Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I Had a Daughter Once

In the Shadows
artist:  Kelsey N Veldman
One of the things that has kept me from giving up this blog in favor of a little extra reading time every week (or whatever I chose to do with the time - folding laundry could probably use some additional attention) is that I'm afraid.  And like really terrified actually.  Afraid that people will forget Kelsey.  Maybe I'm even a little worried that I will forget her because I don't even use the blog to feature her these days.  It's all about me, some might say.  The reality is that grief is about you, not the one you've lost.  That may shock you, but think about it as I make the case...

I'll never forget when a high school psychology teacher hipped us to the fact that we don't cry for the other person; we cry because we are sad.  There was a murmur in the room, I can still recall it - people protested, but he insisted.  And his logic was irrefutable.  It's a very selfish feeling:  sadness.  If you are crying over the loss of someone, the other person no longer feels hurt, sick or sad.  As a matter of fact, if you're spiritual, you probably believe that they are in a better place.  So, you are crying because you miss them.  I think most of the kids in the class who were a little shocked at the statement were thinking of times that they had cried over something sad they had seen on the news or had happened to someone else and they felt badly for them.  Surely, we all said to ourselves, then we are crying for others, and I think we felt that, in a small way, it proved our goodness that we could be so moved by someone else's plight.  (Little did any of us know that collectively we would all have so many opportunities for that in our lifetime.)  But, no, he still insisted that it was for our own purposes that we cried.  We were the ones who felt badly, and it was in reaction to our own emotions that we shed tears.  There is no denying this.  He was right.

But he stopped short of letting us off the hook for this by explaining that feeling sad is not a bad thing.  That selfish display of emotion means one thing very plainly:  we feel.  And feeling something is a good thing.  Generally.  I would imagine people who were/are monstrous also feel things, but their feelings are just off kilter from the rest of us somehow.  But, putting them aside for these purposes, you have to have a depth of feeling about something to then take it to the next level, whatever that might be.  It's like the key in the ignition.  If you are numb to the things around you, you'll be stuck.  The engine will be frozen. (This will all tie together, I promise.)

I think I see evidence of my theory at work every day in how people spur themselves to action after losing a loved one.  I belong to a group of mothers whose children have suffered or are suffering from eating disorders that was started by a woman who lost her daughter to the disease a decade ago (I may have mentioned this before).  She is also active in a number of other eating disorder-related activities.  That is just one example of course.  Some people have made a huge national or worldwide impact like Candy Lightner who founded MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) in 1980 after her daughter was killed by a drunk driver.  Others stay within the confines of their community, like a local mom who works diligently on anti-drug efforts in Pittsburgh after her son died of a heroin overdose.  But you see those kinds of efforts over and over in honor of their children, and I realize that, at the core, they are probably doing it for much the same reason I can't quite let myself let go of this:  so people don't forget who their children were and so their life and death mean something.  It is selfish.  But that is okay, because it has spurred them to act in ways that helps others far beyond themselves.  If only every selfish act we do has such selfless results.

I don't think this little blog rises to that level at all, and the other thing I spend a lot of time pondering these days is the fine line between trying to keep the memory of someone alive and exploiting it.  I've crossed that line in my own estimation a time or two I think - but that's almost its own topic.  But, to bring it all back to the beginning - as we look toward Eating Disorder Awareness Week next week, I need you to remember I had a daughter once.  She was beautiful, but she could be ugly in spirit when she wanted to be.  She had an amazing talent that her disease abused and refused to allow to blossom to its full potential.  She loved passionately, she hated that way too.  She could be funny, but that humor could bite as well.  In short, she was a human being, with assets and flaws.  What she could have potentially become we will never know, but what she is that I know for sure is my first born daughter whom I held in my arms at the moment of her birth.  I need you not to forget her.  I need it.



  1. She's never going to be forgotten, I can promise you that. And your description of her is absolutely perfect.