Monthly Archives: November 2014

Holiday Tips for Grievers

Holiday Tips for Grievers - Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops herself joyfull greeting the image of her dead daughter walking through the door.If my daughter were to show up at my door on Thanksgiving Day I’d hug her howling, laughing, dancing, throwing myself at her. It would look like the videos on Facebook of veterans returning home being greeted by their old loving dogs.
Then, after the emotional reunion, I’d merrily mess around in the kitchen all day fixing her favorite foods and stuffing the fridge to last a whole week. I’d make her 3 different cranberry relishes and the recipe of pumpkin ice cream pie I found online last week. She would tear the breadcrumbs for the stuffing and make a carrot cake. If she were here the house would have flowers and candles. We were foodies together. And this was our holiday.

Damn it. If I have to cry my way through it, I AM gonna make a pie on Thanksgiving this year. Wegmans can make the turkey and Roses Home Dish can make the sides, but I will make cranberry sauces and pie. There will be leftover-turkey enchiladas and wines for my son who will be asleep upstairs while I work wailing in the kitchen.

This will be the 4th Thanksgiving without Marika. I think I’m learning how to handle this.

Convinced that one can grieve and be grateful at the same time, I’m calling it Thanksgrieving.

So here are my tips:

  1. Treat yourself like you’re the guest. Be good to yourself because a part of the one you love now lives on inside of you. Our beloveds won’t be seated at the table but they are seated in our hearts. So carry on the way (s)he would have wanted.
  2. Allow yourself to cry. Let the pain run out in tears. Pull out old photos, phone your sister in Florida to reminisce, chop onions, and cry like a lemon being juiced.
  3. If you can’t find something to be thankful for, go do something nice for another. In 3½ years of mourning my daughter, I found the most joy always comes from giving someone else something to be grateful about.

So go do this holiday, my friends. You are not alone.

What do you love and remember on Thanksgiving? And who is in your heart?

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Singing to the Moon

Singing to the Moon, Robin Botie in Ithaca, New York, sings to the moon, to her daughter in the moon.“ I see the moon. The moon sees me. The moon sees the one I long to see,” I’d sung as a girl and later as a mother holding my young daughter.

In the first days after my daughter died I felt her presence all over the house. But in a week, after I brought her life-sized portrait home and started talking to it, she seemed to fade away. Then something was drawing me out into the night, out to the driveway where the wind roared as it rocked tall trees over me.

I’d never felt comfortable outside alone in the dark before. But there was little to fear next to the nightmare I’d already survived. After my daughter died, nighttime became one of the gifts I got. And now, even in rain or snow, I bundle up in a down coat, grab the flashlight and my inherited dog, and walk up and down the long pebbly driveway, searching for stars, sometimes dancing with the dog in the moon-shadows.

“Hey. Marika-in-the-moon,” I call to her when it’s a full moon. When it’s a fingernail moon. On moonless nights when the sky is a thick blanket of cloud. Every night. This is when I feel closest to my daughter.

Our planet has one moon. I’ve been singing to it all my life. We can’t always see the moon but we know it is there. Our ancestors watched it and our children’s children will look up to the same night sky. And wherever my daughter is, or is not, if she were to look for light in the dark night, she would look to the moon. So I keep singing to the same moon.

Where or when do you feel closest to the one you love who died?

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Ice Cream for the Soul

Ice Cream for the Soul, Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops her deceased daughter, Marika Warden, eating ice cream at Purity Ice Cream Shop.“They’re closer than you think,” I said, talking about loved ones who died. I dug into my cup of coffee ice cream. Seated around a small table at Ithaca’s Purity Ice Cream Shop with an old friend and two new friends, I could not remember being there in the past 3½ years since my daughter died. Marika and I came here often: mocha chip and coffee ice creams. Chocolate sauce or hot fudge. No cherry, no whip.

“If a child loses both parents (s)he is called an orphan. Widows and widowers are people who lost a spouse. But what is a word for a parent who lost a child?” I asked.
“Damaged,” said one of my new friends. We could laugh about this; each one of us knew loss too well.
“And what is a word that means ‘a dear one who died’?” It was the question that had haunted me all week.

I was about to make an ice cream toast to our lost loved ones when the server sent out a fifth dessert.
“It was on your order. Mocha chip with sauce.”

That’s when I decided to plant a picture of my dead daughter at the table.

What do you call your beloved who died?

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Love Your Sister

Love Your Sister, Robin Botie, photoshopper in Ithaca, New York, photographs her sisters' reflections.“I’m your sister too.” Those were the last words my sister Wendy said to me. Months ago.

Then, this past Saturday evening, driving back from the Memoir Workshop given by Margaret and Marion Roach Smith, I thought of my own sister. Not the one who’s The Doctor in Massachusetts, who I always write about and photograph. No. The other one. Wendy, The Beautiful sister who lives in Florida. The one I, The Artist sister, got mad at and stopped talking to.

At Saturday’s workshop, I had sat between the two Roach sisters for hours with my head turning right and left like at a tennis match. Each sister easily bounced off and supported what the other said and together they fed the participants great information as well as a hearty lunch. How did they do that? I asked myself afterwards. And then I remembered Wendy.

We only see each other once or twice a year during family reunions. So I was mad she cancelled out for this year. She’s the sister who, when we get together, gets up early to walk with me before breakfast. And whenever we go shopping, whatever she tries on looks so good on her that I buy it for myself.

She reads my blogs, follows me on Facebook, and has always “been there” for me. She dropped everything and flew to New York when my daughter died. But I have not “been there” for her.

Ten years younger, she is the baby but I’m the one who was never big enough to forgive her for drawing on my books with a red crayon when she was five years old. Maybe I still haven’t forgiven her for all the attention she got when she was born.

The thing is sisters should stick together. The stories I hear of families going for years without talking terrify me. I don’t want to be like that. Life is too short.
So I’m sorry, Wendy. I will try to be a better sister. This one’s for you.

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