My fourth Mother's Day- second without you. On the Widowed Parent group on Facebook, someone writes, "Teeny children don't have money. And so dads have a great deal to do with Mother's day going off without a hitch." True. Three year olds can't really do breakfast in bed yet either. But mine helped me pick out pretty new earrings from Anthropologie yesterday, wrapped them with an excess of tape- tied a ribbon herself and woke me up at 7 am running in with her present. I acted surprised. This is how it is, and I'm fine with it. At least this year she got the significance of the holiday.
On reflecting, I am mostly grateful for the gift of my child. I think so much about how quickly this whole childhood thing goes. Since time exploded into something less than linear once you died- it's like I already see her grown at the same time that I stroke her three year old hair. I think about how in raising and loving a child, your goal is to raise them to leave you- from the day the cord is literally cut- the one that flowed my sustenance into the tiny creature with the fluttering heartbeat, to the first roll, crawl, step- to the day when you suddenly realize you can't remember the last time you carried her in your arms and you're not sure if you could anymore. All of this means, things are going well- according to the plan- a pretty bittersweet one if you ask me- esp. so since the growing away will one day leave me by myself- just one- not the two that are typically left.
Since you left, I've felt the tremendous weight of caring for her alone. She became more your child in a strange way without you here because I am always conscious that she is composed of bits of you. I am always hearing your voice quietly in my head telling me if I should do something differently- "Don't leave those balloons out- what if she gets it tied around her neck!" "I don't think you should tickle her so much- even though she's laughing- I don't think she likes it." "Stop singing Broadway style- don't let her get her nails painted that bright color- it's tacky..." and on and on. Mostly what I hear are the critiques- but sometimes I see a smile from you when she and I are interacting the way we do- laughing together or going down the slide together at the playground on a pretty day- sometimes I feel your approval. (All of this- of course, in my own mind.) She is my daughter, but I can't help feeling like a guardian much of the time- entrusted by you to care for the little girl you adored more than anyone else.
All along on this journey I've seen so many comparisons between childbirth/raising a child- and grieving but sometimes the analogy diverges. Interestingly enough, while I'm trying desperately to find myself in these ashes- my goal as a mother- isn't to help her find herself- but not to lose herself and if she does, to help her find her way back to the sensitive, dancing, rhyming girl she is in her essence. So the most important thing I do is try to pay attention.
Since you died, I've heard or read the phrase, "I trust you're receiving God's comfort," or something similar many times. But the all encompassing surreal hasn't left much space for the supernatural. For some reason, maybe I was looking for a pat on the back?- I recently recalled an email sent to me a few weeks after you died by a friend of ours who'd come over the second day with another friend to help plan your funeral. I searched for it in my gmail account and read it for the first time since then. I recall with an eery clarity the afternoon she is referring to and I think it may be one of the most poignant moments that I live, but I also think, looking back- although it was plainly one of the most unnatural moments- it may also have been one of the most supernatural.
Today I was thinking of the other young widows I know- the women who in the most unnatural of circumstances, have loved their children with supernatural love. We often say grief is greedy- and it is- for a really long time, it's hard to think of anything or anyone else- but there is one exception- and that is your child. It's the heartbreaking beauty, the hope, the one more way that love is stronger than death.
Happy Mother's Day.
When I saw you just two days after Dan went to God, I didn't know what I had hoped to see, do..I just wanted to help. You were so clear minded even as you cried, so expressive of how you wanted to not get this wrong - honoring Dan and remembering him. You shared details, a vision for what you wanted and what you knew he wanted. And you talked beautifully about how you want to make sure Audrey remembers all of this, remembers her dad. I sat listening, taking note, but most of all, i sat in awe of your will to face this grief head on. Then, when Audrey woke up from her nap, I saw your face shift from grief to strength as you went to get her from her room. In that moment, your determination as a mom, your love for Audrey overpowered any other thought, any other truth. And when she came to sit with us, I saw you push away your sorrow to give Audrey your smile, your attention, your affection. And I thought, please God let my love for xxxxx and xxxxx be as powerful as this. To push away my own need, and put them first even at my greatest personal pain. In that, I was inspired to love my children greater than myself.