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Sugar Cookies and a Nightmare

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


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As a single parent, I certainly struggled balancing finances, time, and day care, but it didn't take money to go on nature walks or camp and play in the park. My much-loved memories are of us sitting around the dining room table and drawing pictures with watercolors and felt pens. This was a nightly occurrence, and Brian, our artist-musician friend, would often draw with us.

Our dining table became a common meeting area, not only for meals but also for homework, art projects, and just hanging out. Depending on the holiday, it would be covered with materials for Halloween or Thanksgiving decorations, Easter eggs, or the makings of gifts and sugar cookies at Christmas. Decorating the cookies, we were always at our creative best with frosting and colorful candy sprinkles everywhere. You loved these times and never had a chance to grow out of them and into more "big girl" things. They just ended.

One evening I often think of occurred only a few days before you died. A typical evening when you and Michel were sitting around the table with your felt pens and paper was a really special night for you, Krissie, because you were writing your first story. The tale involved a dog and cat and how at first they were enemies. The dog and cat always hissed at each other, but one day, for no apparent reason, they became friends and lived happily ever after. You were so proud when you ran over to show it to me. You had drawings on every page and dozens of staples holding the pages together. This was a wonderful, classic story by a seven-year-old who believed everyone lived happily ever after. I still have it.

I watched you from a rocking chair with our big 100 pound lovable mutt, Barney, asleep at my feet. The room felt cozy with the glow from logs burning in the fire. I'm not sure you remember that evening, but I was studying for a career in broadcasting. I had pondered the decision to go back to college for months, but I felt in the long run the sacrifices would be worth it.

I glanced up to see you and Michel busy with your projects. It was only for a moment, Krissie, but I felt a complete contentment that deeply contrasted with the struggles of rebuilding our lives since the divorce. Now, everything seemed perfect. There was nothing I desired, not even to have our very own swimming pool instead of going to the public pool. I didn't want it. I didn't want anything. In that moment, I realized I had it all.

The next day, feeling so excited about this awareness, I told my friend Peggy. She had known of my struggles and was thrilled. She then reminded me that it would only get better — soon I'd have a special children's weekend with you and two other families at the ocean. We had planned this weekend for months and were all excited to be with close friends and a total of seven children.

But suddenly, I couldn't believe what flew out of my mouth. "Peggy," I said, "I don't know why, but for some reason, I don't want to go." She looked at me curiously. She knew we loved the ocean. We often visited your Aunt Barbie at Pebble Beach. But, Krissie, something felt wrong. As the time drew closer, I felt even more uncomfortable. Oh, how many times I wish I'd listened to that feeling!

The night before we were to leave, I lay awake tossing and turning. You and Michel had your bags packed and were eager to go. Why didn't I want to go? Our friends who organized the trip said we'd just love Bandon, Oregon. We'd never been there before. What was wrong with me?

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