My daughter is dead two years.
Time is like a funhouse hall of mirrors. Some memories stretch your worst parts, and shrink your best. Your boobs are all but eradicated and those thighs feel wider than possible. In the next step, you look tall and lean and impossibly good. “I want to live in this mirror,” you whisper to no one in particular. Your daughter is alive in this mirror, and you are happier than you thought possible. The next reflection, the straight, unchanged view of the present may be the most horrifying of all.
I like the funhouse mirror analogy. Because the moment Grief sneaked into the room, and breathed his hot, sour breath on my neck, it felt like a carnival ride—it was nauseating and smelled funny. I recognized the puddles of sick around me from my earlier rides. I glimpsed the freak show catatonic slip out the back leaning against the wagon, smoking a cigarette, laughing at the bearded lady. Other people’s lives of contentment are all smoke and mirrors too, I realized it back then like it was some kind of secret.
I’m not there anymore, but it makes me miss the immediacy of that early grief. All these mirrors together in one place are confusing me. They are distorting the truth. I don’t want to return to the worst moments of my life, even if the mirror makes that moment so present and exacting in its goal that it feels attractive. The rawness of grief put everything into perspective. I had no other goal than mourn, weep, survive. At two years out, I miss the surety of that perspective. I wanted to outrun grief then. I am in some other mirror now, the one that looks normal, except that it distorts my forehead to a large teardrop shape of grief.
No, wait, time is like time. It moves forward. And you heal in spite of yourself. You heal even when you absolutely don't want to heal because the wound is the only thing tying you to your dead baby. You end up in a place that looks like healing. Or you don't. But you end up. You get two years from the moment of death and you shake your head and you wonder if you really remember anything about the early grief except that you are absolutely sure it was the worst feeling in the world. And that holding her dead body was absolutely the best of the worst moments of your life.
I try to bend time with my mind, twist it like a Mobius strip, until the beginning and end are one. On that two year strip of time, I can touch her again while simultaneously realizing what it means two years later to have only two hours with my daughter. Even if I can't change her death, I still want This Me to tell That Me to breath her in little bit longer. I would shake me. “Savor these two hours,” I would tell me. “Study her like the most important test of your life. Undress her. Look at her bum and her little tootsies. Sing her the song in Spanish that puts all your babies to sleep. This is the only two hours you get her for your whole fucking life. Get out of your pity party and kiss every part of her.”
I dreamed her once. It was winter at my grandmother’s house, and she clung to my midsection. And I, thinking she was still inside, reached down, surprised to feel her body on the outside and to see her eyes open. Lucia smiled at me. I lifted her and looked into her violet eyes. She was lovely and peaceful. It was the only time I saw her alive, and it was wholly in my subconscious. Sometimes I miss the dream as much as I miss the daughter. It was a time and moment when I believed that I knew her. She was mine. And I was hers.
I never knew her. She never belonged to me. Two years later, I don’t even have her scent in my memory anymore. I don’t remember her face exactly. I cried to our grief therapist two weeks out. “I am afraid to forget her,” I cried. And the therapist said, “You will never forget her. She’s your daughter.” I didn’t mean that I would forget that she existed. I meant I would forget what her face looks like in real life. And even then, I was forgetting. It was drifting away like the funhouse analogy. I knew it and that is why I cried. I forget her.
Pictures flatten her, stretch her out, cover her with death. I can't bear to look at them anymore. They are not her. They are like Magritte's painting The Treachery of Images. Ce n'est pas ma fille. This is not my daughter. This is a picture of my daughter, but it is not her. When she was born, her nose had life, even though it didn't. This nose, this nose is bruised and covered in dense vernix. This nose is dead and two-dimensional and doesn't look kissed at all. My daughter was three-dimensional, like my love for her. I have nothing of her now but the flatness of grief. When solstice comes, I will walk out into the darkness, bundle up and remember her with the light. It is the contradiction that I feel in me--warm and loving at the same time as her death has left me cold and alone.
The winter cradles me in its icy arms, kisses my forehead, reminds me that I am alone, but warmed by the absolute cold of grief. It is a riddle, a kind of zen koan of grief. When you have the cold, I will give you the winter. When you are burning with the heat, I will give you the sun. When you are the loneliest, you feel part of the universal tribe of lonely people. I meditate on it. If grief were a season, it would be winter--barren, empty, yet silent. The air holds no moisture, no kisses of dew. I am in Grief’s cold clutches, and the cold is somehow fitting now. In that, I take a comfort. Everything around me feels empty and cold and has lost life too.
My daughter is dead two years. Lucia is dead two years. She is so impossibly dead. I get it now. I get it, but I still don’t like it.
When you reach the anniversary dates of your child(ren)'s death or birth, do you reflect on your grief? How has your grief changed? What is distorted about your sense of early grief? What is distorted about where you think you will be in your grief five years, ten years, twenty years from now? What would the you of right now tell yourself in the moments right after your child(ren) died, or in the moments when after you found out your child(ren) would die?