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You Are All My Daughters

The anniversary of my daughter’s death was yesterday. Such a dismal day: one I will live the rest of my life, an affiliation that no one wants, but many share with me. We are members of a somber club, one that only we as the parents of a deceased child understand. We carry extreme grief that has settled into our very being.  Many people assume we get better as the years go by, but we don’t; we continue with the same heartache year in and year out. In fact, if possible to feel anything worse after you lose a child, you do as the years go by as you imagine where they would be in life at whatever age they would be as the date of their death passes.

Every year as the date approaches I get anxious. I fear the day so much. Believe me that I hate a lot of the days of the year now: Mother’s Day, her birthday, Christmas, my birthday, and the list goes on. As she would be getting older, I imagine what she would have accomplished. What we could do together, what we would talk about as she matured, as her daughter Amaya was growing up. Those who knew my daughter and me; know she died when we were at a point of separation in our lives. Not only did I lose my daughter, but I lost her when she wasn’t speaking to me. It has taken me a long time to accept this, but I have. As her mother I am sure I made mistakes; but she made many also. I loved her unconditionally but I had to let her be whom she wanted to be. It never worked out when I tried to help her. So I had to let go. Letting go is not easy. I read her twitter posts and knew she was doing pretty well for herself. She was still going to school even with a child and lived with her best friend; she seemed to be happy with her life. I assumed she would grow up and we would grow close again when she matured some. I never had that chance to regain the closeness we once had because she was murdered by a hit and run driver. A harsh lesson for me. So as the years go by I imagine we would have reunited, and made peace. In fact, I know we would have been fine with each other within that same year, if she wasn’t taken so suddenly. I have made my peace with that.

Now when I look back on my life with my daughter I see so many photos of joyful times. Our summers in the mountains were especially wonderful. We had the most amazing years hiking the Great Smoky Mountains every summer, shopping for her back to school clothes, decorating her room so many times, having her friends come on vacations with us, enjoying our animals, leaning on each other more than a few times. We were very close. I know that now. A short period of growing up does not speak for the life of my daughter whom I raised to be a good person. She proved how special she was by the cause of her death. She was trying to help someone she saw get hit by a car.

As the years pass and the anniversary of her death approaches I have decided to look at all the pictures I have of Misha. I will rejoice in the short life she did have, and I will smile at the memories. I will share the milestones Misha never had with her friends whom are still in my life. They are all my daughters, as they grew up in my house with Misha. My house was one in which her friends were always welcome. They share stories with me still. I will enjoy their new marriages, births, photos of family like they are my own daughters. I know that is what Misha would want. When I meet  new young people who are the same age as Misha I will embrace the fact they are living their lives well and be happy for their accomplishments. I can’t have this with my daughter, but every time my granddaughter celebrates a milestone, I will say a prayer that Misha somehow knows from wherever she is now. I will continue to live my best life in the name of my deceased daughter. I will hopefully educate those who do not know any better that we who have lost a child, no matter what the circumstances, never get over it. We just get on with our lives. That is the best we can do.

 

 

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A Bridge We Can All Cross

I have discovered so much about myself in the last 5 years. I have found out I can continue to grow even when heartache lives inside my soul. When I lost my daughter almost 6 years ago, I wondered how I would go on. I have discovered that I can center myself in what is happening in my life now instead of what might happen or might not happen. For instance: I was devastated in 2014 when the murderer of my daughter was given probation instead of jail time for her death. There are really no words for heartache like I felt and still feel about the outcome. I read every single day people who get sentenced appropriately for the same kind of crime, but I also read stories like mine where a corrupt judge lets the killer walk. I entered 2015 with a mindset of anger over the outcome of the plea deal he got. I was extremely vexed as my daughters date of death approached in January and the killer Christian Cvitanovich was putting photos up on his Facebook page showing him drinking and without a care in the world. He even lists his occupation as ‘retired’. I would not be human if I said I could forgive and forget. I can’t, I just can’t. However, I have moved on with my life. I have lost a child, and I have moved forward, so if I can do it we all can. It is a bridge we all can cross no matter what our personal problems are: that bridge leads us to a better way of living. Her death has taught me to be a kinder more loving human being and to live my life with substance and integrity.

So, let me share some thoughts about my year 2015 with you my readers.

These are my Truisms from Colombia.

