When I expanded my world to include Marika’s, my life grew richer. No longer simply a mother who lost her child, I became the woman who discovered her daughter and swallowed her.
A very gutsy and wise friend gently suggested I write an article about living gratefully. She asked me, a bereaved mother straining to understand why I was still alive myself. How could I possibly know anything about living gratefully? For months I struggled. Maybe my gratitude died four years ago with my daughter, I thought. I mean, what was there to be grateful about when my heart was bleeding? So I started a list. Leaving pen and paper on my kitchen counter, several times a day I read from the list or added to it.
What my daughter and I loved and were grateful for:
walking in rain with Wellington boots and rainbow umbrellas
our dog dreaming, yipping with feet running in air
popping bubble wrap
pink and charcoal mackerel skies at sunset
My daughter was braver than I. Marika lived on the edge of adventure and disaster, like she had only an hour left. Looking for all the beautiful things, she made trouble dance. She made it sing, made it beautiful. Even cancer.
honking v-lines of geese flying south before winter
the songs of a thousand frogs on a June night
dandelions dotting the lawn
the deluxe sushi platter for two, extra ginger
Marika blogged and collected friends on Facebook. There were hundreds of photos on her page. I thought blogging was a cult activity. I hated cameras, didn’t type, and feared technology. Some things I didn’t learn to love until after she was gone.
getting 90 “likes” on a Facebook post
sharing yearnings and embarrassing moments in blogs
“friending” strangers online
collecting photographs, making selfies, posting them all over the Internet
When she died, I dragged myself around, wishing I were dead. Then I found her words. Marika left songs, stories, poetry. She’d written a single poem in a blank journal, like she was daring me to continue. So I wrote. And I decided to become more like she was, to do what she did. I’d become more adventurous, and learn to love the computer. I would find all the beautiful things. I would carry on.
lemon wedges dipped in sugar
squeaky-clean, just-shampooed hair
burrowing in quilts while the wind howls outside
hearing our voices magnified and echoed
When I expanded my world to include Marika’s, my life grew richer. No longer simply a mother who lost her child, I became the woman who discovered her daughter and swallowed her. And now I realize that everything, every-last-little-thing, is precious, that nothing in this world is promised or guaranteed.
the silver reflection of an almost-full moon in the pond
a steamy cup of latte warming frozen hands in December
snow falling silently at twilight
oceans, Australia, running on beaches, roses, stars
Longevity, love, health, happiness…even my grief is a gift. I celebrate it all. Photographing and blogging about finding joy after loss, I now believe anything is possible, even grieving and being grateful at the same time. Maybe that’s what I’ve been doing all along.