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Sugar Cookies and a Nightmare

How My Daughter's Death Taught Me
The Meaning of Life


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We were flushed and hungry by the time everyone bounded into the cabin's central room. The two dads had grilled a mountain of hot dogs on the outdoor barbecue, and once we started eating, a happy silence filled the room. The rhythmic sound of waves below was so soothing that you got a little sleepy and laid across my lap as I sat on the floor. Krissie, I will never forget that moment holding you with your head resting in my lap, neither of us knowing it would be the last time.

I was stroking your hair, and you almost fallen asleep, when the other children said they wanted to go back to the beach. Immediately you perked up and asked if you could go, too. The two other mothers and I had barely said yes, as long as you waited by the cliff for an adult to come down, before you jumped from my arms and joined the other kids. I laughed with the other parents — so much for that happy silence — as we began to clean up and started for the door ourselves.

But then everything changed. It seemed like only a moment had gone by before we heard everybody scrambling back up the stairs. I was across the room when the door blew open and the crowd of kids burst through the door, soaking wet. Krissie, without even turning my head, I knew something had happened to you. Sure enough, when I looked up, you weren't among them. Shivering from the November cold, everybody was talking very fast and all at once. I couldn't understand a word of what they were saying except that it was something about you.

I pulled Michel aside and asked what had happened. His teeth were chattering but he managed to blurt it out.

"Mommy, this wave came in out of nowhere so we all ran to get on a log, but the water just filled up the whole place like a big bathtub and everyone was climbing on the rocks, and then we looked around and couldn't find Krissie ..."

I started toward the door. Michel added that he felt the drag of the wave as it receded and heard you scream. He said that Maggie told him she had seen "something purple" pulled through the tunnel-like arch we had seen earlier. I was outside by then.

I don't even recall taking those wooden steps three at a time, but I must have, because the next thing I remember, I was running toward the tunnel rock searching, searching, searching for anything purple, any moving thing, any sign of life, thinking, No, No, No. A storm front had moved in, and the angry bruised clouds took hold of my mind. Two minutes! You had been gone only two minutes with Michel and the other children, and why hadn't I been there? I was besieged by the image of your body being pulled out to sea only moments before. Desperate to the point of panic, I willed my legs to pick up the pace, move faster, cover more ground. I was racing up and down the beach like a madwoman, screaming silently at the ocean, "Give her back! You can't take her! Stop! Just stop! Where is she?"

At one point, I realized we had to phone for help, and instead of returning to the stairs, I motioned to the two dads, and the three of us slammed into the cliff and scrambled up 30 feet of shale and dirt to the road. I found a house with a phone, where the woman coming to the door was either too nice or too shocked to say no to my wild plea. I reached the sheriff, who said he would call in the Coast Guard, then hurled myself back down the cliff again to the beach.

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