  1. No matter what you must live your life the way you want. Do not let anyone else influence your belief in yourself. I have progressed, not regressed. It is not easy, I have had many sleepless nights these past years.
  2. Walk your path in life the way you want. I have lost touch with some people in my life, including my brother. He doesn’t approve of my move to another country that he thinks is dangerous, yet here I am 5 years later with a Bed and Breakfast. Colombia just made the Forbes list of the 14 coolest places to visit in 2016! It does make me sad that my brother is not in contact with me, and I continue to send him notes, they go unanswered. All that I  have done has begun to heal my life and the suffering I have felt. Sometimes, we will feel we are not doing the right thing based on other’s beliefs…but we are actually where we should be!
  3. I think at Christmas we give too much to our children. They expect too much and have no idea about the hardships all over the world, including the United States. Why not do something like give your child a pen pal from another country? Join the Christian Children’ s Fund or another worthy cause and let your child write the letters to the child you are helping? What a good way to show compassion to those less fortunate! The cost is minimal and the lesson is wonderful. Your child, grandchild, or family member will learn a valuable cultural lesson. Not everyone receives a large number of gifts under the Christmas tree! My own son CJ actually wrote me and asked I give my gift to him for Christmas to the charity of my choice. I was so proud.
  4. Working hard for something you do not care about is called stress, but working hard for your passion is called peace.
  5. Stop looking at what others are doing for your definition of happiness! I can attest the internet is full of a lot of bullshit. I started my own personal Facebook page when my life was going downhill. I would put photos up that looked perfect but they didn’t tell the real story. I can guarantee this is true for 99.9 percent of the internet.
  6. Stop holding grudges over silly things that happen with people in your life. I had a friend, someone I adored and loved for many years. When I retired I gave all my uniforms to her. She came to my house to get them. We had wine and I opened my mouth and said “the last time I flew with you, you were horrible to another flight attendant. You were wrong, he was a great worker, perhaps you are making this job too much of your life.” I was wrong for criticizing, but she is wrong for giving up a friendship that was 3 decades long over that! She left (with the uniforms, LOL) and 30 years of friendship went with her.  Always apologize, because there are always two sides, which I did, and let go. If someone reaches out and apologizes accept that apology. I haven’t heard a word from my daughter’s murderer, perhaps if he apologized I could go on to forgive. I will never know because he hasn’t ever acknowledged any responsibility for his crime.
  7. Look at any obstacle in your life as an opportunity! I believe hardships are in your life for a reason and they show you what is worth fighting for! I am living a lovely life now, but I still have bumps along the way. I get past them and so can you. Do not let fear get in your way! There have been many times where fear of the unknown has kept me awake at night. I always remind myself that I have so many possibilities that are in front of me.
  8. Believe in your dream! I did and was recently published in International Living (scroll to page 8). Now I am adding a bar to Villa Migelita because I believe in my abilities. If you don’t try you will never know what you can accomplish. No one is entitled to success, so you must look for ways to find it.
  9. Be happy with what you have. If you have food on the table, clothes on your back, a place to live, then you are doing pretty well considering there are people all over the world who can barely get by. Choose simplicity and try to appreciate what you have instead of wanting more.
  10. Stop being a material person, our lives are defined by not what we have but what we go after. A sense of accomplishment is the best gift you can give yourself.
  11. Travel more, experience a different culture, learn a new language!
  12. Get the drama out of your life! I have stopped anything that can lead to negativity in my own personal space. What a relief it is not to have it around me. Even when I feel hurt by another person’s actions I try not to react.
  13. Have a plan for your future, a vision. It will get you through tough times!

So there you have some of my thoughts on the last year. I have learned from my past and can talk about my future like it has already happened. I have learned to trust myself and the decisions I make without need of anyone’s opinion. I have used the struggles from my past to shape my future. Sometimes taking a risk is worth the journey.

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Five Years Later: I’m Not Looking Back

When all is said and done, the last five years have brought me to a place of discovery. I have learned no matter the life we are given we must strive to walk a path that sets an example for others. We must show the world we are vulnerable but strong, loving to all who surround us even when sometimes that love is not returned. We must be fierce to protect our own self-worth, if we do not than how can we expect others to respect us? We must always be kind.  Kindness  shows strength of character; character is what defines you to the world. Without character what are we? We are just another grain of sand in the vast terrain of life. We would not stand out in any way if we follow the opinions and listened to the majority instead of following our own instincts for survival. By survival I mean our own endurance of the life given to us. Of course our lives are not perfect, we struggle every single day with something. We self-talk in our minds about mistakes we have made on our journeys, but the point is this is a journey only we take  so we must make it count.

When I was going through my divorce I had much hate thrown at me, frankly it was awful. I thought life could not get much worse and then my daughter was killed. Life did get worse. All the self-pity I felt from the onslaught of nastiness and alienation, the gossip that always got back to me, meant nothing anymore. I realized that the only thing that mattered was life, and it is very short. With that I chose to walk a path that others did not agree with. I did for myself what I needed to do to heal. Frankly, many did not understand what I chose to do. I had even more innuendos and disapproval thrown at me. I knew what I was doing, and what others thought was not my concern. I and only I knew the facts that were my life. Those facts were not pretty, nor were they fair. They were a big mess and I was not going to live that way anymore. So I left that old life. I had very few who supported my decision, yet today I think all can see it was the right decision for me. The point being I am living the life meant for me, not what others thought my life should be.

