Eight months

It’s been eight months since I’ve heard Isabel speak. Eight months since I’ve touched her hair, or given her a hug and a kiss. Eight months since I messed with her cute little ears in the mirror while she stands at the sink, brushing her teeth. Eight months since I’ve heard her laugh, or cry, or bicker with her sister. Eight months since I’ve watched her turn the page of a book, or listened to the scratch of her pen as she drew her comics, or laid her fingers over the piano to compose a song. Or heard her voice, singing, high-pitched and light, like a flute. Eight months since I’ve listened to her observations of the world, and what she was going to do about making the wrongs right. Eight months.

It’s a helluva long time to go without seeing your child. Impossible to imagine. We, as parents, spend our days in constant awareness of where are small children are at all times. Before they leave the house for college, we keep tabs on their whereabouts, 24/7. Recall the panic that laces down your veins like icy lightning when you’re in the grocery store and you lose track of your kid for a minute. It’s ingrained in us, as humans, to keep that awareness on at all times. It’s a light that burns in us constantly, never to be turned off, no matter how exhausting it can be.

But Izzy isn’t here now. Not in the physical sense. I went to a spiritual retreat a few weeks ago (more on that later) and the gifts of peace and certainty that were given to me there, are those that I’ll carry through to the rest of my life. And while I understand my new connection to Izzy better now–and feel it more–the physical human being connection is still there. I came home thinking I’d crossed some finish line; I’d learned/experienced/understood so much.

But there is no finish line. Not ever. What I learned at the retreat are tools to take me with me through the rest of my life; but the absence of her physical body is not going to change. And while it may seem somewhat torturous to begin this post with the list of “never agains” it’s something I need acknowledge, as a soul with a body that gave birth to another soul in a body. That’s the deal we made. Mother and daughter. Child of my body. And as the mother, I was supposed to go first. I was prepared to go first. She did instead. and now I have eight months and a lifetime left with that reality.

So when nights like this roll around and the absence is clamoring louder than the peace, I have to stop and pay my respects. But I don’t have to stay there.

Three nights ago, we drove up to Lake Tahoe so Talia could play in the snow. There was a blizzard happening, come to find out, and a 3 1/2 hour drive took 13 1/2. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Our GPS took us off the main highway into South Lake Tahoe, down a side road, snow-choked and dark. In summer months, I’m sure that road is a perfectly fine way to get to the neighborhood where we were staying, (if completely fucking indirect, Siri) but at night, with the snow flying horizontally, and the car skidding and jouncing, it was a nightmare. A terrorizing drive up the mountain into a wooded, dark area that felt miles from civilization. I was driving and become increasingly panicked at the lack of visibility, the narrow road, the skidding. Then Bill, who’d been counting down the tenths of a mile to our destination says, “We have to turn around.”

We had missed a turn in the storm because there was no turn. A road was closed, the snow covered the sign, and GPS didn’t know to tell us.

I thought we were going to die.

I don’t mean that in the “OMG, we waited an hour for food, and I was so hungry, I thought I was going to totally die” sense. No hyperbole here. I mean, I literally thought the car would get stuck in the snow, up the mountain, in freezing temperatures, and that we’d be stuck there overnight with our crying eight-year-old who could feel the fear in the car like a vapor. I was in full panic. And I never panic. I once had my driver-side window explode in a hail of safety glass on the freeway while traveling 60MPH with both girls in the back and didn’t so much as flinch. But this was real. This was going to end badly.

I got out and Bill took the wheel and calmly–but somewhat urgently– turned us around. I navigated us back to the highway that we never should have left in the first place, and we made it to the house which was–fun fact–practically a straight shot from the highway. Why our GPS told us to make that hideous turn, I’ll never know. Bill, who doesn’t deal in hyperbole either agreed that “It felt like life and death.”

But what I learned that night was that you don’t stop. So long as the car has gas and can go, you keep going. Even if it skids and shudders and the snow piles up thicker by the minute. Even as a storm rages at you, you’re warm and safe inside, and you keep going until you find solid ground again. Stopping and letting the cold and fear seep in is to give in to the terror and succumb.

Eight months without Izzy is going to turn into a year with a blink of my eyes. Then five. Then ten. The distance between our bodies growing further and further away. But the connection we have as spiritual beings for whom death isn’t the end, is what I must keep building. Buffering it against the storm of grief that wants to tear it down, and tell me that whatever connection we have is all in my head. That every sign, every amazing miracle, every unexplained moment of pure Izzy is mere coincidence when I know in my deepest heart there is no such thing.

There is no finish line, but we have to keep going anyway. But some nights, like this one, it’s just plain hard.

