Gifts and Gratitude.
This is a tattoo of my little girls hand print. After she died some of the nurses made me prints of her hand, a mold as well, and cut some locks of her hair. It was funny to me that they cut her hair as it was so short. Before the hospital she had NEVER had a haircut. Her hair hung to her bottom and, when sitting in the tub, would fan out in the water like ripples. I was worried that the doctors would pull her hair in surgery so I gave her a pixie cut a few days before we traveled to Portland (Oregon). The nurses put the locks they cut in a cute little box. I save it but don’t open it. The hair I cut, it’s blond glory!
The tattoo I got a few years after she died, so I’d always have her with me. Looking back I realize that I got it before I understood that she would always be with me, she had not left me.
I’ve been thinking of the gifts I have received since she died. The things that happened as a direct result of what we went through…that, in all likelihood, would not have happened on their own.
The largest gift is the people I now know. Families that I met in bereavement groups, people who seek me out to help a friend they do not know how to comfort. All the parents, and the children, the kids who I was with at the end of their life in hospice. The gift of presence. It’s a calling, to my soul.
They are people who have walked in my shoes, part or all of the journey, who I now walk beside. We bear witness to each other. I cannot imagine how I would have learned to navigate my path without the amazing group of families that were in my support group immediately after she died. How? How do you survive when you cannot recognize yourself in the mirror?
I was terrified to admit to my family how I felt inside. It sounded scary, even to my own ears. If I heard myself speak, out loud, I would want to protect myself. As clearly, the horror of my sadness, was so big.
When I met the other bereaved parents, they spoke my heart. When I began volunteering with critically ill children and their families I felt at home. There was a comfort somehow. Something that made all that I went through, my loss, make sense. Slowly, beauty has begun to grow.
This is the garden I live in, full of people. Full of color and emotion. I feel safe here, in topics that not everyone wants to know. This is my color, my way of navigating my world. It’s such a blessing, to live with this knowing. This gratitude for other brave mothers who gave me space and freedom, who taught me who I was. Who gave me the vision and strength to return all that I had received, to others, many of whom I had never met before.
I am so full of gratitude, here, three days before my little daughter would have turned sixteen. As her mother I found my voice, as her mother I discovered my calling. I found my path to parent her brothers. I found my true love, waiting here for me, at a bar playing 80’s music.