Happy Birthday, DanniLove

…though I must wish you a belated birthday here in Blogland. You would have been 19 years old one week ago today, Father’s Day, 2013. June 16th. I had planned to write this then but, as usual, I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d be feeling or how it would manifest on the day. Your birthday without you was one of the most difficult days for me yet. As I have done every birthday since the day you were born, I began remembering, “Last year at this time… last year at this time… last year at this time….” followed by, “Nineteen years ago at this time… nineteen years ago… nineteen years.” I remember certain things about every one of your birthdays but most vividly I remember last year at this time and nineteen years ago.

I remember the excitement at those first painful contractions and I remember tucking your big brother into bed and telling him that he would have a baby sister the next day. I remember sitting in the rocking chair that now sits in the waiting room to my home office, my feet up, rocking us gently and watching the clock ticking away the time until the next contraction then the time until the next moment of relief. I remember the midnight call to your grandma asking her to come now, “It’s time.” It was raining that night, as it is as I write this, a warm summer rain. We had a bit of a drive, it seemed like an eternity of suffering, something I truly know the meaning of now. I was able to walk into the hospital and most of the way down the hall before I couldn’t walk any further and your dear dad went to get a wheelchair. Walking was easier! Like grief, no way to know how labor will feel or how it will manifest on the day.

As I begin to type this sentence the word count is 311, the address of the home we moved away from on Thanksgiving of my pregnancy with you. It’s a number that would get my attention as is the time this draft was saved, 7:11. These are numbers that you know would get my attention… Thank you, sweet baby, for the gifts of knowing that you are with me as I write this. Thank you. 🙂 or as you would have said, “) …correction, as you are saying! Ahhh! As you said on your birthday! The message on the screen of your iPhone was from Dictionary.com and the word of the day was Palinode!!! This is not exactly a poem, but correct my correction with palinode! I so feel you here. I so feel us actually conversing. Do I share this with the world?? “Well, let’s just see. No rush, yeah?” Yeah.

This time last year you had just turned 18. On your birthday you were quite excited to be getting a tattoo and I was excited with you! You had decided on the image of your three pet rats. I was happy and felt honored that you let me help you find an image that spoke to your heart. I wanted to go with you, “Don’t hurt my baby!” but I relaxed and let you go with a friend. Earlier that morning, before you got up, I wandered through my garden and picked a small bouquet of flowers for you. I set it out next to the birthday plate that I painted just for you as a gift on another of your birthdays and I made the fruit tart you requested instead of a cake.

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You usually didn’t have a specific request for gifts and you usually said, “Well, maybe ____ and whatever surprises you want.” The ___ was always something simple, inexpensive, easy to find. You *are* an old soul, aren’t you. So when you said you wanted a really nice camera I couldn’t wait to go all out! I got you the best I could afford and it made me so very happy to do so!

It tears my heart out every time I touch it now because the first thing I see is your image at the top of this blog, holding this camera, snapping a shot of what I thought might be your future; your version of this world. I knew it would be amazing and I felt your passion and your own excitement of being gifted a tool of expression for the things you kept within you; the things that didn’t feel quite safe to express to any other human being or in any other way. It humbles me to have it. It nearly brings me to my knees to pick it up. But I’ll do it for you, my Sweetiebee. I’ll continue to reach for this tool in hopes it will help me to see the beauty of this earth, of this life, of this time that is so short despite the way it drags here without you.

Earth is a special place. I want to capture all I can so next year I can say, “Last year at this time…” Well, when I say it, it will hurt… because this year at this time, IT HURTS!

Why do we do this? Why do we come here? Do we have a choice? Does it serve a purpose?

I like to believe that there’s a reason and I don’t know it. I like to believe we come here because this planet is unique among all planets just as we each are unique among humans. Do we have a choice? I’d like to think we do. Does it serve a purpose? I think we’d all like to hope it does.

Happy Birthday, DanniLove. Happy Birthday To You ❤

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Waiting for Angels

I sit here in stillness, thoughts passing through the empty rooms of my mind; just being. I notice the ticking of the clock on the wall. It’s loud. That’s why I like it. Sometimes, I lie down on the couch and just listen to the clock, ticking away the seconds, minutes, hours, of my stillness. There is another clock on the desk. I don’t always hear that one because it isn’t so loud, but once in a while the clocks become entrained and join forces to tick away life on Earth in unison. Something in me joins them. I close my eyes and feel my heart, my breathing, other subtle rhythms of my human body beginning to hum along, sway a little.

