As I sit here on the fourth anniversary of your death my darling little girl, I look dispassionately upon myself, the shattered prism of me. I, as if occupying an outer body person look at this stranger who on the one hand can sit and write so unemotionally yet who also contains a part body that can blink to enable it to see the person reduced to tears bereft of all emotion but utter desolation. Blink again to see the strong person many others perceive, flash again to see the scared and frightened rabbit person peering in fear of the world from her burrow and I wonder will me ever come back again and do I even know who I am anymore. Each part of the prism itself shattered in sharp shards upon the floor of earth.
Four years ago almost to the hour as I held your beautiful self, trapped in a frail body ravaged by twelve months of chemotherapy and radiation and unspeakable tortures and pain, I did not know how my world would be forever changed and distorted beyond measure. I am, at this time outwardly showing a small window of my pain and inwardly screaming the primal scream of the mother who realises that she will no longer see you again as her vibrant, loving child. A mother utterly defeated by an enemy she cannot fight. A force that no matter how much love there is, it cannot stop the final closing of your eyes, the shallow breaths, and the eventual barely perceptible release of your body from its earthly shell held so tightly in a frightened despairing mother’s arms releasing you to what and where she does not know. The final act of torture that began in her mind a few hours ago when the doctors declare their inability to do any more for you, for us.
A part of me can look back now with pride, watching our respective strengths in the face of the inevitable. Watching you tidying up your fifteen short years upon this earth writing thank you letters to all the staff thanking them for trying so hard to save you. A letter for me to open later. I watch you and I struggling to understand what is happening but at the same instant knowing that it is merely a matter of time before we begin that final journey that we will do together as mother and daughter. I cannot go back to some of those hours locked behind steel doors that no one but you and I can see today, the trauma now held in the grip of my inner recesses of my mind. I think of the horror I see in your sweet face when I ask you if there is anything you wish me to give your friends and your reply a maturity beyond your years, “Oh no, mummy, people judge their worth by what they are given.” On the one hand, I hear that natural expression of yours “mummy” and the part of you that has never changed my little girl, and on the contrary, I listen to the words so wise that trip from your lips. I see you write down for your professor to read how “sorry you are that you cannot give him the gift of saving your life”. I take an opportunity to go out of your room, to gather my strength only to see the devastating effect your impending death has on those who have been so much a presence in our lives. The professor you adore, in his private world and tears, the doctors, the nurses all so evidently aware that the curtain of earthly life is soon to close. I can no longer dwell upon that last hours scene for the risk that I will be propelled into a state in which others will take control of me.
I am alone now, more than I ever have been in my life physically, mentally and emotionally and even now cannot let myself go for fear that I will lose me altogether and begin the walk of the living dead. I turn on the “coping me” that part of me I use, to get through many days and nights and that I now use to complete this writing. I will shut tight again the doors that hold the trauma of that time, again close them to remain known only to myself and you. I live in fear that I will slip again into that state of catatonia that rendered me incapable that first month after you died. That state that stopped me from being able to bury you for many, many weeks. That state that I snapped out of by rude, unkind people demanding to know when I was “going to lay you to rest.” The said and unsaid pressure for me to “get on with life”, the cruel taunt that life goes on without you.
Four years later I can say that I have plumbed the depths of utter desolation and flirted with my death. Pills piled in front of me, not once but several times I try, but I am not to have that natural release despite my strenuous attempts. No one knows how many times I have tried and not succeeded how frustrated and painful life is for me. How many times I have lain for days in pill-induced sleep another attempt thwarted by forces unknown for I am sure each time I have taken enough to send me on my way.
You asked me once, a long time ago what I thought happens to us when we die. The depth of my reply shows how little I had thought about it. I had not thought of it at all really, except as I said,” I would like to think that there are more than three score years and ten.” I came from a dysfunctional family who warred over religion. I, in turn, looked the other way when it came to religion and spirituality and lumped that part of other people’s life into a box. I was not interested in pursuing it until I had to, if ever had to, being so sure in my thinking that it was a moot point. Mindful only that I had you so late in life that I had to make sure only that you be prepared to live without me.
Sometime in the past four years and I can honestly say I do not know when my mother’s instincts again kicked in. I became desperate to find out where you were, were you safe and was there something I was not doing that was thwarting your attempts to keep your end of the bargain that we had made. The promise that we had made to each other on that last day that “if there were a way to communicate we would find it.” Instinctively we must have known that there was more ‘to life’ than this to make this pact with each other. I see that now so clearly. I see also so clearly how my lack of knowledge and grief was holding up our path.
I remember that it was an aha moment at the time, but when that moment happened remains a mystery of the past four years. One operates on automatic, in a somewhat fog of daily living as I am sure you the reader can imagine that envelops the parent who has to bury their child. A state that makes them a walking, seemingly okay shell.
But yes, it was an aha moment that there is a difference between religion and spirituality. I had spent my time since you left reading, studying all I could, about death, life, the religions of the world, the worlds of spirit, the world not known to me at the time you left and it was a significant point at which I changed in my grieving. No longer was I wallowing in my pain, rocking at the mercy of emotions. Pulling myself each time from the depths of what I cannot describe in words but which another parent who buries their child would know. Slowly no longer did I feel helpless without hope.
I have learnt that the religions of the world to help in spiritual matters are weak support for any but those who do not seek proof, those who are content, to follow without question. I know I have tested their representatives and words to the extreme as indeed I have tested many “schools of thought”.
I have learnt that there is no easy way for a grieving mother to have answered that very, very basic need of hers to know where her child was in a definitive manner. I also know it should not be like this. In general terms, death is to be feared, seen as final, just as I thought four years ago when I held you, my daughter in my arms. I very nearly lost my mind and close to losing my life because I did not have what every person should know without question that death is not the end.
Our common usage words departed, deceased, and dead have a common connotation of The End. We really should be the using the most accurate terms such as graduate, transition, and cross over.
I have found that there is life after bodily death. I have proved beyond doubt that I can communicate with my beautiful daughter and that there are ways that other parents and families can do the same with their beloved children. I have found solid, irrefutable evidence that we do live after death that we do not lay in some cold place waiting to be “called.” I have learned that there is proof out there and available if you need it. I have also learned how hard it is to find for someone in my position. I believe it should not be so, so hard, so very hard for grieving people to find some peace. I think it should be common knowledge and accepted that there is more that we can do between the worlds.
I believe that if you and I my darling can show just one other person the path then our pain and trauma will have been worth it. To give a gift of peace to another mother or father that yes your child does live on and “is with you more than you can ever realise and this is how you can communicate” would be a gift worth giving indeed.