July 6, 2013
Note: The following was written on 6/26/2013; I now feel comfortable sharing.
June 26, 2013
Today is the 26th anniversary of my daughter’s passing. It is the golden anniversary. Let me explain that. Whether or not it is true, I grew up believing (hoping?) that when you turned the age in which the date of your birthday falls, it would be a very special day. My birthday falls on the 27th of September. Thus, I believed that when I turned 27, it would be a very special day for me, and it was. I remember it as if it were yesterday.
In September of 1991 I was pregnant with my fourth child. I absolutely knew that this child would be a daughter, so much so that I refused to choose a boys’ name. As it turned out, I was correct on that one. In addition, it was the year that I made a commitment to my faith and chose to complete a very intense, very personal retreat called a Cursillo. It has been one of the defining moments of my life, before or since.
A Cursillo is a three day religious retreat which includes meditation, fellowship, spiritual healing and education of my faith. The weekend coincided with my 27th birthday. I was in the midst of my retreat on my golden birthday. It was an absolutely beautiful experience. It was made further incredible by the fact that my mom was also at the retreat as a facilitator, having herself, already experienced a Cursillo. At the end of the three day retreat, the ladies making the Cursillo were serenaded with the most beautiful music from the most incredible musicians. My dad and one of my brothers were two of those musicians. It was a weekend I have often gone back to in my mind to remind me of my spirituality and the path I have chosen to follow.
Now, I am faced with “celebrating” the golden anniversary of Jessica’s death. Jessica passed away on June 26, 1987. She was not quite three years old and I was not quite 23 years old. The havoc this event wreaked in my life is immeasurable. In addition, the subsequent 25 years hence, I vacillated between four of the five stages of grief rather fluidly. Denial, anger, bargaining, and depression have been the ebb and flow of my life, to some degree or another, for the past 25 years. Every event, every undertaking, every celebration in my life was filtered through my daughter’s passing. So much so, that I experienced nothing in my life in its pure form. It was as though I had an asterisk next to my name in the book of life. “*Mother of 5”, “*College Graduate”, “*English Teacher”. And the asterisk at the bottom of the page always indicated the same caveat, “*Daughter passed away June 26, 1987”.
In recent years, maybe the past 7 or so, I began to designate the month of June as my grieving month. This is not something I did consciously. However, “knowing” that my grief was overshadowing my life, I had to do something. And now, for the past three or four years, I have whittled down my grieving to strictly the anniversary of Jessica’s death, June 26. Twenty-six years of therapy, dear Readers, and I still hadn’t reached the coveted Acceptance stage of my grieving process, until now.
Like any good epiphany, my epiphany came out of nowhere. It happened just a few months back. I realized how very self-centered and narcissistic I had been regarding Jessica’s passing. Without going into too much detail, I believe that when we die, it is not the end for our spirit. Subsequently, I had been seeking affirmation that Jessica’s spirit was wherever it was supposed to be. It has taken me this long to realize that faith doesn’t work that way. It has taken me this long to realize that faith, by its very definition, requires no proof. Besides, who was I to demand proof before I was willing to accept Jessica’s death? Who was I to question God’s plan, because that, in essence, was what I was doing. Jessica’s death was not my fault, this I had accepted. Jessica’s death has nothing to do with me. Ahh, this, I had not accepted, until now. It is not always about me. Just as an aside, this seems to be a running theme in my life these past 6 months or so; I would do well to remember that.
So this year, I just knew that I would not be spending June 26th sulking and sobbing the day away. In fact, this year would be the very first year, in the past 26 years, that I would not be sobbing and/or sulking. And I was quite pleased with myself when I remembered that this year would mark the “golden” anniversary, 26 years on the 26th. But of course, dear Readers, God definitely has a sense of humor.
Through a series of unexpected events, I am flying from the Middle East to my home in the states. Though not planned, I have booked a flight home on June 26. I will leave on the first leg of my journey at 9:30am on the 26th. It will take me approximately 30 hours to reach my final destination. However, because I am traveling halfway around the world, when I arrive at my destination, it will still be June 26th. How is that for irony, dear Readers? June 26th, 2013, the “golden” anniversary of Jessica’s passing will literally be for me, the longest day of my life.
I am almost home, dear Readers. I am somewhere above the clouds, 30 minutes or so from landing. It has thankfully, been a rather uneventful 26th anniversary. Although very much in my thoughts, Jessica’s death doesn’t quite have the impact it once had on me. I remain very at ease and peaceful with my thoughts. In fact, I can honestly say that I have reached that ever elusive stage of grief, acceptance.