“Her body wasn’t strong enough to hold her spirit anymore, so she had to leave…”
It’s impossible for me to accept that our beginning came from that end, but it did. I can see us there together, me holding them both in our dirt driveway after they’d just arrived home. I prepared for that moment for hours, days, maybe weeks, rehearsing carefully what I’d say, what Terry wanted me to say. We had no map for telling our children Momma had died.
We held each other and scream-cried. I remember breathing them in, wrapping my face in their hair as they pulled hard into my arms. I am so grateful that we all survived that moment, that one of us didn’t just split apart like dry firewood splintering against rocks. What if one more of us left, what then?
I held us together so we could hold me together.
I’ve always seen that moment as part of the ugly horror of that time, the heartache and sorrow of her illness and death. But coming up on the three year anniversary of her death, I’ve been seeing it as our beginning, the start of our little family of three. I never knew I could feel this way about that moment. Somehow I’ve been able to break through into the newness of our lives together.
Our origin story has come together after all this time.
I feel more than a little guilty about this. Will her family worry I’ve left Terry behind, that I’m erasing her from the kids lives? It also reminds me of the treasure of these years that I get to have that she does not. Is our new life cheating on our old life? Its as ridiculous sounding as it is improbable to feel. Yet here it all is, a new beginning, a superpower of three.
It’s clear that this new family lives very differently from the first one. Being a single parent I don’t have time to build a garden, raise turkeys or chickens, or build cob houses. I haven’t made pasta from scratch in a year, we don’t eat enough fresh vegetables, and I don’t let any of it weigh me down. This morning my girl and I hung out in bed playing Pet Fashion Show, a video game in which we dress up virtual pets around a given theme to compete with people around the world in a runway show. She almost always wins. Today her “cute pig” outfit took first place, but my “spooky cat” outfit won the next round. Gaming in bed together is a gift of this time I will remember for the rest of my life.
Throughout quarantine my son has created friendships through his online school community and through gaming. He and his crew have their own Youtube channel, they get to hang out together in person every few weeks. His friends’ parents tell me what a great kid he is. I know, and yes I need you to tell me often because I’m a single parent and I don’t have someone laying next to me at night to remind me how incredibly awesome he is. He has found a way to thrive through our move to this new town, Covid, a new school, no Mom, all of it. At 13 he’s a miracle on 2 feet.
I moved us a year after her death, to give me a chance to succeed at the one thing I really needed to succeed at, something I never thought would be a goal for me. I wanted to become a successful homemaker. Not a childhood dream but a challenge I instinctively knew I had to meet with everything I had. Our old homestead had poor internet, their school was 45 min away and expensive as hell, and our mortgage was too much for me to carry. I knew it would be hard enough for me just to cook, clean, drive and help the kids become their fullest selves without worrying about not being able to afford to live. So we packed everything up, moved north and never looked back. That was two years and a pandemic ago.
We have arrived, yet it started there, on the hardest day in all of our lives.
What a strange intimacy to share, but aren’t all origin stories born out of a crisis? Someone dies or nearly dies, the world ends in a few different ways? Our world ended, we share in that. It has become a currency of kindness between us. But we are outgrowing its sorrow, or maybe its just me outgrowing the sorrow. My 8 year old daughter passes sorrow like a roadrunner passes a snail.
It wasn’t until year 2 that I was really able to recover from being her caregiver. I started yoga to rebuild my strength. As my core was slowly restored so too did my spiritual practice and creativity come back into fullness. Processes that I’ve practiced for decades, that fed me when I needed it most have returned and are flourishing. Having a nourishing, sacred daily practice has fed me more than I could ever have hoped for.
This is the soil for this seed of our new beginning.
I believe that families nest within each other. Children grow within their parents, parents within each other and even their children. If the family is healthy we’re all held by the greater presence of that family. When one part of that family is taken away we all have to recover. I think I’ve been the one to lag behind the most. I needed the time to find my own wholeness again so I can do my part to be the soil we need to grow our new life together.
Enough with surviving, its time to thrive!
So whats next? My wife was the adventurer, the manifestor, the one with the vision. She wanted kids, a farm, to build earthen homes, become a social worker and foment revolution. I have a vision, but it is as yet unformed, not even half baked: wonderment. How to immerse our super power of three in wonderment as our family grows?
How can wonderment enable us all to take flight?