I haven’t been here in a while, a long while, to be honest…and while part of that can be a testament of how time works in healing wounds, part of it is also because I haven’t been able to make coherent thoughts lately, let alone -words. One thing I have never been able to do is look at pictures that are, perhaps, close to the time of when she died. I can look at the pictures from the year before, months before even. But pictures that are close to the time when she died? I can’t bring myself to do that. I just can’t.
Last night I was looking through some old photos -trying to find one of Dylan when he was younger, because as you may have guessed, I can’t look at any recent pictures of him either, when a picture fell out that made me pause to catch my breath. In the quiet darkness of the night I held what is perhaps that last picture I ever took of her.
A picture of her in all her ornery glory. Her grin, her hair, the scratch on her chin that followed her to her grave. All of it was there. In one black and white image that I have never looked at or posted before. I took a few minutes to memorize the details before putting it back in the small folder that holds the hard copies of the very few pictures I have of her. Two years does not present a lot of opportunities for pictures. I have very few pictures of her…what ones I do have, I hold very close.
It’s been an incredibly difficult eleven years. I miss her more this year than perhaps in years past. I couldn’t tell you why -perhaps it is because the wounds have been opened and the grief of losing another person is fresh. I don’t know. It is different, this missing. It isn’t that soul scraping pain that feels as if you will be hollowed out from the inside out, but rather a dull ache that something…someone…is missing.
Small glimpses of her remind me of all that I am missing. I had a very few short years with her -and while for them I am grateful, I am constantly reminded of all that I lost out on. All that I am missing. All that I don’t have. While I try to remain positive and look at what I do have -I can’t help but look longingly over my shoulder at what was. What will never be.
Life moves on, and with it, I have no choice but to move on as well.
But sometimes I must pause and acknowledge that dull ache. I must acknowledge that I loved her, love her, and always will love her. That the pain is there for a reason, the memories are not for naught, that she did exist, that the hole in my heart will always be there -as a small reminder, a token. To what was. What always will be…but what never shall be again.
I miss you.
Ten years ago, I spent my day in complete denial.
I spent the day posted at the bedside of someone who never made it on national TV. I spent the day cuddled up beside a small person the world knew nothing about. A person who didn’t change the hearts of thousands, or stir up emotions in millions. She was what most would call just another number, another drop in the bucket, another one of the seemingly endless statistics.
But she meant the world and more to me.
I don’t know why ten seems like such a monumental number. Like I have reached the top of the summit I have been scaling and can finally breath. As if ten is the magic number that will somehow make everything ok again. As if ten, the number, in and of itself -has something to offer.
When in truth, it doesn’t. Ten doesn’t mean anything different. The year doesn’t mean everything will suddenly change, or that things will somehow, forever and always be ok.
Nine years ago, I spent the day waiting in anticipation for the magical release.
The approaching of ‘the day’ was agonizing. Waiting in anticipation for the calendar to turn over another day, and somehow release me from the pain was almost more than I could take, and while the day itself was not that difficult – the days following, were. Because there was no magic release. There was no cure. There was no magic ok. All there was to look forward to were many more days, many more years, and many more unbearable moments where life seemed like the worst kind of torture possible.
Those were the only years that I had great expectations from.
The years in between were years I spent learning. Learning that there is no magic number that will make everything ok. Learning that some years are ok – and some years aren’t. Learning that life in and of itself is not all tragic, but there are some bumpy moments along the way. And learning that over the course of a long period of time, that intense, deep, burning from the very depths of your soul – will ease.
The pain that is felt when you lose a child, is a pain that cannot be explained. It is a hole that cannot be filled. An emptiness that will never be explained. And a wound that will never be completely, healed. Living life without the one you expect to be there, forever, is not something I ever expected to do. And trying to muddle my way through the murky waters was something I had no idea how to do, or why I should even bother doing it.
These past few years aren’t all years that I have been proud of.
While its true, that I wish I could go back just a little over ten years ago – and erase everything that happened and change the outcome, I can’t. While I wish I could trade places with my daughter, and let her experience life to its fullest, I can’t. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t have done to save her life.
But she isn’t here. And I am here.
I have made it ten years, doing the hardest thing I never though I could do.
While I would have chosen a different way of life, one that included my daughter, I can’t.
As we approach ten years, I am forced to realize that this is my life now. And outside of changing the tragic happenings of ten years ago – I wouldn’t change the rest.
