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Sugar Cookies and a Nightmare

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


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That same night, your grandparents drove down from Washington, filled with the hope of finding their granddaughter alive. They arrived the next morning. Not until I saw them did I realize that I had been holding on to some kind of a crazy fantasy — a fantasy that my parents would be able to make everything okay again, just as they had when I was a child. Like a broken doll, Kristen could be fixed, and they would bring her back to life. I was sure that you shared my same hope. After all, aren't grandparents magical?

When I saw their car, I couldn't wait any longer and ran up the road to meet them. I flung open their car door and started screaming, "She's dead! Kristen's dead! Our Kristen! They can't find her! She's dead!" There was no holding back. Those words shot out of my mouth as if from a cannon. Only then did I feel safe enough to say them.

My poor parents. There wasn't anything they could say or do. Your grandfather, who has always had a difficult time expressing his feelings, could only take off his glasses and wipe his eyes.

Do you remember our drive back to Ashland with them? First, we went for a brief walk on the beach to show them where Kristen had been dragged out to sea. They talked for a short time with our friends and your dad and Suzie, and then we left. I was in no condition to drive, so we went back with them, and a friend drove our car back.

I couldn't wait to leave the deafening sound of those waves. Maybe I thought that by getting away from there, we could leave the nightmare behind. We could go to our little home, where it was safe. At the same time, I didn't know what it would be like to see Krissie's room with all her things and not have her.

Michel, there are no words to describe my feelings as we drove away without Kristen. I felt I was abandoning her. You two were my universe. How could I be leaving her behind? It was all so strange, so surreal.

Sitting in the back seat of the car, I was emotionally paralyzed. I had failed Kristen. I couldn't save her. I closed my eyes to escape my thoughts but kept picturing her floating helplessly in the ocean. Like a piece of driftwood, she would be discarded on a beach if she were ever released from the tight grip of the demon-ocean.

You barely said a word, Michel. You didn't cry but just sat quietly next to me. I wanted to tell you that everything would be all right and that somehow we would make it, but I was at a loss for words.

As we drove away from the ocean, my breath felt like it was being sucked out of me. Imagine my surprise when you broke the silence by saying, "Mommy, I think it's harder for us than it is for Krissie. I think she's okay, but we're not okay because we miss her." My dear child of reason! I could only hug you. If there was a heaven, then you were right. I found it strange, Michel, that you instead had comforted me.

When we got home, we immediately went into Kristen's room. I was pleasantly surprised that this was not as difficult as I thought it might be. It actually felt good to sit on her bed surrounded by her things. This was her world and the closest we had felt to Kristen since she left us.

Good ole Barney had ecstatically greeted us at the door, washing our faces with his big wet you've-been-gone-way-too-long kisses. Kristen's room was his favorite because she would so often sneak this 100-pound bundle of love onto her bed to sleep with her.

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