Each year, as May 3rd approaches, I wonder how I am going to express what the past, that day, and the future feel like as we remember losing Abbie and getting her back again.
I had number of themes running through my head, mentally outlining what was sure to be a brilliant update.
This year, the anniversary of Abbie’s drowning was not going to be gut-wrenching, overwhelming, or even sad. She is, and we all are, in such a good place that I looked forward to a day of celebrating her choice to come back instead of focusing on her departure.
It started off just that way. Our care coordinator came for a visit, and I wasn’t concerned at all about the appointment falling on May 3rd. This is otherwise known as “burying your head in the sand.”
I was fine throughout most of the meeting, but when she started asking checklist questions regarding how I am doing physically and emotionally, I had to tell her to put an asterisk by all my answers because “today is the day.”
There was a long pause, as our care coordinator, one of the most competent and compassionate people we’ve had in Abbie’s circle, processed what I had just said. I then shared the story about meeting Captain Mamiya the day before, and we were both in tears.
I, with sand still clinging to my eyebrows, was determined to be OK. As the afternoon began, however, it just became too reminiscent — the way the sun was shining, the pool sparkling in a way that was either mocking or comforting…I couldn’t decide. I had to get out of the house. I had to be away from there during the time of day it happened.
I went to a spot we drive past when we take Abbie horseback riding. I always long to stop, but never can. Sandy Beach was the perfect refuge for me. I got some lunch, and found a good spot on the sand. I didn’t even notice the signs in front of me when I first sat down.
I thought this was the perfect analogy for these years…especially when I later saw two men surfing right behind it.
We were swept away into a strong current we didn’t see coming. We have, over time, learned to surf these treacherous waters. We still have wipe-outs, and there are days I come up spitting water, gasping for air.
Life goes on.
In the first months that fact made my heart scream. I would walk through the grocery store, feeling skinned alive, stunned at the mundane conversations taking place around me. How could this be? My daughter was so hurt, our life was so crazy…how could life in general be the same around us?
Fragile scabs formed over my heart, thick enough to allow for others’ everyday joys and fears..teen girls on Facebook, new drivers, As (and Fs) on report cards…my friends’ lives mattered to me…life goes on.
But not mine yet, not really.
My saving grace has been Ray, whose mission seems to have been “Tiffany’s life will go on.” He has pushed me, pulled me and walked me into a full life – even when all I really wanted was to hibernate in Abbie’s cocoon. This process, undertaken by two headstrong people, was not without bumps and rattles — but, eight years on, I can say, for myself…life goes on.
I had planned to actually celebrate, and, on May 3rd, even bought a chocolate cream pie with lots of whipped cream that Abbie would enjoy, along with some candles to mark her “re-birthday.”
But, Ray had an event that evening, and the twins, having that Friday off from school, had plans as well. A twinge of disappointment at my unfulfilled plans disappeared as I realized that life stops for crises, for vigils, for funerals and burials. Celebrations can be rescheduled, because life goes on.
I found it an affirming sign that ours, as a family, has, when I and Abbie were alone that evening. Having gotten messages from all her brothers, and of course her Daddy, this day did not pass unrecognized. It’s just, now it is in context. It’s not the day our life stopped, it’s just the day we exchanged an
normal average life for an extraordinary one.
We are grateful most of all, Miss Abigail Faith, that through God’s grace and your perseverance, humor, grit, and resilience your life goes on. As a famous doctor once wrote, “Oh, the places you’ll go!!”