Saturday, April 28, 2012

It Spins My Head

DH gave me  a pair of beautiful butterfly earrings in gold and semiprecious stones. He told me, he didn't know why he bought them for me, only that they seemed to reflect my spirit. They were a symbol of a new joyful period in my life. A period characterized by lightness, almost the feeling of weightlessness. I was grateful, I'd emerged from some crappy experiences, took some risks and found myself loved and appreciated by this wonderful man. Butterflies symbolized freedom to light upon love. Amazing.

Fast forward six years to the birth and death of our daughter, Caitlin. Eleven weeks after her death (the same amount of time she lived), I attended a group meeting for parents whose children had died. We sat in a circle, and passed around a stone. I listened with horror as each parent gripped the stone, releasing another death story. "This is my life," was my silent scream. I opened my hands and the stone landed heavy in my hands. It was etched with my symbol of lightness--butterflies. Once a symbol of freedom, butterflies now symbolized the irons of grief. 

I was helpless. I'd like to say I was courageous when I embraced grief, but, truthfully grief captured me, and, I surrendered. Eventually I did aim to "feel how this feels," to open my arms to the experience rather than steal myself from it. Grief became a friend; the one willing to remind me of Caitlin every day. Grief never forgot her name or that I was her mother.

Over the last four years, I also embraced the butterfly's new symbolism. Now, a symbol of my daughter entering new spaces in my life in ways never intended. A symbol of her short life parenting me, rather than the way it's supposed to be--my life spent parenting her.

In this sixth year, I've experienced some sense of comfort and engaged in life in some new ways, and reconnected with friends and family. Sadly during my efforts to reconnect, I discovered I'd lost long term memories of experiences or events with other people. "Remember when we . . . " continues to be frequently met with "No" or "I'm sure that did happen; I don't know." I wonder if the butterfly forgets its life on the ground or the wind the nearly blew its cocoon from a tenuous tether. 

But stasis isn't the nature of a butterfly, and a chance story brought the symbol through another transformation.

While in the library, in a period of productivity with work, I detoured and read some posts on a social networking site. There, a friend reminded me of a pair of butterfly earrings I gave to her daughter for being my flower girl on the happiest day of my life. I still don't remember that I gave that gift. I don't remember buying them and I don't remember giving them. But, it makes sense I would choose a symbol of what the day meant to me to give as a gift. Tears burst at the reminder of the lightness and joy I felt in those days. I gasped, then let them fall as I sat in stoic silence remembering her death. Then, Guilt landed on my heart like that awful stone. How could I be "comfortable"? Working? Experiencing a new kind of lightness? How? When my daughter is dead.

Eventually, I drug my hands back to the keyboard to work. And then, it happened--one of those odd coincidence's that communicates my daughter's presence to me, and sometimes communicates her parenting of me. I was working on an article about children's books, and I clicked on a link to a blog, and found these: 

Felt like a message. Perhaps, a reassuring message of, "It's OK to revisit yourself. To emerge independent. To experience some comfort. To allow the butterflies their flight."

I'm not sure I'm ready for this. I'm not sure I want this. Am I letting go of the grief? If grief doesn't visit, who will help me remember? Will I lose the only motherhood role left to me, that of a bereaved mother?  When people say, "do you have children" will I answer no? This isn't OK with me. But, Caitlin seems to be telling me, it's OK to reclaim some of who I was as "Oddrey" and it's OK to lovingly say "Bye, Bye, Butterflies!"

Odd, this symbol of transformation, transforming. It's spins my head.

Ah, the way we find meaning in this world, confusing.