A look into my life eleven years ago, and now………
The hot July sun began to peek over the mountains when the kids awoke sluggishly. I prodded them to get moving quickly so we wouldn’t be late for work and preschool. The morning commute was thirty minutes in each direction and always resulted in stops at the coffee shop for hot chocolate, accompanied with many giggles to pass the time.
Complacent, stressed, exhausted I was. The daily grind of long days in my career that I loved, coupled with the demands of being a wife and mother, and the commute, had me hanging by a thread physically and emotionally. Let’s just say my dance card was full. Looking back, I was so fulfilled in life, yet completely devoid of what really mattered. I didn’t entirely understand what I had at the time as I was consumed with going through the arduous and continual motions of everyday life, unaware of the gracious gifts I had been granted.
That summer day, at the young age of 31, in a mere second, my life was changed forever. A routine drive to work ended in a car accident involving my two children and me. My daughter would not survive. I now know there is no such thing as routine.
Never being able to say goodbye, I was broken and guilt-ridden beyond repair, bearing an outlook of shame and hopelessness that became my new normal. Afraid to leave the house, petrified to make eye contact with the world, and terrified of my own reflection in the mirror, I retreated home and covered myself in a crippling and gloomy blanket of my new reality. For the first time, I felt completely alone. It was terrifying.
I was consumed with what would never be. No more little girl sleep-overs, no more playing dress-up, painting nails, or dance recitals. Scared that I didn’t know who I was or what to do, resulted in me being a complete mess for years. I desperately craved the need to know I was not alone and that hope existed. As the years progressed, I became tired of living in despair, wearing the heaviness of the guilt. Eventually, I realized I had a choice to make.
Exhausted and alone, I slowly began praying for strength and guidance to find my purpose and ability to persevere. From bible studies, support groups, to connecting with others online, little by little, I started making connections with others who understood this life-those that appreciated what it was like to have loved and lost. Those that had loved so freely wearing their hearts on their sleeve, only to have them ripped and torn, scattering fragments of their once ideal life into unrecognizable debris. Those that had survived. They inspired me.
Gradually, as I clinged to my faith, my eyes became aware of God’s love, the true magnificence of this life, perceiving everything in a new light. The dark shades had been pulled back revealing a soft and muted glimmer of light just begging to come in. I had found hope. Better yet, it had found me.
Increasingly, tripping over the toys in the living room didn’t strike an angry chord, the dirty clothes basket over flowing didn’t gnaw at my conscious and, interestingly, I saw joy in a sink full of dirty dishes. Sticky toothpaste decorating the bathroom counter produced a grin as I realized how precious these little annoyances actually were. My heart began to expand and slowly fill with gratitude. The happy memories repressed for so long began to grow. Thoughts of Lydia taking my make-up bag painting her round little face, all the while destroying every ounce of my cosmetics while admiring her reflection in the mirror, made me laugh out loud and give thanks, of course with a flood of tears too.
Now eleven years later, laughter finds me when I think of her little angry voice exclaiming me to be her “evil stepmother” or when she stomped up the stairs to her room after she was told “no”. I crack a smile when I see a little strawberry blond girl from behind in frilly mismatched clothes as well as when I watch Cinderella, making me more inclined to leave the little dirty fingerprints on the walls at home.
Finding peace amidst loss is a graceful waltz between two worlds. A grueling quest to live concurrently in the past and present, clenching onto memories of the past while allowing in happiness and hope for the future. One day at a time.
I am not the same person I used to be. Grief has changed me, exposing the raw true self that laid beneath the surface. Now, I willingly embrace the sadness as my tears fall while sipping my hot chocolate remembering Lydia and her childhood wish to someday become a chocolate shopper (work at a coffee shop) and all of her many shenanigans.
This is not the life I had dreamed of or wanted. A life I never would have expected. I loved my daughter with my entire being and being able to hold her in my arms for nearly six years was worth the endless pain and a lifetime of heartache. I would do it again in an instant. Lydia, my first-born, taught me what love was all about. I have been fortunate to know unconditional love at an intensity like no other. Having been blessed with three other children since, my heart overflows and absorbs moments with unwavering gratitude.
Although it will try with all its might, grief doesn’t have to hold us captive forever. There is a sweeter side, believe it or not. Living and feeling every moment, realizing the fragility of this life and the power we have been given to change our outlook and future, can free us from the suffocating grips of grief. Every day, remembering Lydia, her joy and her gifts, I can spread her sparkle and love everywhere.
By reaching out to others, giving and growing, we can be transformed with hope as we learn to acknowledge the good while overcoming the bad. We can allow our loved ones to be the driving force propelling us to blossom and come alive as we experience the true splendor of life and flourish like we could never believe possible.
It’s not easy, but together we can do this!