Grief is a wall. With the loss of a child that wall can seem infinite. There are things suddenly on the other side that you don’t think you’ll ever be able to do again – making their favorite foods, listening to the music they shared with you, shopping at their favorite store- to name just a few of my things. And then one day you break through the wall for the first time.
It took me 2 years, 3 months and 24 days to be able to walk into the clothing store Anthropologie without almost throwing up, turning around and bolting. That is 848 days (to be exact) since my 23 year old daughter died in a random, freak, unexplainable, incomprehensible accident. But for some reason on that day I walked in.
It was one of those beautiful sun drenched days where you just get cosmically pulled away from your desk for some trivial errand that all of the sudden has to be done. Once that happens, it is a slippery slope that typically leads to the shoe store or a favorite boutique. But for 847 days my car drove just that much faster when it passed Anthropologie, which seemed to be on the way to and from everywhere.
You see, the year before she died she worked there. As a professional ballerina she needed some way to help put food on the table. She loved it. Whenever I was traveling anywhere within a 200 mile radius of where she lived I’d find my way to her for the weekend. And that always meant a visit to “Anthro” where she’d have a few special things stashed for me. I even earned the title of “Anthro Mom” by her colleagues. Every single item still hangs in my closet. Even the chinos that she convinced me would fit. She was right, although it was the largest size on the pile. I bought 2 pairs! 848 days later I had lost 2 sizes necessitating a belt to keep them up above my knees. Even looking like clown pants I would wear them as if they were Chanel.
What was it that enabled me to walk into Anthro that day? Maybe she knew I was ready. Maybe, after I returned my husband’s appreciated but unwanted birthday gift to the store two doors down, her indomitable spirit momentarily guided me through the door. Maybe it wasn’t just a coincidence that the adorable sales girl with the warm smile and kind eyes encouraged me to try on their “house” brand of jeans, which she was sure would fit. As I posed in the mirror, just as my beautiful girl used to but with no one to snapchat for feedback, I telepathically sent her the image. And somehow I could still breathe. I bought 2 pairs. And this time they weren’t the largest on the pile. I had broken through the wall.
As mothers, we collect cherished memories. Memories that are forever deeply etched in our souls. Major ones like graduations. Milestones like their first pointe shoes. And the seemingly little ones, like a snapchat of them when they are far away and yet still want our feedback and love. Those memories are finite, but we never know which will be the last until it is. And if the last is because they left us first, then our hearts and souls get so totally decimated that those memories must wait. They must wait until we find the strength of heart and depth of soul to revisit them and give them new life.
Hold onto your memories. Capture them. Every day. May you never need them as I have. But if, after 848 days, you too walk a similar journey, then you will be forever grateful for each and every one.