Yesterday, (1/22) was the 25th anniversary of my grandfather’s passing. It’s shocking how quickly so much time has passed. I’m sorry you never got to meet him on earth, but I hope your energy has found its way to each other.
When my Tata died, I was fortunate to know of its possibility. I knew the day before he died, when I said goodbye and I love you to him at the hospital, that it would be the last time. But with you, I was so sure I wouldn't outlive you. I had specific plans for where I wanted you to carry my ashes. You were going to be in charge of the music at my wake. Instead, you have left me and your siblings the responsibility to honor your life after your death.
Whereas his death no longer feels raw, but more like a warm nostalgia of memory, with you I am an open, bleeding wound. Parts begin to heal, only to have grief come along, splitting and tearing it open once more. I can’t imagine, in 25 years, that I will feel whole, or feel a similar warmth. I can’t imagine this pain without an edge.
As I was finally putting away the Christmas decorations and reorganizing, I came across my coffee table book ‘Life’ by Lennart Nilsson. I randomly flipped open to the section with vivid images of the interior of the heart. In one photo, it looks like a glowing cave with multiple, lit doorways. In another, as if a porcelain tree has grown to cover the wall creating a living, breathing room. The heart resembles a temple, an inner sanctum, sacred. I wish we had taken the time to explore the images together because I know you would carry the same awe I do.
In one of Joy Harjo’s books, she talks about how we come into this world with a predetermined number of heartbeats. I wonder if the choices we make change our ‘destiny’ or if it is fixed. When I spoke with the medical examiner, she told me that based on your report, she felt that you didn’t linger, that likely it was an abnormal heartbeat caused by the substances you ingested. In a strange way, it brought solace to think you weren’t waiting on us to rescue you because you were already gone, your number reached. It gave comfort you didn’t suffer, but I wonder if you ever had a chance beyond the 819,371,630 beats your heart gave.
At the moment, my heart feels so cold and empty, sad in its continued, confused longing for you to return. Yet still it pumps, despite the fixed hole where once a piece of your soul existed, with nothing comparable to fill it.
I would give anything to have you for even one more day.
If I had known this is how your life would end, I would have offered you my heart.
A memory hits. Sit in bed. Grief. Grief. Grief. Tears. More tears. And breathe. Another memory. Grief. Grief. Guilt. Tears. Breathe. Daughter brings me coffee. Breathe. Smile. Stillness. That memory you forgot. Grief. Grief. Regret. Grief. Weep. Breathe. Stillness. Stumble on photographs. Smile at first. Go down a small rabbit hole of nostalgia. Waves of grief. Breathe. Another Wave. Daughter cradles your head while you bawl. Breathe. Breathe. BREATHE. Don’t let it sweep you under. Son brings a small sundae and a forehead kiss. Hear that one song. Grief. A ‘what if’ question. Puppies become a weighted blanket on purpose.
This body mourns.
It is impossible to wrap my head around the sensation of grief, of feeling like the world is secure and safe in one moment, and the next, it feels out of place, foreign, alien. It brings up such strange anxieties and thoughts, unwelcomed superstitions around people, places, things.
For instance, it dawned on me last Thursday that it was nearly 3 months since Kudra’s passing, that I would be off on Friday, like I was off the Friday of her death, and that I was to attend the same training on Monday that I had to postpone the week after her passing. When Friday arrived, I could feel the edge in my bones, my blood rushing and whispering, ‘please, no one die’. And it feels odd and silly to hold such notions about such simple acts of living, but death has a way of complicating and stripping away whatever ease you cling to in the world.
That afternoon, I picked up Cece after school and we went to the library. She helped me take Kudra’s books and place them in the book return. I cried like a baby, and it felt excruciating, even though I have zero attachment to the texts themselves, merely the memories of taking her when she first finished detox, helping her look up the books, and picking them up with her as they came in. It’s the longing to have such a banal moment again as a trip to the library on a weekend afternoon. In place of what couldn't be, I took Cece to get boba to thank her for her support and love.
On Sunday, I went to a reiki session, my first ever. I went because I attended a conference and there was a postcard for the free session in my gift bag. I told myself, ‘why not’?
I didn’t tell the practitioner about my daughter.
