Sweet Dannica… did she think, feel, act herself to an accidental death at the age of 18?  In her next life will she try to imagine what may have been in her previous life?  Is she already living that next life?  Has her soul moved on?  Has she gone into the light?  Does it work that way?  However it works, I hope this life sparkles for her.  I hope she remembers it as being as precious as she will always be to me.

Like the girls on the beach, Danni loved life in such a pure and essential way.  She showed me that life is for living, for enjoying, for laughing at and laughing about and for cherishing and for smiling and for anything that brings a smile to my own face or that of another.

It is a brilliant opportunity, this life, to be a daughter or a son, a sibling, a parent, a partner, a grandparent, a grandchild a friend.  I’m immeasurably grateful for the opportunity I had to be Dannica’s mother and her friend.  It is also a brilliant opportunity to be a human being who is blessed to call this beautiful planet home.  I know I have a choice in every moment.  I know that I can choose to continue as I am, to choose life on earth.  I wonder if she had that choice at the moment she left.  I feel that she did have a choice and that her body was so broken that the choice she made was a compassionate one – toward herself, her soul, compassion toward us, who love her so and would have ached at seeing the struggles she’d likely have faced during and following recovery from that horrible, horrible accident.  I don’t believe she would have wanted a life of hospitals and doctors and disability and I would not have wanted that for her……….but to have her here…………oh, that selfish, selfish part of me… to have her here, to touch, to kiss, to hold and talk to….

I feel blessed to have a heart full of smiles, laughter and silliness as I remember times with you, Dannica.  You are forever young, beautiful and perfect in my memories.  Even as I choose to stay, to live out my life, I know that this is the only thing I really can choose.  Beyond rejecting suicide, I look forward and I see the whole of this life as an exercise in acceptance of the fact that I have no control over what is, what was, or what will be.  The choice I have made is to carry on.  When some unforeseen force decides to end that for me, that will be that.  It is a helpless feeling and it boggles my mind yet at the same time it relieves me of any need to even try to control anything.  So I will continue to live the whole of my  life and I will look forward, to the end of my life, to what I believe will be a beautiful reunion with those I have chosen to call family and those who have proven to be family through the sincerity of their friendship as well as those with whom there may have been a sacred contract to bring about change that helped me grow even as I cried, raged, wallowed in anger and hatred of it at the time.

Help me to see the bigger picture.  I feel in my heart there must be one.

Schrodinger’s Cat

“Where are you, my sweet flower? All these moments later; these hours, days, now months later? Have you made it to the sea? I’ll be there soon and I’ll look for you everywhere and I’ll do my best to see you there… my Sweetness, my little honeysuckle.”

Last Friday, I touched the box on the entry way table which holds my daughter’s ashes as I walked out the door, “See you soon, Sweetie,” I said, feeling like I was somehow leaving her behind.  My husband and I were on our way to the coast in celebration of our 10th wedding anniversary.

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We wound our way through the beautiful Coastal Range and I imagined those little purple flowers I’d released into the creek behind my childhood home floating and bobbing their way, along with me now, to the sea.  I haven’t been much out of the house since Dannica’s accident.  I am comfortable in my home and at times would be quite content never to leave it again.  But it felt good to be going, for now.  I have always been rejuvenated by the ocean.  My hope is that I will again feel rejuvenated by its strength, its power, its force, and that I’ll be able to contain some of that within me to call upon as I need it.

When I’m near the ocean, it mesmerizes me.  I can’t take my eyes off of it and I want to be near it; to hear it, smell it, feel it on my feet, look out over it as far as I can see.  When the waves wash up over my feet, I feel connected to the planet, to the spirit and soul of the planet as well as to every land mass, every being, every bit of life.  I feel small and I feel grateful.  I feel loved and I feel invisible.

Each time I visit the coast, I see something I have never seen before.  Last July, the beach was covered with thousands of dead baby birds, murres.  Pelicans attacked a colony and the adults fled leaving the young ones to be eaten or pushed into the sea where they perished.  This time, it was thousands of baby, or at least very small, jellyfish that had washed up and dotted the sands like clear glass pebbles.  I don’t know what caused this or why they were there but I’ve never seen it before.

Walking on, my husband and I encountered a massive tree stump.  A giant tree had been cut but the stump had been ripped from the ground and had bobbed around in the ocean for some time before being plopped onto the sand.  The tides had washed sand up, in and around the huge roots and made it appear that the giant had been growing right in the middle of the beach.  I wandered around it, getting a closer look at the creatures that now called it home; sea creatures instead forest creatures.  I whispered to my daughter, “Show me where the treasures are?”  And I smiled at the thought that I might find something really special with Danni’s help.

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My husband called to me and pointed to the headland behind us.  There were three driftwood poles standing upright in the sand.  From the tallest pole flew a long, purple ribbon.  We asked the loved ones at Dannica’s memorial service take purple ribbons with them to tie from trees.  When I saw that ribbon, in that moment, the space between vanished.  The space between her box of ashes and where I stood, the space between November 14th and now, the space between heaven and earth, gone.  The connection between myself, my daughter, the one who tied the ribbon, the time she’d been there with them, the time I’d been there with her, the time I stood in at the moment… all together in the same place… all existing at once.

I believe that spirit speaks to us in ways we’ll understand; through music, television, movies, books, symbolism and metaphor pulled from the collective consciousness as well as personal or shared experiences on planet earth.  We love to watch The Big Bang Theory on television.  In one episode Sheldon teaches Penny about Schrödinger’s Cat, a thought experiment having to do with the quantum theory of superposition.  Awakening one morning, I became conscious that I was dreaming and I could see Dannica’s smiling face.  She was looking over her shoulder as she walked out of the room and as she left she said, “Schrödinger’s Cat, mom.”

