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To take heart…

I’m diving back into my memoir. Or more accurately, I’ve ditched the first draft and starting all over again. I so want to get this right. To share our journey of loss, but more so, our adventures through life, together as a family. Our daughter, their sister died, but we’ve lived.

Really lived.

In my quest to learn the art of stories involving loss, I read Mitch Albom’s the next person you meet in heaven.

In an exchange between Annie, the main character and her mother, Lorraine, they discuss forgiveness.

To offer background, when a defining moment in Annie’s life happened, Lorraine was off with her boyfriend on the beach of Ruby Pier, an amusement park they all went to. Eight-year-old Annie was left to her own devices and was about to get on a ride at the park when tragedy struck. A car came loose from the ride. It rocketed to the ground, toward Annie. Eddie, the maintenance man pushed Annie out of the way.

Annie lived. But her hand was severed in the process.

Lorraine asks Annie, “Can you break that last secret? Can you say the last reason for your resentment since Ruby Pier?”

Annie choked up. Her voice was barely a whisper.

“Because you weren’t there to save me.”

Lorraine closed her eyes. “That’s right. Can you forgive me for that?”

“Mom.”

“Yes?”

“You don’t need to hear me say it.”

“No, I don’t,” Lorraine said softly. “But you do.”

Mitch Albom’s words hit me, square in the chest.

Grief is a crazy thing. Sometimes it comes flying out of nowhere and smacks you in the head. Or, in this case, my heart.

The all-too-familiar pain seared through me. I set the book down, got up and mopped my floor. Yep, I literally dug in and cleaned my kitchen tile, perhaps trying to metaphorically wipe away the pain along with the dirt.

The words, “because you weren’t there to save me” kept running through my head.

My daughter Claire died of a misdiagnosed heart condition nearly nineteen years ago. While she was at camp.

I wasn’t there to save her.

The hardest part of the story is that others were, and they didn’t.

I’ve lived with this truth, this horrible, tragic reality for years.

I buried it in my soul, shoveling the last bits of earth over my nightmare, covering it up and then brushing it away to allow the light to seep through.

I chose to shut out the darkness and dance in her memory, share her love of reading and all the while hold on to the extended hands of my husband, two children, family and friends.

I learned to take heart, to look at the bright side of things and have faith that somehow everything would turn out alright.

It did.

But in little steps and big leaps. Raised voices, crushing pain, tears brushed away and smiles tucked in between. Anger so hot it seared my soul and laughter so deep it made me pee.

All the while experiencing indescribable love and unexpected gifts.

To say the last nineteen years has been a roller coaster ride is an understatement.

Once I determined my floor was clean enough and my head felt sufficiently rinsed out of bad thoughts, I went back to the book.

“Yes, yes, I forgive you Mom. Of course, I forgive you. I didn’t know. I love you,” Annie shares.

Lorraine placed her hands together.

“Grace?”

“Grace.”

“That,” Lorraine said, smiling, “is what I was here to teach you.”

Mitch Albom has taught me a thing or two through his writing.

It is my hope that I’ll be able to show what is in my heart and offer what I’ve learned through my experiences.

Maybe that’s why I’m here still…to teach.

I pray for grace as I move forward in sharing our journey through the darkness and into joy.

I ask for your hearts as I pour out mine…