As soon as I was laying down, and her hands were cupped close to my face, filing my nostrils with essential oil, the tears started. The entire session I saw Kudra in various ages and time periods. I hugged my daughter. Felt her arms around me, the way she would both hold you delicately and tightly at the same time. And even though it was only in my mind or in spirit, it was remarkable. This woman had hands that emanated heat like she was a soft, burning ember. I felt so many things in that hour, but the most persistent was Kudra insisting almost yelling at me that I must take care of the living.
When we finished, she told me that she could feel an overwhelming sense of spiritual support for me, ‘more than I have ever felt before’. She also told me she could feel a ‘maternal’ energy coming from my left foot. I left, got in the car with Cece, and I cried for several minutes, recounting to her what I had just experienced. Then she began to cry, and we sat in the quiet and cold, holding hands and weeping.
Later that day we made dream boards for the year, both of us including Kudra. The hardest part about grief is that to heal, you must let the visceral thoughts and feelings begin to fade. What tenuous connection you have to the sensation of their existence has to slowly, inevitably be severed, in order that you may live and cater to those still here. It is the slow slippage of the sharpness of her being into soft memory that feels like torture. Being happy is hard, and not because you don’t want joy. It feels less poignant without that person in the world to share it with, less vibrant and meaningful.
I don’t want to let go of my baby girl. I don’t want her to be dead and gone. I want to die first.
Tonight, Cece and I were watching a show about a mother and daughters that reminds me so much of our family, and there was a birthday for the mom. I realized I will never hear my daughter wish me a happy birthday again, and the finality, the weight of that knowing sat itself right into the middle of my heart and the tears wasted no time in coming.
Everything I am learning about this process comes down to time. I know I am doing better than I was three months ago or even the holidays, but I still don’t feel ‘ok’. I’m not crying uncontrollably every day, multiple times a day, but the hurt still comes with a force and brutality that is unwavering and uncontrollable. And certain days, like Christmas Eve this year, were especially unkind and unrelenting in their memories and heartache.
It's so hard to be so powerless to emotions you can’t see or predict until a trigger comes along: a photo, a remembrance, a token, whatever embodies that person’s spirit that you are longing to connect with. Then, in that moment when you feel what their existence was, you simultaneously feel what life is going to be without it.
And the only way to heal is to keep on feeling that absence, until itself is just a memory.
Last night I walked in the snowfall, carrying food to a family with newborn girl. I thought about how I held you with such tenderness when you were born, as if you would break beneath my touch. While you were tougher than I could have imagined, you still broke in the hands of the world.
I walked past the first home we moved to in Santa Fe, the one with the tree on the corner keeping watch. It has a new fence and an arch with lights weaved through it. It looks fresh, not the ragged space we rented with the hole in the kitchen wall where mice came in, scaring you as a young girl. The house where you played outside and could walk to school, where you got The Hunger Games for Christmas, where we lived when you tasted the first time with the death of your great-grandmother.
The light last night was ethereal, dark, and glowing, otherworldly. I took photos of trees stretching their limbs to the silver sky, and the snow as it passed across the streetlamp like tiny shooting stars. A snowflake landed on my camera, and it changed the color temperature, giving the snow a radioactive glow, and creating a formless angel on the lens. I know you would have thought it was incredibly cool. In my head I can hear you exclaim, "that's sick!".
In the silence of the street covered with white, frozen glitter, I took note of the tire tracks, the multitude of directions, how they intersect and change. I thought about how some people can stay on one course their entire life, how others crash into each other, how some veer off the road. About living, and how some experience calm and ease while others are plagued by breakdowns and woe. How on this journey of life, even though we all reach the same destination, the paths to getting there are so divergent and dependent on a million things we do and do not see on the road before us, as well as the choices we make every second as we draw breath.
I'm sorry life was so fucking hard for you at times, and I'm sorry for any mistakes I made as a parent that contributed to such tribulations. That your road trip of existence was littered with collision, survival, and at times, not feeling like you belonged here at all. You were so loved in a multitude of ways, but I don't know that you knew it, and for that I apologize.
I will never be at peace with you leaving, even though I know that you struggled to stay and find your place in new way of life, which no doubt felt overwhelming, scary, and unclear. I wish you were still here so I could have dragged you outside last night to see this beautiful winter night and its peace. So you could know that even in the darkest winter of our lives, light can still find us and give us what we need to keep going.