The water covers me on all sides. It is warm and clear in the afternoon sunlight. I am somewhere between the surface and the floor of the sea. Above me, I can see the soft tossing of waves, the sun poking and prodding around every crest. The sand below is perfectly white, and the sea floor takes on shapes and patterns among the rises and dips of the sand, on the rocks scattered about. The vastness and purity of it makes me feel like the sand must keep traveling farther down into the center of the earth, as if there were nothing else.
The hair on my arms sways in unison under the gentle currents. I am motionless underneath the surface, arms and legs floating listlessly. My eyes are open, staring out through the clear water without actually looking at anything at all. I am completely alone. There are no fish or creatures or reefs with life springing from them. It is beautiful, and desolate.
This is where I go to meet my lost daughter, the one who didn’t make it. This is where I go to sit with my sadness, where I allow the anguish and longing to settle on me, without judgement or care or distraction or hope. It’s here where everything is quiet, where all of the noise dissipates into the nurturing sounds of being submerged. I’m present down here, under the waves, in a way I can’t be above the surface. I feel half dead and relieved.
It’s here in this state of floating that I find her.
She appears before me just as I am, floating with her arms and legs outstretched in the clear warm water. The dark hair that covers her head waves from side to side. I stare at her perfect little eight pound body, the rolls in her thighs, the way her Momma’s cheeks swallow up her Daddy’s nose. I marvel at the size of her hands and peek around every nook and cranny of her body that I failed to look at it in the fourteen hours that I had her in my arms.
She is still dead before me, but she is here.
After three years of wrestling with the tragedy that took her life, there it very little in the way between us now. The anger is gone. The missing has eased. The preoccupation with my own fragile state no longer rules my waking hours. The fucked up ness of how she died has been analyzed and regretted with enough energy that I no longer have any left for it. I have thoroughly changed from losing her, slowly and completely, but even the changing seems to have run its course. It is just us now.
I grab her naked body and pull her into my chest. With my hands and elbows and arms I pull as much of her flesh into contact with mine. Her head rests against the beating of my heart, her toes and feet push against my stomach. Her hands are clasped together under my chin and I kiss them.
I used to tell her in this moment that I loved her. That I missed her. I would sing her songs. I would say a thousand times over that I was sorry. But there are no words anymore, nothing left that needs to be said.
The two of us float together, embraced, a father and his daughter, under the surface of the vast sea, drifting aimlessly.
For three years now, I have sat with my anguish. I have allowed grief to consume me in the way that grief requires us, without agenda or timeline or a set of rules. I have shaken my fists and thrown myself at the world and I have knelt down on my knees in brokenness and defeat. I have felt brave and wickedly vulnerable, the two feelings coming and going as easily as the wind. I have learned to live with that strange duality of feeling happy and sad in the exact same moment. I have felt the crushing blow of missing my daughter who can never return, how it makes you physically sick and short of breath. In the slow, arduous task of healing, my emotional, mental and spiritual state have taken on new forms and new meaning. I am not who I used to be.
I can feel the grip of grief letting go of me, like slowly pulling away from someone you may never see again. It comes with a certain level of fear and trembling, knowing how much my grief has tethered me to my missing daughter. In all these years of wishing the pain away, the irony now is realizing how much I will miss the pain.
I can feel the joy returning. There is a space in my brain again for new dreams and pursuits and adventures. There is a steadfastness in the present, a contentment that I never thought would be possible to feel again. I, too, am letting go.
The sound of music tugs at me to come up for air. Our sacred moment is coming to an end and I close my eyes and hold on to her for as long as I can stay under.
It’s easier to stay with her, to forget about the future, to leave the world behind. There is fear up there, and chaos, and worse yet, the possibility of more tragedy. And yet.
I loosen my hold on her until she is before me again. I kiss her forehead. And then I let go and swim up to the sounds coming from above.
If you're in a similar place, how have you coped with letting go? Or perhaps this idea isn't even something to be considered? Is there a space where you go to meet your missing children?
In this being my last post for Glow, I want to thank you for abiding with me over the past three years, first as a place of refuge and now as a place of community. Peace and gentleness to all of you, wherever you find yourself these days.