After a while I rise, I put on some music, I water plants, I pick up clutter, and sweep the dirt from my floor, and it all seems okay. I sit to write a long overdue letter of thanks for a precious gift from the heart of someone in my family and it isn’t okay any more. It hurts so much. It’s a profound, deep and sinking ache, this missing my daughter, but that doesn’t mean it’s not okay or that it won’t ever be okay again. Does it?

Drying my tears, I return to the couch and the song of time. I envision myself sitting alone in the middle of a theater where we once performed the story of our lives together. The props are fading and cracked after months of cold and rain. I can’t believe it’s over so soon. I can’t believe the story of Dannica is complete. Now what? Now that the show is over, what do I do now? I feel like a fading star floating aimlessly, just waiting to burn out; Grizabella the Glamour Cat, waiting to float up, up, up past the Jellicle moon.

New passion, new purpose, must live somewhere in me. They’re so hard to find; so hard to hold onto even when I do catch a glimpse. But until I find those things, I know that I, too, will fade and crack. Dannica was the sparkle and light… and the glitter and glam. She was the music and the laughter.

Now, She is the clouds and birds… and the sun on the water. She is every rainbow and in every beat of my heart; every tick of entrained clocks whispering to the beating of my heart that the show must go on. But the script is new and strange and I’m struggling to remember my lines. The cast has changed, they’re all wearing new masks and I don’t recognize them. They don’t recognize me. Part of me likes that just fine. It’s also frightening and lonely, sitting, waiting for the voice of the director, “Quiet on the set everyone! Quiet on the set… take two!”

I’d rather take five. I’m tired. The clocks continue to whisper, I’m beginning to hear them more often, “The story of Dannica is not complete. She lives on and will live on until you are complete; until everyone who knew and loved her is complete; until the trees nourished by her ashes are complete, until the earth itself is complete.”

Listen. Watch. Wait. Love. Know. My time will come. The clocks whisper this, too, and at that time, they will whisper to someone else.

Beyond a Shadow of Doubt

Since I posted last, time has flown for me. In deep contrast to the glacial pace of November, the winter months and early spring, time has suddenly accelerated out of control hurtling me forward directly into something I had perceived as being so far away. In five days, I’ll look back seven months and remember my daughter saying, “I love you, too,” for the last time, leaving home for the last time. When she came back through that door it would be as ashes held close to my heavy heart in a small box. Like the head-on collision that took her life, I am now head-on with the task of opening this small box on her birthday in honor of her wishes; to be planted with trees by her loved ones. I still can’t believe she’s gone. I don’t believe she really is. I am beginning to understand the anger I have felt toward those who have told me she is dead. In my heart, she is not dead and she never will be. The sensation is in my heart when I hear someone say it, “she is dead.” It isn’t a sadness, it isn’t a despair, it isn’t grief; it is utter incredulity… “NO – SHE – ISN’T.”

Some may call this a phase of the grieving process but I choose not to believe in those either. I have experienced enough grief in my life to know that it isn’t nearly that tidy. Would that it were. Would that we could simply go down the list, bargaining, denial, anger, guilt, regret, depression, acceptance, check, check, check, done. No, it doesn’t work that way. You’re lying to yourself if you think that it does. I’m trying to do you a favor by suggesting to you that it doesn’t. I also know that when one is grieving the loss of the physical presence of a loved one in their life, the last thing they need is someone doing them any favors.

Who really knows anything for sure? Who can prove anything one way or another? No one. Not me, not anyone. So how do I know my daughter is not dead? I just know. “Prove it,” you may be saying. That’s what people tend to want. Proof.

