Dinner For Nine

I stood at the head of the table, wondering where to begin. I looked around at all the things I had come to know with such intense intimacy, but I still had no idea how they would react; I didn’t even know how to address them. I cleared my throat, but the dull roar of voices continued. I have spent the last week forcefully whispering “shut the fuck up” in moments when the noise is too loud, which is nothing new; some days are just louder than others. But this one, my fourth Mother’s day without my girl, this one blasts the space between my ears.

Another one without you.

I have gone through so many stages of grief, on this day alone. Every year (can you even believe I have lived long enough without her that I can actually say “every year”), every year a new layer of this grief pulls up a chair to the most depressing dinner party ever hosted.

I’m at the head with sadness to my right. My loyal companion.
She speaks up at the most inconvenient times, whispers Lil’s name in my ear and reminds me that she is dead. I try not to make eye contact, but when I give in and look directly at her, she sucks the breath from my lungs, reminding me that I died too.

To my left is love.
She tries to remind me, when I have no air left to breathe, that Lilee lived. That I not only got to witness her life, but I had the privilege of creating it. She also likes to whisper Lilee-Jean in my ear, but it is hushed like the sound of the ocean lapping the shore, it’s calm, like a warm breeze through the trees. She knows it hurts, but she reminds me that it was worth it.

Around the rest of the table, in no particular order, sits anger, envy, fear, anxiety, hopelessness and happiness. Happiness is flaky, though, constantly in and out of the room with no warning, demanding attention in her presence. Today, however, she stands at the window looking out, knowing she can’t compete with everyone else.

Collectively, they are my grief; they are bereavement.

I was standing in the familiarity of these things that I have come to hate and come to love, when I felt a hand on my shoulder. Firm, but calming. Forceful, but with kindness.
I turned around and saw the very last thing I ever thought I would: Acceptance.

I knew she wasn’t there because I have accepted Lilee-Jean being stolen from me. Regardless of the reality of it, I will only be able to fully accept her death when I am about to embark on that adventure myself. But as acceptance stood behind me, silent, with one hand steadying me in my place, while all the rest of them created noise that increased by the second, I understood this:

Acceptance is my compass. Acceptance is my true north. And this year, on Mother’s Day, she stood and supported me as I did what I know needed to be done.

I cleared my throat, once again, and when the room fell silent I announced my abdication from motherhood.

Everyone lost it. Anger destroyed the dishware, envy started pointing out all of the unfit parents that don’t deserve to have their kids, fear kept asking me who I was. If im not a mother then who the hell am I??? Anxiety rambled on about what if I decided to change my mind, how people would react and what am I going to do when I grow up if I don’t have a husband and children. Hopelessness, ever so silently, went and stood by happiness, blocking her from my view, along with all of the light trying to enter the room. Even love was silent while sadness wept.
Acceptance, however, stood steadfast behind me, still a hand on my shoulder.
Never moving; never changing.

I am not a mother, if I have no child. I know this to be true.
And while the sentiments of “you’ll always be a mother” are appreciated, I can not be a mother when I come home to an empty house.

Don’t get me wrong, to be remembered and honoured on Mother’s Day fills this broken little heart with so much love because I will never not be HER mother. but to be a mom with no child, to FEEL like a mother, think like a mother, make decisions like a mother, hell I even still dress like one,  when your child is no longer alive is torture.  Because I wish with every bone in my body that she was here for me to take to school, to help with her homework, to ground her, to bake with her, to spend hot summer days at the ocean and cold rainy ones having a no-pants dance party in the living room.

I am enduring this day for the 4th time without her, but it is the first year that I no longer feel like I am a part of the mom club. If I’m being honest, for the first time, I no longer feel like I want to be. I don’t even know what that means.. how to not be. Mothers are the most incredible creatures I have ever witnessed. Their endurance, their patience, their ability to act in a multitude of ways but with one motivator; love. They deal with all the shit that is thrown at them(sometimes literally) and remain standing at the end of the day. They do it all and I think, maybe, that’s where my desire to resign comes from.  I’m tired but I have no sweet little face to look into and say “you’re worth it, all of it, every second.”

As I move into this ever-changing, ever-adapting woman that I both am and am becoming, I know three things to be true:

I was a mother to the most incredible human being.
My Daughter is dead.
I will always be her mom, but I no longer am one.

So as I sit at a table with all of the things I have raging inside of me, on a day like today when I feel like I can’t keep them at bay, I lean on acceptance to hold me in that moment. I lean on those things that I know to be true.

Earlier this week, with a conscious mind of resignation, I sat down on the floor, with a big glass of red and I wrote down the things I would have taught her if I could have. I took to my words to create something that resembled a goodbye, full of all the things I thought I had learned as a mother.
I wrote, but it was forced. How do you teach without a student? I thought that if I could be profound and spout out all of the beautiful things that I have learned over the last 30 years that I could graciously take a step back, with a quick wave to the crowd and bow out into retirement. I thought if I could prove that I had something worth teaching her, that I could put to rest all of this “unfinished business” I feel I have pulsing through my veins.
But I can’t. I looked at what I had written and I just couldn’t.

So I ripped out the pages and wrote this instead:

Life is complete shit.
Actually. It’s awful. Every minute of every day pressure is put on you to be better, do better, have more, look better. We are constantly surrounded by people who are trying to one-up us, or who we are trying to one-up. People will hurt you, some on purpose, some because they can’t see far enough past their own agenda to see you standing in the wake of their choices. You will lose. You will cry more than you want to, from anger and from sadness. You will experience death and loss. And while you are dealing with all the pain from the inside, the world will continue to shovel it on from the outside. Social media has given us a whole new way to loath ourselves and in a world of constant connection we are aimlessly wandering around trying not to feel so alone.

But life is also pretty damn great, too.
You can learn something from everyone you meet and sometimes those things will change your whole life. The world is at our fingertips more than it ever was and if you want it enough you can wade into all the oceans of the world, breathe in the air from the tallest mountain tops, eat foods you can’t even pronounce and  witness how different humans can live their lives and yet, at the same time, how we are all just the same.
You can love and be loved. Every inch of you, every little part both inside and out.
The best thing about it? You can love in so many ways and no matter what kind of love, you will never love two people the same either. Because that’s the magic of it, its the way two individual souls entwine that creates a love made just for you.
With the sun hot on your skin, or the crisp cool wind biting at your nose, you can feel connected to the earth, not separate from it, but as a living breathing part of it. And if you listen closely, no matter how chaotic the outside world might be, no matter how many things are smashing around inside of your head, you will always be able to hear the silent whisper of your true north pointing you in the direction your soul needs you to go. We have it all within us, the ability to be happy, fulfilled, rich beyond measure and loved. But the world will bring you down. Loss will destroy you (believe me, I know). But then one day, you’ll open your eyes and see a little different. You’ll silence the things that make you feel like you are always searching and you’ll realize that what ever it is you’ve been searching for, you’ve had all along.

As I re-read what I wrote, and finished my second (okay, third) glass of wine, I knew that the most important thing we can do, the most important thing we can know as we make our way through this life is that there is only way to fully live it; completely and recklessly on fire.

That’s what I would have taught her.

If nothing else, that’s what I would want her to know.

If I could be her mom again, I would gladly sign back up, but the time has come for me to blow a kiss, take a bow and watch from backstage as the incredible mothers and mothers-to-be around me, rise up.

here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

Chelsey xo


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