That is all I can say, that is all I can think.
Twenty years. That is a long time ago, and yet the events of that day 20 years ago feels like yesterday. I can still remember everything so vividly, but with the blessings of TIME, I don’t have to be drawn there hundreds of times a day as I once was.
Acceptance they say is the final stage in the grief process. Twenty years. I can now accept that this really happened and I can accept that any “do-over” scenarios could never happen. Acceptance: I have to live with WHAT IS! I have learned how to live with WHAT IS. I accept that many things will always make me sad. I accept that sadness.
In accepting WHAT IS, I have also had to learn to let go of what isn’t. I raised four kids, but now I just have three in my life. But the thing is—I now treasure those three even more than I could have ever treasured those four. Losing one makes the others absolutely perfect.
I will never be able to say that anything good could have come from losing Rebecca. But it did turn on a switch in my heart that placed me in a deeper level of living and loving. Of trying to live in the moment. To appreciate each moment, to be present for events.
I really had to take charge of my life. Life felt so out of control for so long. But I learned after many years that it was just my emotions that were out of control. JUST my emotions…funny. I learned how to take control of the little that I could. I knew every year these anniversary dates and special holidays would be awful. Each year I dealt with them differently. Mostly it meant being surrounding by Mike and the kids—any combination. There were years John, Juli, and I went to Disneyland in California on Dec. 3. That felt good. Many years I spent a week at the beach with whoever was available. Sometimes I went to see Julie or Sarah. A few times I worked on hospice workshops with bereaved children.
Twenty years….this year I am flying up to see Sarah. I am writing from the plane. Twenty years ago I had quite a flying phobia. Now I find it a quiet place to think, or read or draw or sleep. Without being buckled into Seat 13A here, I am not sure I could let my thoughts flow as they are.
I remember yearning to find some bereaved mother who actually survived this loss. I never really could for a LONG time. I think I found some of them with my writing group—though they were not an example to me when I first met them. Now, I think we have all learned to live like this.
Now, I guess, I am an example. I laugh, love, and create, and am empathetic to just about all people.
And I live with that emptiness. I miss my little round-faced, raspy-voiced, constant-talking, mind-of-her-own constant motion with tapping feet and high kicks who grumbled when I embarrassed her. I guess now at 20 years it doesn't matter who she could have been. It matters that she WAS and will occupy the world as long as those who knew and loved her are here.
Twenty years ago she chose her yearbook quote:
What lies behind us
And what lies before us
Are small matters compared to
What lies within us.
She has left so much within all of us. It has taken a long time to discover it in many cases.
Another of her quotes:
When one door of happiness closes another opens. But sometimes we focus on the closed door so much it is hard to see the one that has opened to us.
I have tried to shred that closed door, bang it down, smash it open. In 20 years. I knew the truth all along…I could never open it. Even while still tugging at that closed door, I have gone through many new doors. I have been able to offer help to other bereaved people. I have been able to figure out my needs—ways to help me live like this.
But, oh how I have missed my Rebecca these 20 years. Twenty years.
--Peggy C., Transitions LifeCare volunteer