"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Closure

Reunion, 1994
Flipping through the pages of my notebook yesterday, I scanned for a specific story I knew I'd written, and that I thought would fit with the new direction of my book. I didn't find that story there, but what presented itself gave me chills, and brought me a sense of peace and closure. In a class last year we were given the prompt to write a letter to someone we wished to empower. Once that was done, we were to continue with what their response might be. This is what I wrote - months ago:

To my daughter,

If I could give you the answers, I would, but even if I could, I know at this point in my life my answers won't work for you.

I know life hasn't been easy for you, beginning with a mother who gave you away, then growing up the only child of color in a remote Alaska town, then throwing everything stable away with a Mexican boy at the end of one wild summer.

What none of us knew then was the inner demons you fought - some chemical aberration that allows you to fly higher than humanly possible, then exacts payment in depths few can survive.

Even with all of that, I wish I could give you the certainty that you are loved. Not one day goes by that both of your moms don't pray for your happiness. I risk speaking for the mom who did what I could not, knowing how hard she's worked to keep you safe, knowing she loved you enough to give you me.

Even with your illness, even with your wounds, even with the mess you've made so far of the life you have - you are loved. Deeply and without condition. It's not too late to do one thing to move closer to the gifts you came her to express. The one thing - the only thing I've ever asked of you - is that you tell the truth.

In that, healing can and will happen. In that, you can be helped, even in the worst depths of the chemical chaos that cannot be completely compensated for. If you could say, I'm ill, I need help, I believe you would then be able to absorb the love that has the power to heal.

I hold you in my heart - have always held you there. Maybe if you would trust us both with the truth, we could finally be a mother and daughter whose love for each other holds them both firmer when the ground shakes.

I love you.

Mom


Dear Mom,


I would if I could. I can't. If I tell you the truth of myself, I will lose the one thing I've clung to since I knew I had another mom - the possibility that if you had raised me, I would be okay. I don't care that you couldn't - I don't blame you, I'm not mad - but I know you would have helped me be okay.


I can't bear the thought that you know I'm mentally ill. I'd rather pretend and be only your cute loving daughter who shops and cooks and plays with kittens with you.


I know how much I've hurt you. I'm so so sorry. But this is the best I can do. A phone call here. An e-mail there. 


And the hope that my own daughter, with the help of my second mom whom I hate so often and can never love enough, will be spared both the life that forced you to give me up and the life of insanity I created that nearly ruined her chances. I raised her, but really my other mom is the one who made sure she had what she needed to be ready to face the world.


So we share that, you and I, the not being able to raise our own daughters. And I do know how much you love me - have always known that. 


The truth is - that truth you're always pushing me to tell you - the truth is I would be so much worse, so much less stable, so much more wounded  if I didn't have two mothers to love me instead of one. I know that on my good days, which we both know grow fewer and fewer. But when the time comes, when I don't know anything else clearly, I will always remember your love.


I love you,


Kathleen

The last picture she sent me, sometime last fall.

39 comments:

Wanda said...

Oh, Deb...what a beautiful young woman. Love.

deb said...

I can't type for ache of it all.

Holding you in my heart , Deb.

Stacy Crawford said...

What a thoughtful letter...I'm sending you hugs from OHIO.

Ann Best said...

We have so many difficult trials in our lives! I can empathize and sympathize. What beautiful, heart-wrenching letters, and how lovely!!

Charlene: the Polarblogger said...

So touching and inspiring letters! I read them with a lump in my throat.

Donna said...

Finding that letter affirms many of your thoughts, I suspect. She writes just beautifully, just like you. Mind illnesses are a terrible burden and ones that are not always able to be healed....at least here on earth. I am sure the Lord healed her illness and that MUST give you peace. Now you have to focus on those gorgeous children of hers and how you can fit into their lives at some point. You will have to tell them how much they were loved and how much you love them. It continues...the family bond. We can only try and continue to try, you cannot change the past. Please be kind to yourself and remember the good stuff...there is no point in remembering anything else. Sending caring thoughts....D

Pam said...

I am profoundly moved by those sentiments and photos Deb.God bless.

Linda Myers said...

Beautiful. These great griefs take time. You are a woman of great courage.

Barb said...

Your letters were and are a chance for you to heal, Deb. You plumb the depth of your emotions - probably your daughter's, too. She was a lovely young woman with an illness that stole her. Many hugs to you.

yaya said...

I'm glad those letters gave you some closure and some peace. She was a beautiful young woman. She was lucky to have such loving Mothers in her life who will always love and remember her forever.

Retired English Teacher said...

Deb, I am almost dumbstruck by the insight, the pain, and the beauty of your letters. I understand what you are saying in a very personal way. You expressed things in your letter to your daughter that I wish I would have written to my own daughter.

I believe you captured the crux of my daughter's problem, and your daughter's also, when you only asked that she be honest. My daughter could not accept her mental illness. I think she thought she let me down by having her illness. She would not get the help she needed.

Your daughter is beautiful. She suffered so greatly in this life.

I think of my daughter as suffering from an illness that she fought, sometimes in all the wrong ways, for nearly 18 years. A cancer survivor would be worn out and tired if they fought their illness everyday for that long.

Both of our daughters are now at peace.

Your letters were providential. You wrote them at a time when you had great clarity. The blessing is that your own words and understanding are now there to bless you and to help you heal.

