In the months following my daughter’s death, I received many “gifts.” One gift came unexpectedly about four months after the accident. It was a letter from one of her classmates that included a hand-written “prayer” Ava had created for the classmate’s art project. On the small, brightly colored square of fabric were inked the words, “I just want my mother to be happy.”
Amidst my crushing heartbreak, I made a solemn promise to my beloved Ava that I would try.
Now, as the calendar steadily approaches the fifth anniversary of her death, I am keeping my promise. I can honestly say, when asked, that I am doing well. Happy? Yes, I am, but with a permanent caveat. There is an ache within my joy. There always will be.
I have struggled mightily to honor my wonderful daughter’s life rather than to memorialize her death. And it is a mighty struggle. There is rarely a day I don’t somehow revisit parts or all of that nightmarish day in May. That entire day carved itself into my brain with such force that scenes still play back like videos in my head, rewind and play again. While I don’t remember much of what was said, I remember everything I saw and exactly how I felt. And then, of course, there is my overactive imagination that creates the visuals corresponding to the actual accident. How the car rolled… what she felt… how she screamed… the horror of the first responders who found her and re-started her heart…. How I wish I could turn off those images!
But I cannot. I live with them, as I live with the pain of my loss – the world’s loss of this amazing young woman.
And so, it is a mighty struggle to keep the promise I made. But I am, indeed, keeping it. I have adopted three wonderful girls who help to fulfill my need to mother. They re-create a future for me that was wiped clean when Ava died. I have returned to a city I have always loved; found a new, challenging job that I enjoy; and found a new home that I adore. I am reconnecting with dear old friends and making new ones. I have even started dancing again – something I dearly love and haven’t done in years.
Am I happy, you ask? I can honestly respond in the affirmative. But within that happiness is a chronic, mortal ache that I will carry to my grave. And behind my smile will always be my tears.
But I am dancing again…..