This is a hard photo challenge for me because I want to say how fleeting life is, which is so cliché. How desperately short life can be, which is also so cliché. I want to wallow in the grief of my daughter’s death. How I search for memories now that it has been 7 years since she was murdered. What I go through every single day, when I open my eyes in the morning. How angry I am that the man who killed my daughter walks free due to a corrupt judge. I want to share to others how hard it is to accept a death of a child that was so senseless it leaves me weak with sadness. All the years that have disappeared like they never existed. I want others who have never had extreme grief to understand. It is difficult to let it go. I try, but I always have it there in my heart. So I just write my feelings down and I take photos of the this absolutely beautiful country that I live in now. Colombia. We have a lot in common. Death, senseless death, which is not something people can just let go of. We survive. We continue. But we remember. These photos are for my daughter, who fades ever so slowly from my memory. I still walk and meditate for her in all the beautiful areas right outside my door. It helps but it doesn’t keep me from missing the woman she could have become.
Mother’s Day is coming this weekend. I have a hard time with this day. I spend the day reflecting on the past with my children. One who is deceased the other who doesn’t really have a lot of contact with me. It makes me think what could I have done differently? I was the Mom who was always involved with their activities. But then I took care of my own mother for years who had dementia. It took a great tole on me and my children. I now think should I have kept my mother in my home? Should I have divorced sooner than later? I don’t know. But I love my memories of happy times in their lives and all the happiness they grew up with. That just left when I decided to divorce and then my daughter was murdered.
I reflect on this photo, and realize Misha was a reflection of me, she looked like me and was very headstrong like me. I treasure this photo. I could beat myself up over and over again because I might have changed something in our lives and maybe she would still be here. But as I grow older and I meditate daily with Yoga, I realize we all have free will. We cannot change the path of our destiny, because we can’t control others, just ourselves. Most people do not want to change, and they will never do it. Me, well I wanted change after this horrible time in my life and I have become a different person. The problems in our lives are often brought on by thinking too much and worrying too much. Once we let go, we find a solution. Maybe not immediately, maybe not for a few years, but the solution is there. We just need to look for it and we need to accept that people come and go in our lives. Even our own children.
I have discovered while living in Colombia I do not live a life full of plans. Plans here are often disrupted with the littlest things. A battery has died in the car, and you need to wait for the local mechanic to come and give you a jump, the weather changes and that walk you planned on is now going to be later in the afternoon, the party you have at 3 in the afternoon with friends turns into an all night dance fest. Or it is a beautiful day and you take off in the truck to visit a place that is beautiful, remote and in the middle of the Rainforest.
Reflections in life are usually in the moment, not in memory. I have discovered this in my time as an expat in Colombia. I reflect often, but usually I reflect on how I can make my life better, to improve, not to waste time on mistakes or others who contributed to those mistakes. It is all about being the best person you can be. I reflect on that often. I know I am not there yet. But I will be before I die. At least I will die trying.
Every year when the anniversary of my daughter’s death approaches I face the dilemma about whether or not I should remark about it on my Facebook. I then think of Misha and what she would want. She would definitely want to have the spotlight for a day. So I put a memorial to her on my feed.
This year I was overwhelmed with the lovely thoughts everyone has written, and I want to thank you for them. As the years go by I worry I will forget memories or they will fade, sometimes I even get her age wrong. How can this be? I think because I will always remember her as 20 years old: the age at which she left this world. I have so many photos of her growing up and I sometimes look through them just to refresh my mind about life moments that were special. It hurts of course when I look through past memories but they also make my heart smile.
Misha was a lover of social media, she got me started on Facebook, and Twitter. I am so inept at these things that I talk to her in my mind sometimes when I am trying to figure a new app out, when something can’t be downloaded, or is downloaded but I don’t know where to look for it. She was a whiz at all of it and as the years pass and we become more entwined with all that social media offers, such as Netflix, Smart TV’s, all the phones and more that are our lifelines I know she would be loving all of it.
So thank you all for taking a moment out of your day to send love to me and to Misha who is still with me everyday here in my beautiful Villa. She is with me when I look at the hummingbirds, or when I rescue one. She is with me when the beautiful Ibis that have made their resting spot in the Norfolk pine come to visit. She is with me because I buried her ashes in a garden made especially for her, and I see the butterflies all around her on the flowers. She is with me because she loved animals and she would love all of mine. She is with me in my heart until I leave this world and hopefully am reunited with her soul.
Life isn’t a narrow path upon which we walk in a certain direction. Life is curves and loops, a winding road to a quest which is impossible to predict. We can try our hardest to obtain our desires, but then something changes and so do we. We have to adapt to what is given to us.
We can take any direction, thinking it is the right one. But along comes a bump and that deviation changes everything forever. What we get is often not what we expect nor what we have planned for. We need to adapt. We need to think broadly in terms of our future. We can’t be limited in our observations of life and the world. We must be open to all possibilities.
