A Mother’s Grief

ELIZABETH CHARLOTTE BOGOD was my younger daughter. I have a terrible aching gap in my life.  I miss her so very much. I loved her so very much.  They say it gets better as time goes on. It does not.  It is an ache that does not go away.  She was my child, my best friend, and I think about her hourly, daily and particularly in the small hours of the night when I am lying in bed awaiting sleep.  In the middle of a movie or  television show, my thoughts stray. I find it difficult to follow a story. I see her on the living room sofa, at the front door.  I find myself saying all I want is to hug you just one more time to say goodbye – please come back.  If it were possible to visualize tears, they would be here, running down this page.

I go through a revolving door of mixed and ranging emotions, that of anger – anger at being the machine that brought a damaged product into this world, anger at not being able to find the schools, the teachers, the doctors, to help her, anger at myself for sins,  anger at things I did not do for her, anger at myself for my sometimes  impatience, anger that our society failed her and anger at Elizabeth for leaving me in such pain.  Just as quickly, my emotions change and I see her through her own eyes, how she saw herself. I see how she perceived her life as unable to find structure, balance, security, value, meaning.  She told me “Mom, I do not fit in this world”. This was her perception of who and how it was for her and had been all her life. There was always more than a grain of truth in what Elizabeth said. She was born without some of the basic abilities most of us take for granted. The biology of the human being requires to be loved, accepted, included. We cannot do without them and Elizabeth could not find them.  She was alone and human beings cannot live in society alone and lonely. In the raw truth, her perceptions were not misplaced.

If, as they say, there is a solution to every problem, then, as a parent, I failed to find that solution and I take on that mantle. Elizabeth was loved by her family but the developing teenager, the adult of middle years, needs more than family love, she needs the adventure and excitement of the love of others beyond.  A Rabbi once said to me, “Judy, in this life we need three things for happiness – the big wide world, our family and, in between, we need the something which connects the other two”.  Elizabeth did not find “the something which connects the other two”. She did not find a community in which to feel included, to be wanted, to be a part of.  The older she got, the more the solution eluded her.  I can see that – through her own eyes – how she saw a scary future, how she had reached a point where there was a meaningless fog she could not penetrate and she had no more energy to expend –  the point of no return. Words cannot say how sorry I am that I was unable to help her find this help but this is not about me – it is about Elizabeth.  Elizabeth, please hear my message.

I have to discipline my self-talk to omit the “ifs” – what if we had done this, what if I had done that. “Ifs” are part of the past and present, but there is no past and no present; there is only a future and my daughter is not a part of that future. Through internal struggles, turmoil and emotional processing, I realize that Elizabeth is at peace – that her daily battles and challenges, which she faced constantly, consistently, are over and that her mother, her father, and her siblings, all must be at peace for her because she is at peace and she wanted so badly to be at peace . 

In her death, a part of me – a large part – has gone with her. The telephone does not ring, “what are you doing today?”, we do not do groceries together, we do not have Sunday evening dinners, we do not have hugs in the kitchen, we do not talk philosophy, current affairs, fashion, gossip, a laugh, we do not even have a good row!  I pass the Bridal Store almost daily. We would look in the window of the Bridal Store and she would decide which white dress she liked the best. “No puffy sleeves” she said. She wanted so much to be a bride. She never will. It is a lonely, unearthly silence. I loved her so much. For myself, I will never be the same person again – I am broken.

Both Philip and I owe so much to our son and our elder daughter and their partners who have been our rocks throughout this tragedy, an absolutely incredible support. It is strange but in some ways we have all come to be closer as a family. Perhaps we recognize the fragility of life and the sorrow of suffering. I try not to “wear my heart on my sleeve”.  There is a time and a place for when, and if, to bare one’s feelings and it is important to me, as the matriarch of our small family, to provide positivity to strengthen and maintain our family bonds.  A cheerful face, trying to live an active, fulfilling life is all I can do to keep the pain at bay and, in the pretense, who knows, maybe I will become the face of the person I show to the world? 

