Sunday, June 27, 2010


"Get In Here, NOW", I yelled from the 5 year old's bedroom. I was trying to get as many small humans into bed as possible at one time, and Tradition* was not making this easy. I was tossing clothes in the hamper and giving the 3 year old, Wonder, the evil eye as she began to hop back out of her pajamas. Fed up waiting for Tradition, I started to count to five and stomped down the hall. I rounded the corner as I hit "FOUR AND A HALF", and found her sitting cross legged on the bathroom countertop, staring at herself, nose less than an inch away from the mirror, barely breathing. I may have mentioned this before, but in those days I was trying to practice the advice "Always listen first at least as long as you plan to talk". So I took a deep breath and through gritted said, "Alright, missy, what are you doing?" Still in her frozen state, eyes beginning to turn red, she said, somewhat petulantly, "I am in a staring contest."

Now, why is it we don't eat our young?

"With yourself?" I asked in exasperation. She refused to even dignify that question with a response. I raised both hands to physically remove her from the contest, when I heard Peace, then 8 years old, call out in a voice full of far more sarcasm than any 8 year old had any business commanding,

"Oh, ya, whose winning." Ba-dum ching.

I told the kids I forgot to take my vitamins and fled before they saw me cave.

*names have been changed to protect the innocent

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Because we have spent most of the last 23 years living out of state, we have had few opportunities to visit her grave. Besides, my thoughts have always been quite clear on the subject. She is not there, only the body that made life both possible and miserable is there. Yet, our family has visited the cemetery on Memorial Day since we moved back to the area recently, because it just seemed like the right thing to do.

This year I had planned on writing about our trip to the cemetery as we got into the car to leave, and asked one of my daughters to grab her camera, thinking I might finally be able to make the jump to adding photos to my blog. When we got home from the cemetery, my daughter downloaded all the photos and I watched over her shoulder as she ran through them. I looked at my face in the photos, and saw it again.

Our daughter was four and a half years old when she passed away, 23 years ago. Her life expectancy was 6 months, so we did pretty well, I think. Her life was short, but not all that sweet. In fact, she had a really hard time. My husband, the most diplomatic person I have ever met, the kind that ALWAYS tells me I do not look fat in my jeans, would look at me after a long and difficult evening while she was still alive, and say, quietly and with concern, “You look old”. I doubt I looked as old as I felt.

She was buried on a cold windy February day, just a short graveside service. Two days earlier I had sat in the office of a very kind man while making a ridiculous amount of necessary decisions that follow death. I remember being handed a book of grave markers and he wanted to know if I wanted any additional engravings on it. At first I was going to say no, but a butterfly caught my attention. A voice inside my head said, “You think butterflies are silly, childish, highly tacky, and have always been quite snobbish about their use”. And my mouth said firmly, “I’d like this butterfly, please. Her body was like a cocoon, and now she is free.”

When I looked over my daughter’s shoulder at the photos she had just taken, I saw the echo of those days still in my face. Whereas my thoughts on visits to her grave may have been clear in my head, what was in my heart was clear on my face. When I visit that place, I visit the hard stuff.

All that happened a long time ago, it feels longer than twenty three years, sometimes, it feels like it happened to someone else, and I just carry the story. I once made a list of the top ten hardest things that had every happened to me, and her life and death were not the first on the list, but the fact that I made it through her life and death, gave me the hope and will to move through the whole list. The benefits have far out weighed the difficulties. I am a more tender person than I would have been and I rejoice more in the children who are still here with me and thriving. I like thinking that she watches over us and is waiting until we are through goofing around down here and get to be with her, and I think those lovely thoughts every day.

Except maybe, for a moment, if a camera catches up with me thinking more about cocoons than butterflies.