In the wee hours as I slept, I was awakened by the sound of the house settling and immediately assumed Camila was getting up to go to the bathroom. Then I remembered she had died and the wave of sadness washed over me again.
I remember those early teen years when Camila was between needing to know I trusted her with a greater degree of freedom and learning to trust herself. It was all about making good choices and I knew that she’d have to mess up a few times until she’d start to get it right. Those were the nights I began waking to her every move – hoping she’d get enough sleep or finish the homework or not come home too late.
It was during those teen years that my baby antenna came back: I needed to know she was safe, and sometimes that meant waking up in the night to check and other times it meant waking up when she’d wake up.
“Camila, are you okay?” I’d call into the dark.
“Yes, Mom,” she’d always answer.
“I love you, Buttercup.”
“I love you, Mom.”
Then I’d fall back into sleep.
My girl died ten months ago. And even though I have chosen to survive losing her, and even while I am working hard intellectually to understand the difference between what I can keep and what I should let go, my body – like an innate hunter of sound and sorrow – still listens for her at night.
I am learning there are only so many things I can do deliberately as I work to survive this loss. Friends in the circle express their experience, three years after the death of their child, five years, ten and twelve years after the death of their sons and daughters. I understand that I cannot force this deliberate survival. Any healing that is going on goes on beneath the skin. Like a disease, my daughter’s death touches everything in me and it clings. And just like surviving a disease, I sometimes think it is at the cellular level that survival starts.
Progress can be slow.
My daily progress sometimes moves so slow as to be seemingly invisible. Sometimes all I do is ache. But there are now other times: days when I wake up simply loving her, days I say, “Good morning, Buttercup!” as I see her picture and get up to dress. I treasure those days when I wake with a light heart. I know they are a sure sign of my survival, proof that I am learning to live without her physical presence even as I learn new ways to love her.
I know life will get better, that days – and nights – will get easier. My friends in the circle have taught me that. Their voices, too, reach out to me in the night.