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Sugar Cookies and a Nightmare

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


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When your dad moved his family to Minneapolis to take a new position, you decided to come down to live with us for one year in the San Francisco area. That was a great year, but it went fast. You moved to Minneapolis to join your father and family and to begin your sophomore year at school. Your choice after high school to return to California for college couldn't have made me happier. I felt you were back.

Bob wrote a wonderful poem that captures well the journey I had with you and Krissie. It was a gift to me on the Mother's Day that you were back with us in California after your father's move, and I'd like to share it with you.

To Carol
Motherhood — for you so full of meaning.
A young mother with son and daughter,
Babies to care for, husband as doctor.
So right, so "family," so American — but yet...
Departure, splitting, declaration of independence.
The perfect family no longer —
All units broken — three families sundered at once,
At least seemingly — but yet...
A single parent, a mother alone with only what counted:
Herself, her son, her daughter... love,
Slowly rebinding. Her parents to understand,
The father to realize. Michel and Kristen to grow.
Becoming perfect — but yet...
Torn apart and carried away by a wave.
Meaning shattered. Kristen. Beautiful, budding,
Kristen — lost forever. Motherhood brutalized.
Unity, peace and peacefulness, purpose lost — but yet...
Motherhood tested and understood as never before,
Love for Michel, life itself against otherwise
Suicidal confusion.
Life slowly reborn,
Kristen's spirit scented in bath's bubbles — but yet...
Michel must go too.
A mother apart, searching, regenerating
Bob, Elisabeth, hints of love, new meaning —
A rose buds; blooms — but yet...
Haunting emptiness.
His choice to be with Dad. My choice here.
But whose choice apart?
Not ours. No answers now or ever — but yet...
Minneapolis. Michel. Mom again!
Breakfasts together. Shared stories of school days.
A family of three now true, but testing —
Friends and father gone — only temporary? But yet...
Relaxing — a new family relaxing.
Ringing — Copper windchimes ringing and bringing
A new day — May 9. The first real Mother's Day
In years. Celebrate for today — and now!
I love you, Bob

You and Krissie have been my best teachers, Michel. As I said before, the example you set was the help I needed. You know well the long road through grief. Along that road, I would get stuck in the past more than you, but that was to be expected. I still knew it was the right path.

My biggest concern through all of this was your safety. Knowing how tenuous the line between life and death was, when you were off with friends, I'd worry as I never had before. It's not that you were even doing anything unusual. I tried to wrestle with the sense of doom that replaced normalcy.

This was clearly my problem and not yours. I did not want to make you a prisoner to my fear. I wanted you to have a full and loving life with freedom to explore your own dreams. I promised myself I would work on my fear, but there had to be some guidelines.

You respected my need for you to telephone if you would be later than expected or had a change in plans. I appreciated that and believe it helped me to work through my fear faster. For the most part, I was good for about one hour. After that, I panicked, imagining ambulances, sirens, and disaster. I still have the fear, as you know, but I've come a long way. Now I think I'm back within the range of normal. Remember, it wasn't that long ago that my gift to you and Bob on your birthdays was to take you skydiving. In the spirit of adventure, we all jumped out of a plane! Bet you never thought your mom would give you that for a present. Even before then, when you went bungee jumping with friends, I was pretty relaxed. Now that I think about it, I don't believe you told me until afterward!

Well, Michel, we have made it through. It was a long, hard struggle to get to this place. Two steps forward, one step back, and in our own way we each rebuilt our lives. There are times when I go back to the sadness. I know you do, too. The consolation now is that the greatest pain is behind us. We have gone forward, and today feels a lot better than I could have imagined without Kristen.

I watched you rebuild your life, and I am so proud of you. You didn't take the easy route. You worked hard. Maybe your brush with death has made you appreciate what a gift life is. You have accomplished a lot and are helping others. You're a great friend to the people who know you well, and a great son to us. You have a big heart, and I hope you will always keep it open, for you have a lot to give. I'd say you have successfully become your own person!

The first time I realized we had come a long way happened several years after Kristen's death, when Bob and I were hiking along the Pacific coast with you and some friends. We stopped for a picnic at the beach, and you and another boy were laughing while running in the surf and tossing a Frisbee back and forth. I marveled at how good it felt to see you happy while waves crashed behind you and at times washed over your bare feet. The fear was gone, and you could enjoy being at the ocean once again.

Turning to Bob, I said, "Isn't it wonderful to see Michel so happy and comfortable playing at the ocean?" He smiled, put his arm around me, and said, "Yes, and isn't it wonderful that you're so comfortable letting him."

You're the greatest, Michel. I'm honored to be your mother.

All my love,

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