When a person does something controversial, something that does not go along with the norms of societal views it is unfortunate that instead of being embraced for being different we are frowned upon.  I needed change from the negativity that surrounded me, and with that change I have found myself. So many people say “I need to find the real me.” But they never do. They search and search but come up empty. I searched and am fulfilling a dream. Will this dream be without mistakes? No of course not. I have made mistakes in the last five years, but they are my mistakes which I will learn from, gain life wisdom and hopefully correct. I will persevere with the knowledge I lived through hell and withstood it. I am in a place now of peace in my soul. I no longer need to push my opinions on others nor be confrontational with those I do not agree with. I have learned to walk away with my head held high from those who try to harm me with words and actions.

My daughter’s death was not in vain as she taught me to live life when she died. Her death gave me strength to change what was a dysfunctional existence that was not doing me nor anyone else any favors. Now I have mended past relationships through perseverance and single-minded knowledge of what I want to carry out. Instead of reacting with anger to others bad behaviors I react with patience. I do not seek their approval, I seek their respect. I show them my real self, the one hidden for so long inside of me.

So here I am five years later leading a life of accomplishment. I would never have thought while raising my children I would one day start a business in South America, that I would speak another language nor foresee I could revise the person I used to be. A person who was fearful of living because life events had broken me. Instead of sinking to the bottom of the ocean and drowning, I swam to the top and took a deep gulp of air and dog paddled until I could swim to freedom. This freedom I feel now is not without sadness, the killer of my daughter walks free, and I still grieve deeply everyday for my daughter. I will always long for the life I lived as my children grew, for those memories that are precious in my heart. I ache inside when I look at old photos of that life long gone now. I will never replace those days, but I will make new memories that will take me to the place I seek. You see life is continuous, we must keep going forward. We must accept that circumstances change and we must do our best to learn from these transitions, even when they are abominable. Today is all we have, because yesterday is gone and we cannot know our future. My future is looking bright, but I will never take it for granted. When someone learns the hard way to live life like I did, we accept bad times and we accept great times, we accept relationships that come to us and accept relationships that leave us. We accept our imperfect selves, and we live the life we have with gratitude. We follow our own path wherever it may lead us.

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Please visit my Facebook page to follow my journey http://www.facebook.com/VillaMigelita

This is my website if you want to visit my Bed and Breakfast. http://www.villamigelita.com

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Christmas Musings

I took a long walk in nature this morning and thought about the last four years of Christmas past. This will be my fifth Christmas without Misha my deceased daughter. My thoughts were all over the place. I thought about my granddaughter who has to live her life never knowing the free spirit that embodied my daughter, I thought about how being a survivor of a murdered child has changed me, and I thought about Christmas day. It is hard for me to enjoy a day that brought so much joy when my children were growing up. Of all the paths I have met during my lifetime, the death of my daughter is the hardest one to walk. I have survived my entire life up until this point. I have survived trauma, heartbreak, devastation. I am still going strong, working towards a new future, opening my Bed and Breakfast Villa Migelita and waking up each morning knowing that I have to live for my daughter and Amaya my granddaughter who will want to know all about her Mommy as she grows up. This Christmas my future does look bright, and I must let go of the negativity that has surrounded me for years. I spent the last five years working on justice for Misha, but I lost because of a corrupt judge and a flawed system in Louisiana. If I let this wrongdoing consume me, then the future I have worked towards will be shrouded in bitterness not happiness. I will no longer allow adversity inside my mind nor my life. This Christmas I want to enjoy the day without the terrible heartache that overtakes me during this time of year. I used to have a tree with so many presents underneath.1717_1063213746577_8020_n
This new life I embarked on when I moved to South America has made me realize those presents mean nothing. Health, well-being, our kindness and actions towards others are the most important gifts we can have and give. Christmas day means so much more than opening a present. It is a time of reflection and contemplation about the past year and what we can do to make change in our lives in a valuable way. It is a day of celebration with family and friends, appreciating the very life that God has given to us. I have many new friends here in Colombia. I plan on spending Christmas with those friends and entertaining at Villa Migelita during the holiday weeks. I have decorated Colombian style, and play Christmas music during the days. I put my parrot LuciSunsets, Luci and dogs swimming 044 on the window in my office and watch her dance to the Christmas carols. These songs bring back many memories of my life before divorce and death wiped out the joy of the season for me. Christmas was always so special at my house when my children were growing up. Christmas can be special for me again, because I will make it that way. The last Christmas I spent with Misha was such a delight, Amaya was just a baby. When I think of the past I will focus only on the wonderful memories of years gone by. There was so much positive, so much love, and Misha would be so proud today if she could see what a lovely child Amaya has turned into. 1717_1063212986558_2937_n

So how does one let go? There are many people just like me who have hurt so badly they feel they can never love again, live again, nor keep moving forward, but we do. We grasp the knowledge acquired from misfortune and use that knowledge to become better people. I have not given up on securing justice for Misha, I am just letting go. I think that is what she would want. I am not satisfied I will get my happy ending. Maybe there is no such thing and we find the truth when we leave this world and enter a new dimension. I just know that I have to move forward with an unencumbered mind. I have to let the New Year bring me the possibilities I have worked so hard for. I have to focus on the road ahead, not the road I left.