20 Comments Add yours

  1. You are a warrior. Even if every day is a battle you’ll battle through it.
    Thank you for sharing yourself with us. I can only imagine what you’re going through. Can’t wait to hug the shit out of you in Paris. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JR says:

      I going through, that’s the key. I can’t wait for Paris, either. Or any trip where I get to hug the people who have seen us through

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Anakalia 001 says:

    Your words are squeezing my heart and I can feel the desperation and anguish you are experiencing, but also your courage and strong will to move on.
    I send hugs, prayers and all my love to bring you through these hard times. There is not a single day when you are not in my thoughts and
    when my good wishes doen’t accompany you and your family. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JR says:

      Thank you, I firmly believe they help They’re energy and they’ve lifted us up.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Donna matthewman says:

    An amazing and beautiful piece, sending lots of love to you and your family ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Raine Miller says:

    Your Spiritual connection will never fade.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JR says:

      Agree 100% I carry her with me.

      Like

  5. brenda romconfan says:

    This was a tear jerker, that knife of loss bringing twisted, slicing through the notion of whatever progress we made for the day, was felt it in your words. Their is no finish line with grief indeed but a quiet introspective treking along the endless high way as long as you have gas. You are so much giving meaning to the journey, and a voice to the silent ones. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JR says:

      I hope it helps. I don’t like posting for the sake of hearing myself type, catharsis or not. I have a journal for that lol But I do want to help others through their grief journeys, but I’m still learning how.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. brenda romconfan says:

        You are helping. I think after a time with grief a certain numbness sets in and this is helping me thaw out.

        Like

  6. Jenna says:

    Love you so very much, Jen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JR says:

      Love you, Jenna. Always.

      Like

  7. cadencerae says:

    Much love, hugs and prayers! I don’t know how it feels to physically but I did have to endure a year and half without my daughter in my custody and a year of that we were 18hrs apart and I couldn’t go home until after my son was born due to insurance and her dad’s stubbornness. But carrying my son while knowing I didn’t have my daughter was pure torture I to this day don’t know how the stress and heartache didn’t cause me to miscarriage except that God was protecting him. Also I know there’s a whole moral to the snow storm story about keep moving but it just made me flash back to the time we were caught in a snowstorm on the side of a mountain and hit a snow bank which caused us to get stuck. There were very few vehicles that passed us and none that stopped to help, I started to panic! I was pregnant, we had only what we packed for a few days visit home,no extra blankets or food or water plus there’s a good chance a vehicle could have slammed into us as the snow thickened and nightfall approached. Thank God that didn’t happen a nice man with a way to pull us out happened by and help us but yes I had the oh my goodness we’re going to die moment too! I live in South Louisiana so I rarely see snow and I’m all up for a bit of snowfall now and again but heck to the no id I’m get on the road again during a storm!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JR says:

      I’m so glad you’re safe. Mother Nature is not to be messed with but the kindness of people never ceases to amaze me.

      Like

  8. Ahima Booklover says:

    Your memories and the way you put your thoughts in words catches me every time. You are a survivor, an artist, a warrior. And I guess an guardian angel were with you that day. Keep taking step after step and hold tight to every memory of Izzy. 💛🍃🦋🍃💛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JR says:

      To the memories and to her too. She’s there, the trick is learning how to feel her in this new reality. ❤

      Like

  9. Carol Kunz says:

    We have never met but we belong to a club that no parent should belong to. I wish I could have read this 42 year’s ago. I kept my pain inside for 17 years. Until I found peace. I know Izzy is with you and will always be with you. Your harrowing trip was, I believe, a sign that you must go on and live your life because Izzy doesn’t want you to be sad. You are such an inspiration and I know some days you just want my to hide from the world, and that’s okay but try to limit those days. I know because I did and I missed out on so much. Hugs and Love to you Emma and I hope one day we will meet in person.

    Like

    1. JR says:

      I’m sorry for your loss but I’m relieved to know that you’ve found peace. It’s a long road but I’ve been blessed in a hundred ways and sharing that in the hopes of helping others is what Izzy wants me to do now. I wanted to hide too. Or leave. But I see a clearer path now and I hope you do too. So much love to you.

      Like

  10. Terri Lee says:

    Emma, this is heartfelt beauty. My heart aches for you. I know the truth about the pain of losing a loved one. My dear husband lost a valiant 5 year battle with cancer. But the loss of a child is of course deeper, because it’s not the way things are supposed to be. The world is out of order and we try our best to make sense of a nonsensical event. Your strength shines through your words. But I am well aware just how exhausting being strong can be. One step at a time. One breath at a time. One day at a time. Love and peace to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

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