When I first started my writing class, a few of my bloggy lovers wanted me to post an essay. I wanted to wait to do that until my last class, which was TONIGHT. Here is one of my essays, my VERY favorite one. The one I read in class tonight and ALMOST made it through without crying. I'm so proud of this essay and not only because I got an A on it. It just made me realize how much Ive gone through and how far I've come.
I never thought of myself as a strong person, so when my mom said to me "Danielle, you are the strong one in this family. I need you to know that", I was taken by surprise. The next day as my family and I were standing around my mom's hospital bed, watching her take her very last breath, I started to understand what she meant. As I heard my older sister crying hysterically, saw my dad heartbroken and my younger sister lost, I knew I was going to have to step into my mother's place as the strong one in our family. I was going to have to gather up and strength I had and carry my family through her death and funeral. The funeral was a few days later and while I don't remember much of the days leading up to it, I do remember the day like it just happened yesterday.
The sun was shinning brightly for a bitterly cold January day. the wind was whipping through my hair, stinging my cheeks, and grabbing the hem of my black chiffon dress. As I walked from the parking lot to the church tightly holding onto my mom's urn, warm from my body heat, I opened the doors. I stepped into the church, I immediately felt the heat hit my body wrapping me in comfort like an old tattered college sweatshirt. The vestibule of the church was humming with people talking in hushed tones and quietly crying. Lit candles and beautiful bouquets of flowers from various friends and relatives cover every flat surface of the room. The air smelled of melted candle wax and fresh cut flowers. I walked passed everyone, not saying a word, to stand next to the large table that held the many pictures of my mom. I looked at all of these pictures that symbolize her sixty-two years of life and start to cry. I took a deep breath and gathered some strength to get myself and my family through this unbearably sad day.
Still holding onto my mom's white porcelain urn, I dipped my fingers into the brass bowl that holds the warm holy water. Making the sign of the cross, I walked up to the alter. There was a small table covered in red velvet cloth and many red and white carnations designated for the urn. I set down the only physical object that remains of my mom and started to cry. Again, for the countless time that day, I wished I didn't have to do this. For a brief moment, I started to feel the sadness try to over take me, but I took another deep breath, composed myself, and turned around and took my seat in the pew marked "reserved for family members". I sat between my father and my husband, holding my father's hand and rubbing his back, whispering softly "I'm here, I'll get us through this."
That moment at the alter was the only time I let myself feel the overwhelming heartache since I watched her take her last breath in that hospital bed for three years. Between January 18, 2005 and January 15, 2008, I ran from the pain that filled my soul and focused all my energy and strength on my family. I was more concerned with how my dad and sisters were coping then I was with myself. I cooked meals for them, cleaned my father's house, and helped him pack up some of my mom's belongings, all the while pushing my grief deep down. I did all of this to make the transition from having my mom everyday, to never being able to see her or hear her voice again, easier. My goal was to help myself, while helping my family. By stepping into my mom's place in our family, I thought I could make my pain less and be that strong woman she thought I was. When the grief got to be too much of a presence, that I could no longer out run it, I stood next to it. I let grief and sadness wash over me as a wave would wash over a sandcastle. When I was allowing myself to be taken over by grief, I found that strong woman my mom told me I was three years ago. The strength I had before is nothing compared to what I have now. Today I can be the strong woman my mom always knew I was. I am able to help my family through this tragedy, and do it with my whole soul. I don't need to sacrifice my grief in order to be there for the rest of my family.
It's been a year since I allowed myself to embrace grief and not run from it. In the last year I have found more strength then I ever thought I had. I dug deep inside myself to gather strength, only to find out there are deeper places to look. I couldn't have gone on this journey if it wasn't for the woman who knows me better then I know myself, telling me I was capable. She unlocked something in me that day and she knew exactly what she was doing.