Thursday, August 16, 2012

Spinach Scramble and a Scone

Someone said something very recently that I accepted as incredibly hurtful and dismissive. The result was a long drive in the dark and frequent phone calls to a few beautiful friends to soothe my soul.  I sobbed. And I sobbed. And I sobbed.  And I sobbed.

It's amazing how a single word with just the right inflection can transform a day. Especially when its directed toward someone you love. Especially when that someone is your child. And particularly, when that someone is your dead child.

I grappled with why- why do people say such things? How could someone be so hurtful to another? What would that person have to gain from wounding another person?

But the whys are always met with tinning silence.

This morning, residual feelings of pain bounced up and down in my gut. 

"I get to choose how I accept this," I said to myself.

Still, my intestines felt twisted and past hurtful comments, to which I'd long since said farewell, returned for an invited visit.  But I had no time for wallowing...and,

This morning, I moved my 21-year-old daughter into her new university dorm (note that my 18 year old should have been moving in with her, but she can't because she's dead).  

I arrived a little before the office opened so I went to a coffee shop near campus.  I stood in line ahead of a lovely family with a beautiful, perfect little girl with Down's Syndrome. And she was beautiful and perfect.  Quietly, I bought an anonymous gift card to pay for their breakfast. I sat outside and watched them eat.  They were grateful, I knew. 

This gorgeous little girl kept looking at me, waving and staring, and I wondered if she knew something that I didn't know.

Two decades ago, I probably wouldn't have done something like this. But in 1994, my daughter came into my life and she shattered my heart open, sending seedlings of love and compassion (often through the Kindness Project) into the world. They are not my seeds, they are hers. 

This is who my daughter is... Cheyenne Cacciatore, beloved child, precious daughter, always loved and always missed. As valuable now as she was then and as she will always be. As worthy of dignity and recognition as anyone, dead or alive. And this is her fruition.

Done in loving memory of my own beautiful and perfect girl...

She is my baby, my child.

She is not a "just".

I finished my tea. I smiled and walked to my car, and I cried.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Don't forget to play.

Yesterday, I met with a bereaved person who is also a student.  After about an hour of talking- about all things good, bad, and in between- she said, "You know, you aren't at all what I expected you to be."

"Really?" I said in response.

"Not at all," she firmly reiterated.

"Hmmm," I grinned, "tell me more?"

She went on to say that she'd imagined me as a "depressed type", someone who'd be morose and down-trodden given the "serious and tragic nature" of my work.

"Oh?" I said. "And now you feel differently?"

"Well, yes," she continued, "you're rather... don't take this wrong, but..." She hesitated.

There was a long pause.

"Silly, " she continued after another long pause. "Almost childlike or playful or something that I can't quite put my finger on."

"So, you're saying I'm immature?" I smiled.

She apologized, and I said there was absolutely no need as I accepted that as a compliment.

I suppose I am a little immature for my age.  I do love the things children do, and I participate in these activities regularly despite the fact that my children are grown.

I love hiking barefoot. I love walking in hailstorms and getting wet (big) hair. I love playgrounds, particularly hanging upside down on the bars. Teeter-totters rule. Swings are even better. Sometimes I run in the store just because I can. I love to ride on the grocery cart downhill to my car when I'm finished shopping.  I make funny faces in the mirror, and I tease my kids incessantly (much to their chagrin). I start spontaneous 'tag-you're-it-and-you-can't-catch-me-now" games walking down the street with my daughter who calls me "immature"but then plays the game with me. I have an endless supply of immature behaviors in my repertoire of existence.

I even love squishing in the mud with friends' children.

Note: At first, the beautiful four-year-old (who would later join me in the mud party) looked at me like I was mad. I could see her mind working: Uh, mom... is this okay?

Soon after, however, she realized the glory of mud between the toes and joined me on the dark side.

Back to the conversation.

"Well, yes, I am, uh, less than adult-like at times," I admitted without shame. "But I cry too. Everyday as a matter of fact. The tears are never far from the surface... I cry for my child, and for her child and for his child and for their children and for her parents and his partner and for all the hurt and misery and suffering in the world."

She looked at me quietly. "How do you feel so sad and so happy," she asked with deep sincerity.

And I said:

This is what Death gives us: the ability to realize the preciousness of every moment in the world. The preciousness and the destruction. The joy and the sorrow. The beauty and the pain. I am here ever-so-briefly. I want to live life. To live life wildly. And free. To do those things which will enrich the moment without paying mind to what others may think or say about what should and shouldn't be. To surrender to the little girl who longs to play and seek and explore and just be. To cry when tears ask for a gateway, to stand in awe at those tiny spaces of life that are so easy to walk past, to live big- not small. I want color and contrast and silence and music and all of it. And, I am not afraid of life and the pains that it brings.

The masterpiece of this place is that we can have it all, the darkness and the light, and only in that way can we be whole and complete. Remember to mourn. Remember to play.

This is the gift of my dead child.  Though I'd rather have her than park swings or mud pies, this is the gift of my dead child.

And I'm kinda glad that I wasn't what that student expected.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Weep with us...

You will soon forget with whom you laughed. 
 You will never forget with whom you wept. 

 -Khalil Gibran 

Every other year, hundreds of bereaved parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, aunts and uncles join with professionals such as physicians, nurses, social workers, students, funeral directors, EMS workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, and others in community and solidarity. Please join us at the MISS Foundation's 9th Annual International Gathering. Because you cannot cry away this pain. It is unmendable. It can never be all right. Someone is always missing from our family circle. So we come together and remember.

-Healing with creative arts: stone work, poetry, music, dance, performance
-Mindfulness practices: meditation, prayer, stilling the mind, yoga, ecopsychology
-Integrative medicine- physical, emotional,  social, and cognitive well-being
-Results from the Traumatic Experiences and Resiliency Study (TEARS) on parental grief, economics, effects on individuals, families, and society, pharmacological interventions
-Perinatal and pediatric palliative care
-The power of empathy
-Why grief should not be treated as an illness

We explore. We inquire. We provide. We connect. We hold sacred. We give and accept love and comfort. We dance. We even laugh.

We also weep.

Come with us and share. Tell others you know.

You won't forget this experience nor the people with whom you weep.


--Breakout workshops and preliminary schedule listed here


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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