Wander to the Wayside said...

This is just stunningly beautiful and sad. I don't know if you can really have 'closure' on something like this, Deb, but it certainly must help that you had such insight into this relationship and were able to write about it from both sides with such heart and clear-headedness. You knew her well despite the challenges.

Lilith said...

I can't imagine losing my child like this. Sending a hug Deb.

Katie Gates said...

That's so perfect that you came upon those letters while looking for something else. And what a wonderful exercise you were prompted to do in that class. Closure is a tough one, and it takes time. But you have the tools.

Facing50Blog.com said...

Blast I can't see the keyboard again for tears. Deb this is so beautiful and I wish with all my heart that I could ease your suffering. I hope that these letters have again released a little of the pain and please know there are so many of us who truly feel for you and wish you peace.
Carol

Teresa aka JW said...

The letters show a connection that I know you shared. I am positive those were her thoughts.

I think we all have demons we fight whether mental, physical or even emotional. Sometimes we can't be saved...because we don't really want to be saved. The pain may be too much or journey too hard. I hope that makes sense. I know you and her other mom tried with all the love inside you to help her. My heart tells me--she knew that.

T

Jessica Nelson said...

My heart hurts for all of you. *hugs*

LauraX said...

Deb, what a gift for you, to find these words, these photos. Your words to your daughter are filled with honesty and love and your writtne words of response from her (in here imagined voice) feel equally loving and painfully true. Everyone has done the very best they could to heal an illness that was beyond healing. May these words and beautiful photos bring you some peace, knowing that this was the most any mother could do...the most any daughter who was so deeply ill could manage in her all too brief life. I hold you in my thoughts and prayers my friend as you continue to navigate this winding path of grief so different from others you have traveled in your life.

deborahjbarker said...

It is almost as though you were drawn to that notebook for a reason Deb, there to find an element of closure.We can't protect our children all the time whether with us or not, especially as they enter adulthood.Your daughter was beautiful and I am sure her spirit now soars freely.How wonderful to have found the letters at this time.
I hope your sense of peace continues.

Amber said...

I can't help but think of her daughter... I hope her heart is validated. I hope she knows, just like you and her other mom, that she did nothing wrong. She loved enough.

As did you all.

love.

M said...

Wow!!! Talk about two heart wrenching letters. As I read the Kathleen "response" I think you probably spoke her heart pretty closely. I hope that finding those letters continue to bring healing to your heart. The grieving process never seems to progress as rapidly as we would like so I encourage you to just continue down that road. There are so many who love and are grieving with you. I hope you feel our prayers.

I love you
Mark

She Writes said...

ohhhhhh. Oh. Oh, Deb. This got me.

patricia said...

You, my friend, are precious. You were probably more of a mom to her, even while not mothering her, than most people get with a mom who is present everyday. I know that you have beautifully filled that place in my life, and I know that if my mom could meet you today, she'd give you a big, big hug and tell you thank you for taking care of her girl and her grandkids. Kathleen is experiencing peace everyday with God in Heaven.

Tabitha Bird said...

Deb... I am lost for something to say. Wow. That was...gosh. My heart spills for you. For everything this life has taken and given. And for all the times life took more than it gave. My hugs are with you.
X
Tab

Leslie said...

tears all over my keyboard--I will read and re-read this, and send it to my own mother, who placed her own daughter up for adoption over 50 years ago. Who is also bipolar. Thank you.

Carrie Link said...

Wow. It seems trite to say no accidents, but it can't be an accident you had that assignment, then "found" it at this time. Amazing.

Suzy said...

I'm with Carrie- no accidents.

Love,
Suzy

LauraX said...

continuing to hold you cl♥se.

Jerri said...

Oh, Deb. My heart aches for and with you.

Sending love and peace across the miles.

Kathryn Magendie said...

hugging you dear Deb . . .

kario said...

I love that you were able to give yourself this gift and I truly believe that this was some of the gift of Kathleen, among others that you have already discovered and some that you have yet to find. The knowledge that you have forgiven yourself is enormous and I know the healing will continue.

Love you.

Niki said...

All I can do is pray for your comfort and peace,and wish you could feel my hug.

Sandi said...

I weep for you, what could have, should have been. I weep for Kathleen for the same reasons.
Remember when you wrote after my post about Chris as a little boy, you saw me as his mom? This post gave me something of what you experienced, as Kathleen's mom.
What a beautiful, heart-wrenching and healing treasure you found.
I love you!

Carol............. said...

Just want you to know I stopped by...

God is kind and finds ways to reach.

Terri Tiffany said...

She was beautiful. You write from the heart-- I wish she would have let more of your love inside of her and hung on tighter.

Kathryn Grace said...

Deb, what gifts: Your own words healing you at just the right moment; The knowledge that you wrote the love and truth in your heart months ago--guiding you then, returning to guide you now. Once more, you teach us all.

Wanda..... said...

I wish you comfort and peace, Deb.

Bernie said...

I wish for you to finally achieve some measure of comfort and release from all this pain. The letter you wrote so long ago to her and her response should help you to feel that you did all you could. Such sad and broken lives you have experienced! I wish that your heart may find some rest.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Yes, I agree with my mom (imagine that) that I hope your heart finds some rest. Take good care.