Updated: Jan 10, 2020
The grieving mind is a swirling, bitter soup of unanswerable questions, a miserable cocktail of what ifs and if onlys. My mind is steeped daily in an onslaught of questions so painful, so terrifying to ask and even more terrifying to answer, that they can only be whispered to the dark. They can only be carried and repeated in the lonely, packed away corners of my being.
I feel shame when I admit to these questions.
I feel fear when I consider that I will never know the answers, and even more fear when I consider what those answers might be.
But I think that living among them means I am living closer to truth. Everyday, I consider that I am not safe, that the world is not what I think it is, God is not who we say he/she/it is, heaven is not a place of high walls and big rooms, life and death are not so easily defined, hearts are both more and less than we realize, rules and religion will not always protect you, and maybe, just maybe, we know absolutely nothing at all.
I don't say these things with certainty. I don't arrive at any foregone conclusions. I merely consider. I consider the probabilities, the impossibilities, the vast and the familiar, the here and there, the now, the infinite. I consider things many people are too afraid to be confronted with. I face the distinct possibility that I may arrive at the worst calculable conclusion at any given moment, and I keep breathing. I wake every morning to the understanding that I may be living under the most distressing, least favorable circumstances imaginable with no hope for change. And I keep going in the face of that.
What if there is no divine being? What if we are just hurdling through a cold, unyielding universe on a rock that feels absolutely nothing for us? What if there is nothing larger, nothing lovelier than this? What if life has no value beyond what we give it? What if love has an ending?
What if my child is really, truly gone?
That is the most painful question of all. What if my heart is sending love into a void, like a broken boomerang, never to return?
And this ... this is the question that haunts me the most in the passing weeks of late. What am I mother to now?
I am, will always be, Evelyn's mom. But what does that mean now? Am I mother to a child who lived, or a child who died? Am I mother to a memory, or a spirit? Am I mother to a feeling in my heart, or an image in my mind?
Am I mother to a jar of ashes? Or a book of photos? Or a room full of dispossessed belongings?
Am I the mother of some Youtube videos or a Facebook page? Am I the mother of a small, stuffed wolf, a lock of hair, a pair of purple eyeglasses, a pillowcase and a lingering, fading scent, a dog-eared page in a book?
How do I define Evelyn now? How do I define myself?
People tell me all the time about Evelyn, as though they know her better than I do. They say or imply that she is in heaven, that she is in spirit, that she is light, that she is happy, that she loves me, that she sees me, that she's with me. Sometimes, I feel those things too. And for a brief while, I believe them with my whole heart.
But there are many days that I feel absolutely nothing at all, except the fear, the gnawing, debilitating fear that Evelyn truly is no more, and that nothing, nothing is how I ever believed it to be. That I have lived forty years of projection and fantasy, convincing myself that this world and my life are somehow more magical, more special, more controllable, and more secure than they actually are.
Part of me wants desperately to give in and slide back into the complacent stories I once fed myself, to be lulled and coddled by my belief that I have a power I don't actually have. But it's not possible for me to rest easy anymore. Beneath whatever lies and fallacies I blanket my heart in, there is the burr of my daughter's death. The thing I never saw coming. The moment I saw how very unprotected and vulnerable we all actually are. And the startling clarity that only a trauma and loss of this magnitude can bring. It is an awakening of the worst kind.
I don't know if there is a God or Goddess, a benevolent being of collective spirit and love. I don't know if there is a life after death, a continuation of consciousness on another plane of existence. I don't know if there is magic or power or something more than this. I don't know if Evelyn is still out there in another form, still feeling and receiving my undying love, still strengthening me with hers. And I won't pretend to know to keep you comfortable. But I will continue to ask. I will continue to stare the worst possibilities in the face ... and hope. I will continue to send my cries into the void and wait, quietly and patiently, to hear her soul sing back to me.
There is a piece of me, like a small, fragrant flower in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, that is still blooming a belief in something more, something better. And despite my fears and reticence, I will shelter and nurture that bloom, if only for the beauty and relief it provides in an otherwise endless and desolate landscape. But I don't know that it will ever grow into the garden I once tended before her death, that rich and nourishing place which lent color and joy and meaning to this life.
I want, more than anything, to know that my daughter goes on, that she is both outside of me, autonomous and complete, and inside of me, vibrant and connected. But I won't entertain a relationship with an ideal. I want the real Evelyn. I don't want a concoction or projection of my imagination, a memory or story that lives only in my own head and heart. If the truth is that the reality of Evelyn died with her body, then I would rather know and live with that torment than comfort myself with anything less than her.
So everyday I wake up, and I face the questions most are too afraid to be confronted with. Everyday I call to her, and I listen and I wait, to hear her calling back. Everyday I accept that it is likely not all as bad as it feels right now, but that it is also likely not all as good as I once believed it to be. And I breathe. And I keep going. And I find a way to exist in that uncertainty, in the swirling, bittersweet soup of my grieving mind and my shattered yet hopeful heart.