I used to joke about her name, and nicknamed her “Lizzy Borden”. I recited the infamous poem to her several times “Lizzy Borden took an axe and gave her father forty whacks, when she saw what she had done she gave her mother forty one.”
While she never chopped me up with an axe, she did kill me in other ways.
She killed me with laughter when she uttered so many “Lizzy-isms” that I really wish I had kept a journal of all of them.
She killed me with disbelief at some of her odd antics; shaving her legs for the first time in a roadside hotel when we were stranded, cold, frightened and slightly broke in another country after our van had broken down on the interstate. She bled everywhere. That one always stands out, like her 12 year old leg hairs apparently.
She killed me cherry eating at Fusilli Grill.
She killed me with worry at her choice of some of her boyfriends.
She killed me by singing and dancing for our neighbours, by waking up after so many surgeries and telling me she was glad I was there, with Sex Bombs and I think I love you’s and YMCA’s and It’s not unusual (da-da-da-da-dum) and of course, Variety Club guy.
She killed me with pride for all her talents, always trying to suggest it was because of me, or because of my help, but it was her, it was all her.
She killed me with experiences in elevators, movie theatres, $17,000 shopping sprees, toilet photos at the top of the empire state building, saying yes to the dress, thigh dances, broken chairs and incontinence, ski-vas and favas, and giant dogs.
She killed me with her kindness, her vivaciousness, and delivering my cherished Carys after we both already new she was there waiting to be born as we sat in Dr. Hudson’s office so many times together.
She also killed me with stories she told about me to other people that were not right.
She killed me by blaming me for things that were not me, by forgiving nothing, by turning others against me, by choosing new family over old, by pulling the rug out from under me so hard that it left me in the valley of the shadow of death for quite some time.
And through it all, I loved her. I still do. I always will.
I forgive her all of it, I only wish she could do the same for me.
What I remember about her when I take some quiet time to reflect, brings a smile to my face in spite of all the horror of the last few years. It is funny what the brain fills itself with, as if it knows you are going to need these memories one day.
Really REALLY need them.
I remember the look of wonder on her face the first time she played with the faucet on the kitchen sink, took her first steps, saw presents under the tree on her first Christmas morning, held her newborn brother, stepped into the ocean surf, got big girl panties, realized she could run around sprinklers, rode her bike without training wheels, strutted her stuff in fashion shows and teacher crushes, and film making, especially the grad video and the Dr. Elder tribute. But it all goes back to the look of wonder on her tiny face when I held her in the hospital nursery and she looked me in the eyes, the first time and saw the intense, never ending love I had for her. I know we had a moment, Our moment. That one thing that will be with you for life and carry you through when your legs are just not beneath you anymore. She slid her little starfish hand up onto my chest as I rocked her and rocked her long past the point she needed to be rocked. We really met for the first time two days after her birth in that nursery, first time mother, new born child, and In those moments I promised her I would try not to screw things up, that we were both new at this, she as my baby, me as her mother, and I promised her I would be there always, we were in this for life now.
Little did we know where life would take us. What would be taken. What could never be replaced. What could not be taken away.
Her starfish hands now dwarf mine completely. Mine show the years on them now, old lady hands I used to call them when I didn’t have any! They have been busy hands, They have baked birthday cakes and written letters to school, they have rubbed shoulders and smacked bottoms and tickled ribs and tied hair back, changed diapers, wiped bottoms, , handed over car keys, handed over hot dog money and bigger bucks than that, they have dried tears, too often my own, and they have held my grandchildren, sadly, for not long enough.
There are empty seats at my dinner table now, ones that may not be filled again, but I still feel her grace surrounding me. I have risen above the piercing arrow of loss and realize just how small my life would have been without her. I have tried not to let the joy she gave me when she was nearby diminish because she has left me, and however long that may be, it will always have been too long with too many moments lost in time.
We were a family, a mother and daughter and we are still a family, we are all one in this world, each carrying our own losses and heartaches. Her journey with me will never end. There is an empty chair but also a beautiful spirit left in her wake.
I often go over and over in my head the last time I saw her and spoke to her and what I could have done to alter the outcome. It has taken time, meditation, therapy and prayer to get where I am today, knowing that guilt is defined as intent to harm and no mother has the intent to harm her child. To leave was her choice, to give her life was mine, I was the instrument in her journey here. My grandchildren may not know me but their heart beats because of me. The reality is this is not about me wanting her to stay but honoring her choice to decide to leave and her choice to not give her children a part of me. She is their mother. I am not.
I have learned from these challenges, disturbing and painful, these losses that never occurred even in my wildest dreams. The dark hollow in my chest has healed. My pain is no longer a prison cell surrounding me so tightly that it literally made it hard to breathe. While I was trying to make sense of it all and wondering if I could go on, something was happening.
The bond I had with her strengthened in its own right.
Some of my children, who I always forgave, accepted, and loved them for their flaws, in the end could not accept mine.
And for some reason I do not understand and also do not give much thought to anymore, two of the three have left little to nothing in my heart and memory.
But standing sentry by my side is her spirit, the one she left behind in my memory. Her spirit surrounds me with a powerful grace. connecting us as if she is still in the womb, as if she is still curled into me as I rock, and rock, and rock her, and make promises I meant with all my heart.
Thirty years ago she came into my life, fast, like a bullet.
Three years ago she left my life, just as quickly, more silently, more painful than any labour.
But forever, back on the day she was born and through to the day I die, I will always be her mother in increasingly profound ways.
Even if eternity never sends her home to me.
Until next time, on the road to fabulous.
Sian Erith Thomson