I have wondered so often where she is and what she’s doing and this is my linear human thinking.  I feel she has told me she’s in more than one place at once and doing many things in those places.  Still, I wonder where and what.  As I lay there, eyes closed, drifting in and out of sleep, I saw the image of a cat.  The outline made up of dots that needed to be connected.  As this happened, the image began to vibrate and light up brighter and brighter the faster it vibrated.  Then I heard the words, “Vibrating higher and higher we move freely within space and time.”

I wondered if she had yet made it, my little honeysuckle, to the sea.  When I arrived there, she was there waiting for me even as I brought her there with me and she was waiting at home for me still.  She is with me everyplace I remember her being and she is there, with others, in the places they remember being with her, too.  She is in many places at once and we all feel her bigger than this life, continuing to infuse our lives with the sweetness of who she still is.

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I felt like I needed to connect the dots to form an image of a new me – a me without her.  I’m learning that I don’t.  Because I’m not without her.  I’ll never be without her again.  She is a part of me.  I see the world through the lens of who I am because I am her mother and she is my dear, sweet child.  I pray for comfort as I learn to live without her physical presence.  I pray for guidance in feeling her spiritual presence always.   I’m beginning to trust that the dots now connect themselves.  Perhaps they always have.

You are the treasures, Danni Jade.  You and your brother are my life’s greatest treasures.

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That Square

I grew up on a beautiful little creek in the Rocky Mountains.  One of my earliest and many of my fondest childhood memories involve the magic of this dearly familiar yet ever-changing body of water.  Many hours were spent sitting next to the water in the shade, listening to the music of it moving over the stones.

Sometimes, I’d see a tiny fish, sometimes other squiggly, swimming things that I couldn’t identify.  I loved the way the sunshine would come through the trees and reflect the movement of the leaves on the water.  I loved the sound it made when I’d toss small rocks into the moving water and I noticed how the stones would sink right to the bottom and lie very still even as the water moved quickly by.  I loved the way they sparkled when the sun hit them.

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The ground around the trees was covered in emerald greenery with thousands of purple flowers.  I would pick the flowers one at a time and suck the sweet nectar from the back of them.  Because it was sweet and because I sucked the nectar from them, I called them honeysuckle but I now realize they were Vinca.  Then I would release the flowers into the water, one at a time, and watch them go until I couldn’t see them any more.  I’d try to imagine what they were experiencing moments later, hours later, days later.  I imagined they would take a very long time to make it to the open sea.  This I couldn’t even imagine then.  A body of water so huge, so violent, so unpredictable, yet so incredibly beautiful.

When I was fifteen, the floods came.  The water started to rise and continued to rise, day after day, all through the month of May.  I remember looking over the fence from my back yard and down the hill as the muddy water filled the little gully, inch by inch, rising to hide my honeysuckle hideouts.

At the end of the street, the water normally flowed smoothly through a culvert and under the road but now the water had risen above the top of the culvert leaving a deceptively calm looking pond.  The water would then begin to turn, slowly at first, building up speed until a deep and menacing whirlpool would open up in the center and the whole thing would make a very loud, rumbling, flushing sound as huge amounts of water were released under the road at once.  Then the water would begin to rise again, resulting in the calm pond slowly building to the violent “flush.”  I could hear it from my bed at night, nearly a block away, the flush, flush, flushing of my favorite magical place….being sucked out to the sea.

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When the water finally receded, all that was left was mud.  So many of the trees were gone.  All the emerald greenery; gone.  Purple flowers; gone.  Most of the big, old, familiar rocks between which I’d deposited my smaller stones; gone.  Even the gradually sloping hill that led down to the creek was gone, replaced by more of a cliff drop with scraggly roots grasping out blindly for the majestic beings they’d once supported… my friends; gone.

My father passed away on July 14, 2004.  I remember looking at that calendar page and noticing that July is in the middle of the year, the 14th is in the middle of the month and it was a Wednesday, the middle of the week.  Flush.

My sweet Dannica passed away on November 14th, 2012.  Not the middle of the year, but once again the middle of the month and a Wednesday, the middle of the week.  Flush.

There have been three more fourteenths since then.  Tomorrow will mark the fourth.  Flush.

I’ve noticed a pattern forming in my life.  It overlays the calendar like a slowly rising pond that begins to spin, slowly at first, building speed as the days pass.  I feel it pulling me in and no matter how frantically I kick my feet, it’s stronger than I am.  The tears begin to fall again and the horrible memories of that day come again, unbidden.  The thing is, I don’t even realize what’s happening until the whirlpool opens up over the center of that square and then….. flush.

After tomorrow, there will be seven more fourteenths before the next one; the Big Flush. Then I imagine the ponds widening a bit, maybe spinning a little more gently, maybe for longer before opening up and flushing.  I also imagine a few that widen to the point of being visible on radar and given a name in the style of hurricanes.

The Vinca never returned  to my honeysuckle hideouts and now they are lost to me forever but I do hold tight to the memory of each beautiful flower drifting off down the stream.  So after tomorrow, I will survey the damage and the destruction once more and I will do my best to remember the flowers and I will do my best to keep planting more.

Where are you, my sweet flower?  All these moments later; these hours, days, now months later?  Have you made it to the sea?  I’ll be there soon and I’ll look for you everywhere and I’ll do my best to see you there… my Sweetness, my little honeysuckle.