Sunday, March 23, 2014

In Five Months

Five months ago today, our lives turned upside down. I realized it after church today, as I was doing something in the foyer that made me try to think about what the date was today ... and it hit me. Exactly what was happening that exact moment five months ago? Police were knocking on our door and talking to my husband and my oldest daughter, telling them of the accident that took the life of your youngest daughter, at the age of 21 years. 

After they delivered their news, answered any questions my loved ones had, and then left, hubby and daughter looked at each other in misery. "Someone has to tell Mom," my daughter said. 

My husband nodded... and sighed. "I'll do it."

From that day until this, I can't count the number of times I have grieved her not being here. The sense of loss will intrude at the most unexpected times and in the most unpredictable ways, regardless of where I am or what I'm doing. However, I also can't count the number of times I've been so incredibly grateful (and perhaps a little ashamed of feeling that way) that the anguish and the stress of never knowing where she was or if she was safe ... is over. And yes, I have been and continue to be overjoyed that the place where I know she is ... IS safe, IS full of laughter and peace, IS amazingly complex and ever new. She is happy there; I know it.

The pain - when it happens - is just as fresh as when it was new. The ache of missing her is something that I've come to accept - usually - as the "new normal." Yet - in a very real way - she is more a part of this family now than when she was here. We feel her presence in so many little things, in the raising of an eyebrow, in a saying, in a song. We see the antics of our kitten, Loki, who was born on the day of her funeral, as he prances around the house and is so easily distracted by a sound or a flash of light or a moth flittering in the room ... and we say how much like her he is. 

I still long to hear her telling me she loves me. I still want to hear her laugh, to feel her great huge bear hug lifting me off my feet - something that unnerved me at the time. I miss her yelling with excitement, like the time we went to Magnetic Hill and felt the vehicle rolling up the hill ... she wanted to do it again and again (and folks, she was 19 at the time...) She had us all in stitches! I miss her jokes, her zany faces and funny voices that she'd do. I miss her "fake-singing" so her friends didn't feel bad about their singing voices. She had such a lovely singing voice - I wish I could have heard it more. 

Arielle in the summer of 2010

At the same time, I feel her with me, encouraging me, cheering me on in my studies. I hear her voice in my memory sometimes when I get out of the van to go into my place of work, calling out as she did whenever she was in the vehicle, "HELP SOMEONE!" (Or if I was taking a class, "LEARN SOMETHING!") 

In five months I've learned how to function without her physical presence. I've learned so many other things too. I have learned how very many people love and care about me (who knew? certainly not me, at least not until she passed), how many lives she touched when she was here (and is still touching even now), and why she cared so much about people ... all kinds of people. I've been inspired by her zest for life, by her incredible rock-firm faith, and by her ability - in the short month between the time she realized that God was real and the time she went to see Him in person - to share that faith with people and make an impact in their lives.  

I've also learned (all over again) that it's okay to feel what I feel and not apologize for feeling it. That there is no "right way" to grieve and that some days are more "raw" than others, and some days are downright mundane. I know some people treat me as though I'm fragile every time they see me, and you know, I could have been having an almost normal day - not even "thinking about it" - until they treated me that way and then ... depending on how close to the surface my grief is, I'm either suddenly a basket case or I'm irritated ... or I just smile and wave, and let the lady doing the "Oh you poor thing" thing DO her thing (because she seems to enjoy thinking that she's making me feel better), and then walk away. On my "good days" I know that I'm not responsible for her actions; she is. And she isn't responsible for mine; I am. On the "bad days" ... just the sight of snow falling will put me in tears.

And it's all okay. It's all perfectly fine. Feelings (as I've said before) are transient (temporary) states of being that are designed to tell us things, and it's important to pay attention to the messages they give us, and to be kind to ourselves along the way. I've been paying attention and dealing with things as they come along. Part of that is keeping up with my studies: she was so proud of me for going back to school. "You'll make an awesome counsellor, Mom."

And in another five months ... I'll be ready to start another semester at grad school, and be that much closer to doing what she knew all along that I'd be good at - because after all, she kept telling me to help someone.

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