Sunday, July 27, 2008

July 27

Today, I took a seven-mile journey by foot to the Amitabha Stupa in Sedona, Arizona with my daughter's ashes in my pack. I've never had the opportunity to travel the red clay of Sedona with her, and this was a beautiful, albeit painful, trek.  Thank you Angie (Dallas), Bianca (Emma), Sari (Jacob), Kirsten (Emma), Zulma, Todd (Courtney & Nicholas), Yvette (Gabriella), Jimmy, Kim (Tyler), Debbie (Sarah), Rob, Kara (Dakota), Katie (Blake), Anna (Jared), Kelli (Jennifer, also 7/27), my other MISS Foundation friends, and mostly my beloved children for pausing, just a moment, with me today. I am both sad and very grateful.

A Wave of Surrender...

14 years ago, on July 27, 1994, my beloved child died.

I was catapulted into dark, deep waters where waves of pain and loss crashed down upon me relentlessly. Grief, like a powerful rip tide, ensnared me and then carried me far from the familiar shore. I could no longer see my home between the waves that hammered me, and I fought for even a glimpse of the recognizably blue sky. The waves persisted ... and tumbled me, over and over and over, disorienting and confusing me. All was darkness and panic. I fought it. Occasionally, I would reach the coveted surface for a desperate, gasp of saline-laced air only to be wrenched back under moments later. Pockets full of time, direction, and reason were emptied into the hungry ocean. Grief filled my lungs. I would not survive unless I surrendered.

And so I surrendered.

Like any good surfer knows, there is no other way to survive this type of Herculean force. Thus they teach the mantra: Surrender to the waves. So, too, it is with the tide of grief; and the battle, which I could never win, ended. I allowed the victor to take me adrift to unfamiliar shorelines and places of discomfort. I became one with both the quiescence and wild motion of the waves. I was mindful of grief‘s proclivities to ebb and flow, tolerant of its unpredictability, patient with the bitter taste it left in my mouth; and in exchange, it became kinder to me. We became cautious comrades. Eventually, as does the rip tide, the sea of grief released me to the shore. It spit me, grateful, from its jowl like Jonah from the whale’s rancid belly, and I found my way back home. But the places I had seen while on my unintended and uninvited abduction would change me forever.

This was how I survived in those early months and years. I allowed myself to just be. I stopped questioning myself – my impulses, my tears, my thoughts, my rituals, my wishes, my suffering, my sanity- and I let it be. There was a certain peace that followed my decision to surrender. I no longer had to pretend to be “fine, thank you”, and I would no longer be the metamorphosed elephant at baby showers where only miracles are welcomed. I no longer punished my failure to complete grieving within the allotted three-month time period by subjecting myself to the insufferable insensitivity of others. I could relinquish the rehearsed smile and perfunctory hugs and, instead, acknowledge my ongoing sadness, isolation, and despair. I could be- me.

Here I am, 14 years later, and filled with gratitude for having surrendered to grief. My daughter’s life was worthy of every tear I shed into my ocean of pain. Her death was worthy of my armistice with the waves of grief. Our love was worthy of a moratorium on normalcy and mediocrity. Simply, she was worthy of whatever time and space I needed to mourn her physical absence in my life. I am still, on occasion, overtaken by the tidal waves of grief. I don’t fear their arrival, and I am more prepared, now, to be transported to distant shores. I carry her flag with me as I travel, bury it deep in distant sands, and I hope to help others know her through knowing me. I am stronger and have faith that I will survive and learn from what comes next. And I trust that the waves will release me, as they do, and I will come home once again.

Originally written for a feature piece in "A Glow in the Woods", a beautiful  blog  for "mommas of lost babies"  --
Thank you Janis and Ferdinand for this opportunity...


kate said...

Thinking of you and Cheyenne today...i have a candle lit for her.

Anonymous said...

My thanks to you.
My gratitude and appreciation.

I love this piece. I love it.
I love that after 14 years, her presence is still with you, that she is climbing every step with you.
That you have struggled through the tunnel of despair able to teach us, heal us in ways you may not reconize, but which keep our own steps ever climbing.

You are an example of the "Beauty of pain", the "Beauty of grief"... that in the beginning we just can't comprehend.

Cheyenne, you have given your gift to the world.

Love Always, Angie

Anonymous said...

[silent in simple awe, loving affection and true appreciation for you ... and for Chey]

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing this honest, compassionate piece of your heart. It is beautiful.

k@lakly said...

Thinking of you today as you remember your beautiful Cheyenne. Your words are a wonderful tribute to her lasting legacy and a beacon for those of us who are walking behind, yet with you, on this journey.
Love and Light.

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thanks to each of you for your kind words of support, and for thinking of my girl... I am so appreciative.

Olive Lucy said...

a day late but i was lost in my own thoughts yesterday but i am sending you many peaceful thoughts today.

janis said...

Thank you again, Joanne, for your beautiful contribution to GITW.
Thinking of you, and Cheyenne, too.


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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