I have lived through the unimaginable pain of loosing my daughter. I have fought to be where I am today, and while I am not proud of every moment -I am still here, despite loosing her. If I were able to say these past ten years were easy, it would mean that I didn’t struggle, I didn’t miss, I didn’t question. It would mean that I didn’t try every single road, avenue and option -before realizing that this was my life now. Without her. It would mean that I picked up and moved on with ease. When that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Its impossible to think that living after a loss as devastating as this, that life would be easy. To live life like nothing happened – would be to live life as if she didn’t exist.
As hard as it has been, I would rather live knowing that she was a part of my life, and embrace the pain and sorrow as a small reminder of someone who made my life just that much better -than to forgo the pain, and forget her.
Despite the pain, and sorrow -I have managed to make it ten years, and have come out with a better appreciation for life, and deeper love for those around me. I still miss her, but ten years in I am able to say that deep burning from unexplainable depths -has eased. It will never be completely erased, but I have chosen to go on smiling, loving and laughing -as I imagine she would have done, if given the chance.
I still miss you little one, and love you with everything I have -please don’t forget.
We are quickly approaching year number ten. The year where it just seems awkward to talk about her, or mention how much I really do miss her. Its that year where the invisible line has been drawn, and somehow – it is supposed to be ok. And while it would be wrong not to admit that yes, life HAS continued on, time has healed things, and I can live my life without breaking down every time I think of her – she is still a very important part of my life, no matter how far down I have buried her in my heart.
I don’t talk about her everyday. I don’t tell everyone about her. In fact, I rarely mention her. Most of the people I associate with today – don’t even know about her. And that’s ok. For me. It might not be ok to others, but for me, its ok. I don’t need everyone to know about her. It doesn’t change just how special she was to me.
As we slowly approach that time of year, where my heart remembers even though my mind doesn’t want to – I feel pressured. Pressured to remember her. To think of her. To tell people about her. Its forced, its awkward, its hard, and its stupid.
I remember her everyday. While I don’t live in the constant pain and crushing sadness that I once did, I still do think about her, and remember her -almost daily. She was and will always be a big part of who I am.
While I may not choose to share her with everyone, while I may not talk about her to anyone I meet, while I may have not named a star in her memory, or started a charity in her name – I still think about her. Just because time has gone by, doesn’t mean I have forgotten. It doesn’t mean I will ever forget. I just have gotten tired of asking others – what they remember of her.
Its not fair to anyone involved.
Its not fair to put that burden on them, and its not fair to my heart to be told that they really don’t remember her.
I remember her – daily. I think of her – daily. She will always be a part of me, no matter how little or much I speak of her. She will always be there – somewhere.
I guess all that is to say – if you remember her – don’t be afraid to say so. If you are thinking of someone who has left this world – don’t be afraid to tell their loved ones. It will mean more than any box wrapped in any bow could ever mean.
I remember the day she was born, but not with the same fond memories that most have. The day was tainted, and quickly went from what could have been one of the best days ever, to the worst. Instead of becoming a family, we became separated – by death. Instead of having ‘two’ I was walking away and left with one. One, I had no idea what to do with. For once, I was left alone – perhaps for the first time in my life.
She scared me. All less than 10 pounds of her. Everything about her scared me. Her cry, her size, her eyes. They terrified me. Which was funny, considering I’m not scared of heights, the dark or even spiders -some of the most common fears around. But being left alone with my infant daughter? More than scared me. It terrified me.
I don’t remember the day we went home. Don’t recall that first night. I don’t know when, or if really, the terror left. I remember the crying. I remember the weight of her and the combined responsibility being more than I could handle at times. There was no “Its your turn, I just fed her/changed her/dealt with her. There was only the crying. The screaming. The simply not knowing. The pure TERROR of raising this tiny, helpless human.
I don’t remember when exactly, but somewhere between, the crying became less frequent, and the smiles more frequent and I became someone’s daddy for the first time. While it’s true, that she probably stole my heart from the moment I saw her, the reality of what I was now in for – didn’t set in for a few months. Or maybe it was years.
We won’t ever know what her 12th year of life will look like. Won’t ever know what she would say, or do, or even be. But I do know, that 12 years ago, even though I didn’t know it then, my life would forever be changed. In a small room where a tiny girl held more than just my last name. She held a piece of my heart, and she never did give it back.
Happy Birthday, baby girl.
– Your dad
Tiny arms wrap themselves around me as far as they can reach. The arms of an overly happy one year old that had spent the past ten minutes dictating what I could and could not do. Pleased with my ability to follow orders, and satisfied that I gave into her demands, finger jabbing, and babbling that made no sense. She gave me a quick cuddle while her parents ooh’d and aww’d over her random gesture.
