On this morning, sixteen years ago, Shannon was in Culpeper with her Gram. They had washed windows and mulched flower beds and shared McDonald's. At lunchtime we talked about plans for the weekend. Denise was coming and they were going to put the finishing touches on wedding invitations and choose flowers for her wedding. On Monday, Shannon would have a job interview. Jules received good news at work and we were all going out to dinner to celebrate. We would all be home by 4. Her last words, in that last telephone conversation were, "I love you Mom".
Sixteen years seems like such a long time but as anyone who has lost someone dear ...most of us... knows, it is a mere moment with one breath and forever with the next. In the beginning of the journey that follows loss the pain is beyond measure. We find comfort in little things...familiar things...making coffee, or the bed, holding the cat or walking the dog. Sleep is different, forever changed and unpredictable. You look in the mirror and don't recognize the face staring back, first with fear, then agony, then emptiness.
With time, the pain melts into every cell. It no longer brings you to your knees in the grocery store or at the mail box. It becomes familiar and quiet. I realized many years ago that the pain is a reminder that we love deeply and to our core. It doesn't require healing. It is part of every new day in this ever changing and totally unrecognizable life, something that binds us to who we were and that we continue to be, however changed.
This day in my life is such a gift. I embrace it whole heartedly and give myself permission to be... really be, however my heart needs. I celebrate the miracles of Shannon's life, and the miracles that were born of her return to Heaven. I savor the delicious taste of being ordinary in a life so full of extraordinary. My heart fills with thoughts of Matthew, Melissa, Dorothy and Pete, and how blessed I am that they were gracious enough to allow us in. I may cry some. I may go to Paul's and have cake. I may read Shannon's journals or watch home movies. I won't apologize for being however I need to be on this day, because tomorrow I will once again tuck these tenderest of memories back into my heart and be the way I think the world prefers.
My daughter is everywhere. She is smiling at the ducks swimming in the yard. She is in reruns of Friends. She is in the blooming dogwood and fragrant lilac. She visits her Dad in his dreams. She touches the hearts of strangers who in turn, reach out to us to remind us that Shannon's messages of gratitude and appreciation for Diet Coke and wee dragonflies, have lifted their spirits and inspired them to find the joy in their own little things.
I have spent the last sixteen years trying to find words for emotions that refuse to be defined. Love is so beyond huge. This year, on this day...so many people close to me are beginning their own journey with loss. I wish there were words. Some way to offer comfort. Some way to ease the fear that accompanies the pain. I know there are no words. So I offer only love.
With every person who enters ... with every person who leaves... we are changed. I am not who I was when May 1 was just another day. There was a moment at the hospital sixteen years ago when I wondered what dreadful thing I had done to deserve such pain. I remember that moment because in the very next breath I wondered what I had ever done to deserve such a gift. Shannon lived her whole life with us in 23 years and 25 days. My life began when she chose to spend those years with me as her Mom.
I am who I am, and who I will continue to try to be... because she was here, my amazing Shannon.
I love you my sweetest Angel.