Tomorrow is Easter, a holiday represented by symbols of new life, and resurrection from the dead. It was on this day nineteen years ago that I found out that I was pregnant with your youngest sister. I remember that day I went hiking up in the hills through Garin and Dry Creek parks. We didn’t follow the trails, but instead climbed through the creekbeds — which were not dry, but running with spring rainwater, and filled with signs of new life themselves. I felt so keenly the new life growing within me. It had been a particularly difficult time in my life. Not long before I got pregnant, a prison inmate in Indiana had claimed that he had helped to bury you. Investigators had doubts about his story, but brought him out here anyway to show them where. It had been quite a big to-do, and he’d described things I didn’t want to think of, all before confessing after a few days to making the whole thing up.
This had been the third big-deal newsmaking lead in just few months, all coming along as you had been missing for five long years. I’d had things going on in my personal life also, and I was just on the edge. I’d had to take a stress disability leave from work even. To feel a promise of new life growing within me felt healing. And this did prove to be a very healing experience, although in ways I hadn’t really expected, because as I began to open my heart up to this new baby, I realized how much I’d had it closed down. I would get in the shower every day and cry, feeling as though the world was coming to an end, as though the sky was about to fall. It took a long while for me to figure it out, but the reason I was crying is because the sky had fallen, the world had come to an end … because I had lost you. As much as I missed you, as sorrowful as I felt, the fact was that I had buried so much of my feelings so deeply, I didn’t even recognize them any longer. I realized this one day when I had been taking a nap on the couch, and I’d had a dream in which I was telling a clerk in a store about my daughter who had been kidnapped, and in the dream I was crying. I was actually sobbing in the dream, and it woke me up. I was filled with the deepest, deepest grief and sorrow, but as I reached full consciousness I felt a gate slam down on my emotions and cut them off.
Those feelings are just so hard to feel. Keeping our hearts open in the face of the pain and grief of loss is a very difficult thing. I’d shut my heart down a lot, just in order to survive I suppose. It’s no way to live, though, with your heart shut down, so the wisdom of the universe sent along your baby sister to help me to open up again.
That baby sister is 18 year old, and right now she is suffering from her first broken heart. It’s a very deeply broken heart, from a long relationship with someone she still really loves. And because it’s her first, she doesn’t have the experience to know that she will survive it. She doesn’t know that one day, one way or the other, she will be happy again. Actually, I think that first broken heart is a valuable thing in some ways, because once we have learned that we can experience that fierce pain and live through it and be happy again one day, we become a little braver, a little more able to step out and take a chance.
Unless, that is, we just shut down and never take a chance again. We may do that in order to protect ourselves from ever having a broken heart again, but the fact is that if we can’t open our hearts fully to love, they are already broken, and we have already lost.
A common theme in my writing, this. It’s just fresh today, because of your little sister. And because of the fact that when my child’s heart is broken, it breaks mine as well.
Of course, none of my children has ever suffered the king of heartbreak and grief that you have, Michaela. And this is the greatest of my own heartaches over what happened to you. I miss you, I grieve for you, but most of all I grieve for your sorrow, your pain, and for my own inability to comfort you. I had told you before you were kidnapped that if ever you were sad and I wasn’t there, that you should just look inside your heart and I’d be there. I hope that in some way I have been able to be there for you in your grief, Michaela. And if you are out there somewhere, I just wish you would realize how much I long to hold you in my arms … I know that I am powerless to make any of my children’s heartaches go away. Goodness knows I have had plenty of experience with that before now, and just as today, I can offer hugs and I can offer what little words of wisdom I may have, but I cannot make the pain go away.
For you, though, maybe I can, just a little. At least I’d like to try. At the very least I could give you a place that is warm and safe and full of love in which to heal from your sorrows….
Love you forever,