Here, alone, on this Memorial Website I can be my true self, allowing myself to release feelings that are deep, visceral,  cries from my soul – feelings of abandonment, loneliness, guilt and sorrow, the terrible aching chasm that is ongoing and relentless, the constant replaying of our last night and our last conversations. In Elizabeth’s passing, I realize the pain it inflicts on those left behind, and, if it were not for the realization that I would leave behind an utterly devastated and grieving spouse, I too, might reach the point of no return.

How courageous she was.  Being born with neural deficits, learning disabilities and added to this, adolescent Crohn’s Disease – she was thrown a very tough hand.  It was so difficult for her to achieve the things we all take for granted – friends,  career, education, a significant other.  She blotted out her pain with her amazing gifts of creativity, art, writing and her uncanny skill, with no training, to develop technological products, blogs, websites, Power-Point presentations, workshops, her skills of facilitation and public speaking. But it was not enough, no human can live that way. She had a real sense of caring and sensitive insight to the pain of others and a natural response to give of herself to others when help was needed. She was tireless in her advocacy to make change and I know of several times when she put herself at risk to help someone when she saw an injustice or an unfairness. Yes, she knocked against many walls and often the bricks fell out.

Her childhood and adolescent years were spent not being accepted in social circles because she was “different”.  In adulthood, she was again isolated. All we want out of life is to be included, to be needed, to be valued, to have fun, to be loved.

In my life, I have all she so desperately wanted – the simple things – wonderful children and a loving spouse.  To some extent, I can identify with Elizabeth because I, too, have learning disabilities, not nearly as severe as her’s, but I know the isolation these cause, and even the bullying.  Like her, I am troubled by loneliness, I know how it is to be alone in a room full of people, how difficult it is to make friends, to be accepted by “the group”. I too experience feelings of jealousy and envy which I have a hard job processing and suppressing – a family trait inherited from my father and my maternal grandmother who both had similar perspectives. I am so sorry, my sweet girl, for passing all these genes on to you. Elizabeth entered this world with an unfair start.  It took resilience and courage to always be in competition mode in this fast and vast world.  In the end, she found the daily grind of challenge too hard, too overwhelming and she ran out of steam and strength to continue the battle. Heartbreaking as it is, I have to have understanding for her decision.

I have been sorting her baby photos.  Who would have thought that the chubby, happy smiley baby depicted in these photos would no longer be in this world?  I cannot believe she will not walk in and help me with the sorting!

Death is so final. There is no way back. I want to tell her, “I miss you, please come back”.       I want to show her this Web Site so she can see how talented she is, what a wealth of legacy she has left behind, how highly she was thought of, how so many people have said such nice things about her, how she would be so surprised at the more than 100 people who attended her Memorial Service.

She has left a me a legacy and possibly also to you. In some ways for me there is comfort to have with me the paper which she touched, the paint which she mixed, the poems which she typed.   But I would give it all away to have her back. 

At least I am old, and if there is a heaven, it will not be too long before we meet again. Elizabeth had so much to offer this world, her kindness, intuition, genuineness, passions, skills, love of environment, love of all animals, philosophy, ideology, extraordinary creativity in art, stories and poems – such incredibly brilliance – but she was the only one unable to see it.

Rest in peace, my angel.

May 12, 2015

I can never find the words,
to tell the world how much I miss you.
No scars on the outside,
as tangible proof that I am in pain.

When you left this world,
you took a piece of me with you.
A piece of my heart
 evidence that you’re no longer here.

The hole is always present.
I feel it with each breath I take.
A reminder of the loss,
a reminder of when our lives changed.

Nothing could ever fill this hole,
this I know is true.
I wouldn’t if I could,
because it reminds me of you.

One day my heart will mend,
and will be whole again.
When I see you in Heaven,
forever can begin.

– Lacey Harris-Willoby, 2014

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