I remind myself, almost daily, that running from memories will never work.
For a while, memories were what kept me going. And then a short while after – memories were too much. Now? They come and go. Fleeting moments that race across my mind, giving me a glimpse at what was, what could have been, and what never will be. My life. A fast-forward of up’s and downs, ins and outs. Nothing ever connects or makes sense, until one day…
Some days, it doesn’t matter how much of a pep talk I give to myself.
Her picture catches me off guard – and for a moment, I think I can see the sparkle in her eye. The one that always made me smile. The shy smile that gave the impression that she was a timid child – when she was anything but. It brings me back to a different time in life. A time that wasn’t good, but certainly wasn’t bad – because how could it be bad?
I scold myself for judging. It wasn’t something I was going to do. I wasn’t going to become one of ‘those’ people who judged everyone for doing ‘wrong.’ They are trying their best, doing all they know how – yet somehow, I feel cheated. Justifying my judging acts, I tell myself that if only…followed up with a quick I would never.
It’s easy for me to say I would always love her, never get angry, and only give her the best without being selfish. Of course I can say that. The only thing left of my daughter is the dim light memory that fizzles out like a broken light bulb. The only memories left of her, are with me. Hardly anyone knows her, and hardly anyone wants to remember her with me. So yes, I would be the most patient, caring, loving person in the world – except that I know I wouldn’t be. Should the tables be turned.
Instead I accept the hug, and for a few seconds I imagine life a little bit different. And then I turn her back to her waiting, doting parents who love her more than life itself. And retreat to the memories. The ones that flip past too quickly, and turn off before I am ready.
Sometimes, the missing runs deeper than it should. It pulses through my veins like my own blood. Spurred on by the flickers of life that don’t belong to me. One day I will learn to stop running, and embrace the memories that are my own. And when I do, I will wrap my arms around her – and never have to let her go.
For the most part, I like to think that I have come out the other side of this whole…grief thing. I can navigate life fairly well, and it’s the very rare day that Im taken down by thoughts. And even then, its more of a bad moment – instead of wondering when the end will come. Every so often, I pause. To remember. A song, a smell, a person. Most times I can smile. Smile and see the other side. I can push aside the anger and the guilt. And for the most part, I can be happy for others who have what I don’t.
The list of things or places I avoid, grows smaller everyday. And while a day not too long ago – I would go out of my way to avoid stores, and people – I now manage to grocery shop one day a week. I interact with people. I love the kids with a love that is no longer reserved, and while I do have the fleeting thoughts of “What if” and occasionally pull back from something because its going too fast, and too far – I like to think I have made it out the other side with a well rounded view of the world.
I can enjoy sunny days, I can laugh at jokes, I can make friends – and sometimes – if needed – let them go. I can find happiness in the small things. I can smile at others, and partake in their happiness as well. My heart still knows, as I suspect it always will, when certain days roll around. But for the most part, life is…good. We have our bumps. Our ups and downs. Our bad days. Our rough patches. Everyone does, and I am not exempt. As strong as I try to be, I do admit to falling victim to crappy days. It happens.
But that doesn’t change the fact that, not too long ago, I too loved someone. Very deeply.
I have swung to different extremes on the pendulum. I have tried forgetting, and I have tried forcing everyone in my path to remember with me. Both have gone as well as one might assume. No matter how hard I try to forget – it simply will never happen. Because what the mind forgets, the heart remembers – and will never forget. Forcing people to remember only leads to frustration on my part. Because no one will remember them the way I do. And while that’s not wrong, its not right to force someone into it either.
So often I wish someone would say her name, unprovoked. And for so long, that bothered me. That no one, would ever say her name. That no one would remember her with me. That no one would know her the way I did, or ever care to. As time has worn on, I have come to accept this. And become ok with this. She didn’t mean the world to anyone else, and that’s ok. She shouldn’t.
But every so often, life has a way of surprising you. When you least expect it. This afternoon, I checked my mail. It wasn’t until I ripped my way through it did I find an envelope. With a letter. And one of those simple gestures.
Something that will mean absolutely nothing to anyone else – meant more than I can honestly say with words. A small gesture, unprovoked, and nestled between the words and in the story of how said gesture came to be: was the word I have been looking for, for years. Her name.
Life has a funny way about it. Taking and giving. Pushing and shoving. Coming and going. But every so often, its like life takes a break from pushing people down – and offers a small something. A token, In memory. For someone that meant absolutely nothing to one person, and means the world – to another.