I often wonder, “What happened to the old me?” When I look I the mirror now – I can still see her reflection. A woman with long strawberry blond hair, freckles speckling the bridge of her nose, and a small dimple that appears on her left cheek when she smiles.
The young woman in the mirror looks like me but she doesn’t FEEL like me anymore. It’s as if two women have tried to merge into this one body.
The me of ‘before’ my child died and the me of ‘after’ her death.
Only marks of memories of her upon our body’s reflection in the mirror remind me of who we used to be. The thinning eyebrows I fill with a pencil each morning and the chicken pox pothole scar on our forehead that has been present since our youth.
Still the same, but yet forever changed.
But the eyes, those beakers of beauty that access the soul. Those eyes tell the truth, a cave of darkness, as they cannot hide the pain of loss, although they sparkle at times like a candle illuminating the dark cavern with hope.
Is she still in there? Is the girl that used her lips to fall in love with laughter and her eyebrows that shared a coy glance with the world still in there? Those checks that once conveyed her sense of innocent smiles believing in life, where have they gone?
The intersection of before and after grief is so strange. It’s a place I find myself meeting myself in over and over again. “Hi old self, I miss you…” the new says to the old.
The old self smiles at me now and says, “I miss you too.” She takes my hand as a breeze blows through my hair and rattles the street signs of before and after on this dusty dirt road of sadness and longing.
“Are you coming home?” I, the new me, asks her with a wishful tone.
She answers back gently, but with honest words, “No, not this time.” And my head hangs and a tear rolls down my worn face as I grieve not only the death of my child but the me that used to be.
I barter with her like a broken-hearted lover, “Not you too! I can’t lose you too.” I have lost so much. I need her more now than ever.
As she kneels down in front of me, like a mother comforting her small child, she softly whispers, “Believe it or not, you don’t need me anymore.”
My lip quivers as I hold back my pleas for her to stay.
She continues, “I am still in there, but you have evolved. There is no going back from where you have came. You are forever scarred but not forever broken. You will rise from this place of pain, stronger and more full of life and love than you have ever been. I know now you want to go back, but trust me when I say there will come a time when you can’t imagine ever wanting to leave this new you, for me, the old.
For the new you carries all the memories and love you held for our daughter and you will never, ever want to let that go. So please, let go of me instead.”
My body quivers, parts of my being shifting within. A wave of relief moves through me as she says these words.
She kisses my forehead gently before she parts. I resist following her, as I know she is right.
Before she leaves she stops and looks back over her shoulder and with a smile says softly, “You will be okay. We will be okay.”
And with that I know, I will find a part of her in us again someday.