Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up. -Anne Lamott
Too many “good” days in a row usually means a kink in the line and a breakdown to follow. The weekend was sunny and bright, filled with lots of distractions and laughter, which is both beautiful and dangerous. When I remain distracted, and don’t take the time to process the sadness and move through the grief, it catches up to me, building and building until is bubbles over when I finally sit in silence.
In the midst of the distractions this past weekend I took a big step and asked someone to take a photo of me, with my two daughters. This is the first time I have taken a photo with my girls since Lea’s death and it was both sad, and a step through the pain. I don’t believe I will ever “move past” this, but I can move through this, however seems right. And taking that photo, on that day, felt right.
This year’s photo was missing one of my children, as well as the sparkle in my eyes. I looked at the photo and wondered when that sparkle would return, when I wouldn’t look so dead in the eyes…tired, sad and defeated. Then I remind myself that these eyes have seen things they never should have, and while my eyes may have lost their spark, they are filled wisdom, strength, sadness, love, commitment, grief, joy, pain, fatigue, perseverance, more strength and more love (thanks to the friend that reminded me of this). They are a bit less sparkly than they once were because one of my sparks is missing from my life. The spark that allowed me to love deeper than I ever thought possible, to face my darkest fears, and to be me, bravely.
Caring for two, healthy children is easy compared to what we were used to. While the emotional work is hard, the daily and hourly physical work is so much less. Lea required full time care and that took everything we had in order to hold it together and provide her all we could in every way possible. It took so much work to keep our spirits up, to carry and move and position her body, to meet her every need and want. Now that it’s over, it feels like I am experiencing an unravelling of sorts, in every way possible.
Unravelling is a good way to describe how I feel every day since Lea’s death. As I peel back the layers of grief and sorrow, I also have to face the daily triggers, a something that causes deep sadness while reminding us of how much we have lost.
Triggered, as I clean the “teeth” drawer, purging old toothpaste tubes and toothbrushes that should have made their way to the trash months ago, and I find Lea’s toothbrush. I immediately had a vision of her perched on the purple stool, one of us behind her for support, scrubbing her teeth with her left hand as well as her ability allowed on that day. I wanted her to be here so badly, next to me, screaming through foamy mouth that she was done scrubbing and needed a boost to rinse.
Triggered, when I finally threw out the remains of the last thing Lea had baked. I had held onto it long enough and it was starting to mold, but the thought of throwing something away that she made, something I could smell and taste that she had a part in, felt impossible.
I remember scurrying through our cabinets in search of something to bake, preferably, chocolate. Minutes later Sabine and Lea were perched at our kitchen island measuring, mixing and stirring the thick, rich chocolate in a stainless bowl. Later on that night we enjoyed Lea and Bean’s delicious cake, covered in a healthy layer of chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles. This was the last cake Lea would ever bake, and the last time she would see her best friend Bean, as she died just two days later. I am so glad I said “yes” to her baking request and the beautiful mess it created.
Lea & Sabine, May 8, 2018
Triggered, when I find her sneakers, still in perfect condition, sitting on our hall shoe rack. I gather all of her shoes and put them in her closet, longing to lace them up for her, even if for just one more time.
Triggered, when one unassuming night I looked at Lea’s empty bed and it hit me that she is never coming back. I imagined her the way she used to be, asleep in her bed, full cheeks and sweet profile, french braids undone from a full day. I start to panic at the thought of never being able to kiss her, or hug or, or smell her, or experience her. That night I went to bed with two of her turtles and two puffy, red eyes.
We have been unable to pack away any of her things. Her room and office exist the way they were when she was with us. I know the day we will come when we will be ready, but that day is not today.
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” -Vicki Harrison
Be you. Bravely.