Monday, March 24, 2014

Remembering to Live

I would never forget Alexa, but I forgot her birthday, and it kills me.
Forgetting a Date,
But Remembering to Live
Sun., March . . .
I stopped at the date because if today is March 23, which it is, that means yesterday was March 22—Alexa’s birthday. And I forgot. And it kills me. It rents a gash in my spirit—my very soul.

She would have been 35. I’m numb.
I am stricken, almost overwhelmed with new grief. Is this what happens twenty-eight years after your child dies? You forget birthdays? What kind of mother forgets her child’s birthday—even if there isn’t much to celebrate?
I searched my daily meditations for March 22 because I was so preoccupied and got so caught up in my morning that day, that I didn’t read even one. Did any of them hold a clue to remind me that March 22 was her birthday? No. Other than the date—March 22—which should have reminded me if only by seeing it—black letters on white paper—three times, once for each meditation.
What did I do that was so important that it struck the date of my child’s birth from my memory?
Her sister and I had an hour-long, heart-filled talk that morning. We spoke about our children and our connection to them. Her youngest children—twins, my granddaughters—graduate from high school in a year, and we spoke of wanting to hold on while honoring the process of letting go.
We didn’t, however, speak of the child in our life—her sister, my daughter—who was, and continues to be, so hard to let go.
What else was so important that it banished the date from my conscious mind? I weeded and trimmed flowers, enabling them to thrive and bless me with their blooms.
Other trivial things made up my day: I vacuumed, I cleaned, I did laundry, I bathed the dogs. I baked bread. I sorted flower, herb, and vegetable seeds and chose the ones I planted late that afternoon.
At dusk, I went inside, lit rose and freesia candles and filled the bathtub with lavender and rose-scented bubbles and salts.
I placed Sarah Brightman’s opera classics in the Bose on top of my dresser, and I turned it to point the speakers toward the bathroom. The music washed over me as lavender, rose, and warmth washed over my body.
I ate hot buttered bread and watched an Adrienne Brody movie, Discontent, before I took my contented self to bed, where I nodded off, after placing the pages of Pearl Buck’s Dragon Seed next to my pillow.
I forgot a date, but not a life—hers and mine—not a child, and not love. The loss and the life are what I live every day—not only birthdays and other anniversaries that one often marks after a loved one dies.
“What did I do?” I ask again. I lived life. I lived because after loss—the most heart-rending loss anyone can suffer—in order to become whole in any meaningful way, that’s what one must do: Live life.

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