Yesterday, a young woman I knew only a little passed away. She was approximately the age of my daughter, Libby, went to the high school when I worked there, had been in theater with my son in college. She’d had lymphoma for three years, and I had watched her battle through Facebook, had talked to her occasionally but not about the battle itself. She’d had her days numbered at one time, but had outlived that number. I personally had begun to believe maybe she would win the battle. But she didn’t. I’d seen recent test results posted. I’d seen that she had been admitted to the hospital, was in the ICU, but that had happened before. Then posts started appearing on her Facebook from people telling her how much they loved her, and my heart literally grew heavy within in chest. Her mother posted the simple words, “I love you daughter,” and my own heart broke. In those words, I could hear the goodbye. I could hear the “don’t go.”
I am not Cherise’s mom. Her mom has her own broken heart, her own feelings, which she expresses so beautifully in so few words. “I am broken. I will never be whole again.” I feel almost as though I should apologize for even having these feelings in what is not my life, and yet I couldn’t help it. It is experienced a million different ways, but once grief has made its home in you, it is there, always ready to make you feel. And this is what my heart, soggy and heavy with grief in my chest, felt, a mother’s cry. “No, don’t go! I cannot let you go!”
If my daughter has died, I was not permitted to be there, not permitted to offer her comfort, or love, or to try to hang onto her. Had it happened differently, I would have railed and cried and howled against letting her go. I would have lain down with her, would have held her heart to heart, and my heart would have reached out to wrap around hers and give her my own life, the beating of my own heart, to keep hers beating. I don’t know how I could possibly have ever let go. Perhaps this is why I never had that chance.
But even now, even now I want to hold onto her. Recently I was talking to someone about the subject of digs in search of my daughter’s body, and I told her that if there was a dig I would want to be there. I just have this feeling that if my daughter were to be touched by sunlight for the first time in 27 years, I would want to be there for that moment. But I also had to admit it was not unlikely that I would want to throw myself into the grave and wrap my arms around the little bones, to hold her and never let go, even though I would know her spirit had not been there for a very long time.
This morning I was talking to my very dear friend and soul sister, who lost her daughter at age 17 in a car accident, and the question arose of why God didn’t heal her and bring her back to life. I brought up the idea that perhaps she got the better deal. If heaven is as great as they say it is, perhaps she was just saved having to go through the heartaches that this life inevitably brings, and went right to the good stuff. And maybe this is true. But even if I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was true, I would nevertheless claw and fight against it. I would hold on, with my heart, with my arms, with the last shred of my will. Even for my child who I love more than life itself, whose happiness means more to me than my own, I could not let go although it was a 100 percent certain guarantee that they would be walking down streets paved with gold under skies filled with diamonds. As Dylan Thomas says, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light!” … even when you know that it leads only to a brighter light.
Cherise, the young woman who passed yesterday, was a beautiful singer. I have heard people say heaven sounds boring, hanging around and worshipping God, but I’m guessing those people have never attended a good worship service. Lifting my voice in songs of praise to God is one of life’s truly exhilarating experiences, and I can’t even sing! I can’t imagine how much someone like Cherise would revel heavenly worship. So maybe we shouldn’t grieve, but we do, for the warmth of holding the ones we love, for the light in the eyes, for the sound of a voice, for the purpose in the movement of their hands, for all the things small and large, we grieve. And grieve. And grieve.
I will, at some point, write about the anniversary, but my heart is too heavy right now.
Michaela, wherever you are, I love you forever.
However far apart we may be, one day we will be together.
One day I will hold you again in my arms.
Until then, I will hold you in my heart.