Recently, on the sixth month anniversary of Dannica’s passing, in fact, I was called to serve on a jury. It was an interesting experience; one I’d not had before. I took my job for the day very seriously. I listened intently, I closely observed everyone involved, I took notes, I wrestled inside with the emotion of viewing everything through the filter with which I’m currently equipped, and I did my best to make a decision based on the evidence as it was presented. Is he innocent? Is he guilty? Where’s the proof? Before we were dismissed to deliberate we were asked to weigh the evidence and make our decision with “moral certitude.” In other words, to ask ourselves, “If I decide this way, will I be able to sleep at night knowing I made the right decision?”

In the end, we decided the burden of proof had not been met. We decided not guilty. And then there was that moral certitude thing. Guess whose mind circled the events of the day like a starving vulture all night long?

It was around this Jury Service time that a friend of mine told me about a television program called Long Island Medium. I looked it up On Demand and watched a few episodes. Finding it quite entertaining, I began to relax into the way the Medium conversed with those who have crossed over. I laughed and I cried along with those whose questions were answered, hearts comforted by messages from the “other side.”

I have my own questions, ones I may never know the answers to. So many questions. I have done my best to piece together the puzzle of my daughter’s death and I have arrived at conclusions that allow me to sleep at night, most nights, or at least most parts of most nights. Ultimately, having my questions answered changes nothing. My baby is not in my arms, not hanging out in her room, not at work, or with her friends… whether I know exactly what happened changes nothing. Or does it? Hearing the Medium’s messages, having some of their questions answered, was enough for some of these people to move forward more peacefully in their lives after being able to release guilt, regret, fear, some of the uncertainty.

Not long after discovering the Long Island Medium, I learned of a book by Annie Kagan; The Afterlife of Billy Fingers: How my bad-boy brother proved to me there’s life after death. I purchased it on my Kindle immediately but I found myself putting off reading it. I was compelled but kept feeling like it wasn’t the right time and I did other things instead. What I didn’t realize until I actually read the book a couple of weeks later was that several things needed to happen in my own life first that would later be validated as messages from my baby girl. Reading the book after these things happened was her way of telling me she knew I was going to read it right when I was and not before. To some this will sound fluffy. So be it. In my heart it makes sense and it excites me and that is why I share it. I understand it may do nothing for you. I understand your skepticism. It doesn’t bother me.

So, I spoke with another very dear friend of mine who happens to be a judge. I told him of my experience as a juror and of my sleepless night of moral un-certitude. He told me, “Anything you are convinced of as the result of expert testimony constitutes proof.” Such a concise definition but one that wasn’t present in my brain when I needed it to be. Thankfully, I now have a new definition and understanding of what constitutes proof for me.

I asked my daughter to send me an elephant so I’d know she was okay. An ELEPHANT! In the moment I knew it was a crazy thing to ask for. How could she send me and elephant? So I asked for a bird. A bird she could probably send me. Then I questioned myself…what if she sent me an elephant and I was looking for a bird? I sat for a moment and then asked for everything… “Send me and elephant AND a bird!?” Not two days passed and what do you think showed up in my email but an inspirational message with photos of, yes, an elephant and a little yellow songbird. I am convinced. To me this constitutes proof. She is with me. She hears me. She can tell me so. And she did.

Again and again I think back to the question posed to me by many in those first dark days, “What has this done to your faith?” I remember saying that my faith was stronger than ever. That seems a contradiction in light of the fact that I’m now more agnostic than ever. None of us can ever really *know* until we are there and at that point, we are not here.

None of this is really proof of anything unless it’s proof to me. That’s all the proof I need. It’s the only proof that matters.

Book Design and the Production of “Prelude”

I’d like to share my son, Braeden’s blog with you here within my own. I am in awe of my young man. I call him mine but I know better. He has blessed my life with every moment of his. I felt, I sensed, I knew, somehow, deep within me, from the first time I held him in my arms that his is a unique and special purpose on this planet. I have watched him pushed, pulled, molded as if by tides throughout his life and I continue to do so. He is strong, he is determined, he is real and he is dedicated to following his heart. It is something I have always encouraged him to do. Of course, as his mother I have my reservations (…as close to all of his camping spots as possible… haha!) but I trust him to follow what’s guiding him into this next great adventure and I will do my best to regain my trust that he will again return to my arms with stories and music and beautiful pictures and other artistic endeavors that have always taken my breath away and made me wonder at the great fortune I have had to be able to pretend he’s mine.