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Sugar Cookies and a Nightmare

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


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Recently I went to the wedding of my niece, who was born a few months before Kristen. Most likely, my daughter would have been one of her bridesmaids. Kristen's absence was obvious and felt by many. In tears, my sister-in-law said later, "Krissie should be here." So many years, yet so many tears, and again those crazy mixed-up emotions emerged all at once. I was so joyous for my radiant niece on the happiest day of her life, and yet so sad.

At these times, I am once again struck by the power of grief, but instead of that heartbreaking sense of loss hanging on for days, it only lasts for minutes, and I can go on to enjoy major events in my life, like the wedding. I have learned how important it is to be gentle and loving to myself at these times. When I care for myself, grief finds its place and no longer takes over my life.

A friend recently said that I seem to her a "genuinely happy" person. I felt complimented by this and later found myself thinking about my friend Nancy's description of me in her journal shortly after Kristen's death — how "Carol was a shell of her former self," how sad it made Nancy to see the "emptiness in Carol's eyes, her soul." I thought, I have come a long way. I am genuinely happy.

I came back from emotional death. My dreams for a future with Kristen ended with her death, but I built others. I'm no longer detached from life, moving about in an unknown world, numbed by pain. At one time, overwhelmed by emotion, I thought I might die in the process of reconciling Kristen's death. I didn't. I feel very much alive and fulfilled by new dreams.

Not long ago, my precious grandson was born, and only four months later, my beloved mother unexpectedly died. I look into baby Joseph's sweet face, and I see a glimpse of Michel in his smile, Jenny in his eyes, and Kristen in his profile. When I look in the mirror, a reflection of my mother looks back. Time — and with it generations, like the waves of the ocean — continues.

Kristen's death taught me this: The truly wonderful things in life are so simple that one is often not aware of their wonder until they are beyond reach. What is most important is what we often take for granted. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows this. The beauty in life lies in the quality of our relationships, for what else could possibly matter?