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Sugar Cookies and a Nightmare

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


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Here in the bathtub would have been a perfect time to talk about what this story means. I knew you would have understood it because you loved to pick flowers and bring them to me in the summer. Do you remember wondering why flowers weren't so plentiful in the winter? I told you it was because of the way things grew. Flowers begin life as seeds — like the ones we used to plant together. Remember how we'd make holes and drop the seeds deep into the darkness of the Earth? There they would be protected and quiet so they could take in the nutrients of the soil. Then, after six months or so, we'd watch them grow into thin little green spears that poked through the soil and into the sunshine, where they could bloom and thrive for another six months.

Can you guess the message in this story, Krissie? The fact that flowers go away doesn't mean the plants have died. They keep returning — from the land of the dead to the land of the living — because along with blooms, they develop seeds that drop onto the ground and grow again. A long time ago, this was a comforting story for people who wanted to depend on the seasons like summer and winter for growing food.

I used to love that story, but after your death, I had to relearn how to love it. The message for me was that, although you were taken from me, life was not — most especially, Michel was not. He remained a healthy, strong boy who needed to dance in his own sunshine. While it was unbearable for me to go on without you, I felt I could do it if I knew that somehow you had been released from the Hell that must have been the deepest, darkest part of the ocean.

So I became like Persephone's mother during that week and a half that your body wasn't found. To me, you had vanished just as suddenly as Persephone had, and without a trace. What had happened to you, my precious little one? Michel and I hoped and dreamed during that week and a half that you had miraculously escaped and were on a back road somewhere trying to find us. Even when I accepted the logic of it all — that you couldn't have survived being kept underwater by that cold, possessive ocean — I could not accept the world without you in it, not without a body to touch, to hold, and to let go.

People kept saying the word "closure" to me, but I had no idea what they meant. The thought of never seeing you again pulled me into a sea of grief where I felt I was also drowning. I prayed for the strength to deal with your death, but how could I say good-bye to you forever? How does any mother accept that she will never see her child again when there's no evidence, no finality, no "closure"?

And then, finally, ten days after your disappearance, I was sitting in the living room with a couple of friends and your Auntie Barbie, when I heard a police patrol car pull up. I knew immediately that they had found your body and bolted out of the house shouting, "You found her! You found Krissie! Where is she?" The police officer coming up the walk put his head down, clearly avoiding my eyes, and quietly answered, "Yes. Let's go in the house and talk."

Up until this point, I had never prayed so much in my life. I prayed they would find your body so that I could hold you one last time, and I also prayed that they'd find you alive. I prayed for strength. I prayed for courage. I prayed for hope. I prayed in every direction possible. I prayed and prayed and prayed.

I pleaded with the policeman to tell me where you were. I couldn't wait another second. This had already been the longest week of my life. In a barely audible voice, he answered, "They found her body a few miles north of Bandon at a place called Whiskey Run. Do you know where that is?" The name of the town had a familiar ring — that postcard! I would remember later how I had impulsively pulled it from the rack. In disbelief, I answered yes. I knew where Whiskey Run was.

He then asked Barbie to call the sheriff in Coquille and gave her the number. I told her to say I was already out the door and on my way to get you. Your Aunt Barbie told me to wait. The sheriff was telling Barbie not to let me go. He did not want me to see you this way. You had been discarded on a beach like a piece of driftwood. When you were finally released from the ocean's tight grip, your body was so mutilated that the sheriff would not allow even a mother's last visit.

I had not imagined this. I had to see you. Barbie was telling me that the sheriff said there was nothing left. I knew that ten days in the ocean would not leave you whole, but I was your mother. I had to hold you one last time. I could not let you go. I could not say good-bye without a final moment.

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