Robin, Camila's mom


I have not written for awhile. Like all who have lost before me, I know now that surviving my girl gets harder for awhile before it gets easier.

I knew I would survive once I chose to survive, but I needed time to accept my sadness and this loneliness for Camila that stays with me like a toothache.

These past months, I began many posts but never finished them. I seemed to have lost the ability to find that connection between loss and life that would soothe my path back from pain and into the present, the path that would somehow, in some felt way, allow me to lift myself above my base feelings of sorrow. And I didn’t feel right offering my words if they would only confirm what you already know: that this is hard, that our children will never come back, that our arms will remain empty and our hearts never again lift at the sound of their voice.


Camila and her papa, Gabriel, and  I watched American Idol together. We recorded every episode, discussed each contestant, each song choice, each judge’s decision. It was one of the things we did together. We all so easily assumed that Camila would audition one day.

Her grandparents began watching Idol with us years ago and, when she was in the hospital, Camila would call her grandma either during or right after the show to share opinions of the night’s offering, to talk about how it might all come out, who would win, who would be let go. Two nights a week, their casual speculation united them, eased their sense of separation, and normalized their night: their tradition continued, even as Camila was in Washington, tethered to a hospital bed, and Grandma was in California sitting on her couch.


This year is American Idol’s final season, and I am watching the program. It’s only at the audition stage of the contest but, already, I’ve found something unexpected, something I needed. I found an anthem.

Last night, a girl walked into the room and, without any fanfare, began to sing. She began at the chorus –

... I’ll rise up.
I’ll rise like the day.
I’ll rise up,
I’ll rise unafraid.
I’ll rise up,
And I’ll do it a thousand times again.

And I’ll rise up,
High like the waves.
I’ll rise up,
In spite of the ache.
I’ll rise up,
And I’ll do it a thousand times again.


I had never heard the song before. I no longer have my mentor, after all, no longer have a daughter who shares contemporary songs with me. Instead, I stumble upon them or come across them casually, as I did last night while watching a recorded episode.

The song is called “Rise Up” and was written and recorded recently by a young artist named Andra Day.

I’ll rise up,
In spite of the ache.

The truth is that my course from here has more to do with my character than with my loss. I need to keep being the woman Camila loved, the woman I want to be – and the woman I want to see when I look in the mirror. I know I keep getting up in the morning, but I think it’s going to help me right now to have Andra Day’s lyrics in my head, moving in me like the call of an activist anthem.

I’ll rise up,
And I’ll do it a thousand times again.

My struggle is not based on a sometimes feeling. As you in the circle know, this is the all-the-time feeling. Rising up above this grief sometimes feels exactly like an act of defiance. And I do it every day. One hundred, two hundred, three hundred times a day.

The chorus moves next to the person who motivates this resilience:

For you,
For you.

And my mind went to Camila, to what I know her hope – her command – for me would be. But then Day expands her purpose:

All we need, all we need is hope,
And for that we have each other.
And for that we have each other,
And we will rise.
We will rise.

After feeling my spirit rise up toward life, I was grateful for this reminder. For there are those in my life who sustain me, who make living worthwhile, who engage me with joy and embrace me with love.

So I am writing today to remind you – and me – with gratitude:

We have each other,
And we will rise.



Andra Day, “Rise Up”



2 Responses to “Anthem”

  1. grahamforeverinmyheart

    As you haven’t written in a while, I too, have not read any blogs in a while. I have been in a period of retreat for the past few months. Thank you for sharing this song with it’s beautiful lyrics. It speaks truth to those of us in this circle of sorrow.

  2. Robin, Camila's mom

    I really like your metaphor of “retreat.” For me, the word captures a deliberate turn within, a willingness to sit quietly with your mind and heart. And loss. To learn to live with this new way of knowing.

    Thank you for sharing.


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