There are lines we should not cross, immoral ones. Those are the exceptions. We have to stay true to our own moral compass and find our own truths. But we cannot follow a thin line. To follow that line without an ability to change is to become stuck without experiencing everything you need to see in a life that can be way too short.
If we look at life in such a way that we know it is fleeting, then we can expand and grow. We can find ourselves even when we feel everything is falling apart. Because we are
the future, we have free will.
That is how I have adapted to the death of my daughter. I know she had free will. I was not responsible for her choices as she matured. I did my best, but I am still haunted. I always will be. I will never know if I could have changed the outcome. I will always think about the thin line.
Yesterday was just lousy. By that I mean really damn horrible. I actually cried for most of the afternoon, until I fell asleep, it was that kind of lousy day. It was a day I want to erase from my memory. But just maybe this post will show others about proper etiquette when dealing with the death of a child.
I had someone tag me on Facebook about finding a dog almost dead on the side of the road and trying to save it. She wrote that all she could think of was me and what happened with my daughter who was left dead on the side of a highway after she was murdered by a hit and run driver. I know she meant well. I actually answered that I was glad the dog had someone to hold it while it died..because I was. In actuality, I should have said ” please take me out of this post as I can’t handle the image you just sent to me that I pictured as my daughter instead of the poor dog”. She wrote of blood coming out of the dog’s mouth, and of it taking its last breath. All I could think of was my daughter and what she must have looked like laying there on the side of the road when she was hit. Was she still alive? Did she suffer? The questions that I have worked 6 years to overcome, and in one moment this ignorant post brought them back. It was horrible to envision, especially at 6 am in the morning when I first awoke.
It doesn’t matter if it was just last week or 6 years later, parents of a deceased child are not any better than they were when they first heard the news that their child is dead, they have just learned to live with their grief. Some such as me have made positive changes in their lives, while others struggle daily to just get up in the morning and go on with life. We parents of a deceased child know about letting go of certainty, and a willingness to embrace life as it is. That is what happens when you finally are starting to adjust to the death of your child. The biggest obstacle to overcome is your mind, and it is important when you respond to others you use control as your response is your power.
So, let us explore my reaction to this awful but totally well-meaning post. I handled everything wrong. I should have written a nice message to her to take it down, as it was very upsetting to me. But, I didn’t. I answered the post honestly about how hard it is for me to still live with the murderer of my daughter free on probation, but I was happy she was able to be there to comfort the dog. A few more comments and it was over. I know she did not know how severely she had affected me. People are oblivious about the way grief can paralyze a person. I went on with my day but was very sad. My companion kept asking me “what is wrong Michele?” I couldn’t really put it into words as I knew I should have shut down the post immediately…then I kept getting notifications from others commenting and I went to stop the notifications and the post was gone. I was relieved and wrote my friend that I knew she meant well and I felt happy that she had thought of Misha. I didn’t say anything unkind, nor confrontational because I am not that way. But then, I am tagged again with the same post. She took it down and put it back up. That made me angry. I try to embrace a way of living that is not argumentative but it vexed me when it went up again. I had felt incredible pain answering the first post and now I had to answer again? Once more I will accept the blame as I should have ignored this second post. This pressure of social media is truly intense at times, especially when my name is mentioned and I am the reason for the post. So I commented that I had said something earlier and that I was very pleased with my life in Colombia with hummingbirds, butterflies and nature. That I felt her with me and I had gone on to create Villa Migelita in her name and put my website along with my answer.
This is when it got ugly. Not in a horrible way, but let’s be honest, it was not nice, because I show that I have gone on to create a life my daughter would be proud of…which I also said…and I got a response from someone who was just being mean. Seriously, shouldn’t this person have written, “good for you to have created this dream in your daughter’s memory?” Instead I’m reprimanded for putting my website on the post! If it was inappropriate to put my website there ‘oh well’ ! The post was about my daughter who was left dead like the dog at the side of the road and I was showing people I have moved forward! When it comes to social drama, letting go of other people’s rude remarks is the best step forward. Most haters don’t really hate you; they just hate where they are in life, and you’re a reflection of what they wish to become.
My heart is bruised from yesterday, and is still bruised today. I have a good life now. I have maids, they see me crying. They become upset. They come to me to ask what is wrong and I tell them the truth; that I was reminded of a picture I saw in the newspaper the very morning after I found out about Misha’s death because of someone who is my friend. She was lying on the side of the road covered by a black bag, but I knew it was my daughter. I don’t want to picture her that way. I want to see her like the cover photo on this blog. I know I will continue to heal until I die. Life is always changing, when something ends or leaves something new happens. I know my sad crying jag will soon be gone, but I won’t get over it quickly. It is just not possible when it is my child I am talking about, and she is dead.