Tag Archives: Courage

Tales of my Dead Daughter

Soul Pic

I was recently having a conversation with someone where I referenced my daughter and used the line; “before Miss Elliott was dead…”.  I instantly recoiled at the chastening sound of my words and began to feel as though I should apologize for not using a euphemism like the word passed instead, as society has taught us all to do in order to act mannerly.  Other than perhaps catching her a little off guard with my bluntness, I don’t think the person I was with minded at all.  And then I was annoyed at myself.

In a situation like this why would I let the feelings of others (even those only perceived or imagined) make me feel guilty over my word choice?  Was she any less living?  As if to say she had passed and was not just dead would somehow be kinder or less emotionally charged for the person hearing the words?  No matter how I put it, I still have a dead daughter.

We all use euphemisms from time to time either out of respect to those we are speaking to or to gird our own feelings, but when should we refrain?  When should we realize that to use them actually downplays the significance or magnitude of the event and that we should instead just spell it out frankly?  Give it the credence it deserves.  Does not a dead child demand such an overture?

Be thoughtful, but also be bold.  Don’t shrink away from the intensity of the situation just because it makes you uncomfortable.  Recognize it.  Respect it.  Embrace it.  Show those whom you are speaking to that you understand the level of importance this event holds in their life and honor it with your words.

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To Let Them Live

“I just try to let them live their lives,” she said.

“I say, just try to remember every moment. She won’t be two months old for long,” she told her seat-mate. “Soon she’ll be walking and talking.”

Or she won’t, I thought grimly.  The rest of the world doesn’t seem to share the same outlook as me with their constant expectation of a bigger, better, brighter tomorrow that they seem to feel entitled to, but I couldn’t help it. As the mother of a now deceased child who never did those things it’s just the automatic thought that springs to life in my mind. A consequence of my position, I suppose.

“I worry about them,” the petite, approximately mid-fiftiesish Asian woman continued from the seat behind me. “I just see them working all the time, and I know it’s rough on them. I know they want to get a house, and now they have the baby so you wonder when it will work out, but what can I do?  They’re adults and I have to let them live their lives. I just can’t wait to see my grand kids this weekend…,” she continued.

This eavesdropped upon conversation was a reminder to me that parents never stop parenting. Not when your children are grown, not even when they’re dead. It was an all too familiar thought, and ironic given the timing as we were wheels down in San Francisco after the first leg of our flight on our way to a good friend’s wedding.

Like me, this friend has also lost a child. Again, like me, she lost that child to Tay-Sachs disease. She knows the pangs of grief that accompany never hearing those first words or seeing those first steps that, like everyone else, we also thought we were entitled to as a mere byproduct of giving birth to our children.

Like me she’s never stopped being a mother to her child, even though he now exists in some form and realm beyond her reach. Even so, here we are this weekend to celebrate with her and for her. She’s found new love and recently become a mother again to a beautiful new daughter named, in part, after my own daughter.

She relayed to me in one memorable conversation how strange it is to see her wiggle and crawl around. It’s something foreign to us, uncharted territory, as our deceased children were never able to achieve such praise- worthy accomplishments.

This trip marked my first official face-to-face meeting with this tiny, magic girl. Holding such a precious child, my daughter’s namesake in my arms was a salve to my deeply broken heart. I whispered in her ear that I loved her so and had since long before she was born. I watched my husband cry as she was placed into his arms and I marveled at the beauty and joy she brought into the world.

It’s a relearning about the process of life. A continuation. Another chapter. Time matches on, and so must we. Old wounds may sting somewhere from below the surface, but new joys may also be just around the corner. Incessant worry won’t change what’s already there waiting for us, it simply distracts us from the pleasures of the present.

Living without entitlement doesn’t mean living without hope. We each have to choose to have the courage to ’round the bend as the road begins to curve. None of us know what the future holds for ourselves, let alone anyone else. You just have to let them live their lives. And as a parent, or child, or lover, or friend, you just have to live yours. And know that even in times of extreme pain and suffering this life, your life, and theirs too, can always circle back around and turn out to be better than you ever thought possible.