Monthly Archives: January 2016

How I Swallowed my Daughter

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, swallowed her daughter who died, by Photoshopping multiple decorative borders around a photo.Almost five years ago on a moonlit night, I stood with my newly inherited dog in the driveway. It was the place I felt closest to my daughter who had died. Looking up at the stars, I whispered, “Marika, please stay with me.”

During the months before Marika was even born, I had watched the changing shape of my growing belly and talked to her, not knowing who she would be. Now as I spoke to my daughter, I watched the ever-changing sky, the creeping clouds, the moon turning from fingernail to half cookie to bright pearl to hidden promise.

At age twenty, Marika had written to her dear friend who died, “Because I got to live, you will too.” So she’d already set my direction for what to do when a loved one dies. She was going to “carry” her friend forever. Thus, I would “carry” Marika. That’s how I came to “swallow” my daughter.

People swallow pride, feelings, secrets and unsaid words, bitter pills, … mostly to bury them. But when I took in my dead daughter, it was more like “wearing” her from the inside out. I decided to be more like her, to dedicate a chunk of who I was to who she was, so that I might see the world through her eyes. This way it didn’t feel so much like a final separation. And keeping another’s perspective is useful in dealing with what life springs on you.

As it turns out, this is not so crazy. Mothers have been doing this for ages. The term is the only thing I invented. Since publishing my article, The Mother who Swallowed her Daughter, I’ve gotten responses from bereaved parents as well as the lucky ones. Cries of “I swallowed my daughter too,” and “I swallowed my son,” fill my email box. My own mother wrote, “I’m a mother of three female children and I have swallowed them all –each and every one — just as they are. Sometimes they give me indigestion….”

Anyway, at my most desperate hour, this was what I came up with to survive the death of my daughter. It was the only way I could imagine ever finding joy again.

“Help me be strong. Help me find the right words, Marika. What exceptional thing will we do tomorrow?” I say this often. In the driveway. In bed. In the kitchen. On hilltops and wooded trails. By the sea. In daylight. In the dark …

 

What have you swallowed? And how has it changed you?

 

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The Mother who Swallowed her Daughter

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops selfie, grieving and being grateful under a mackerel sky.A very gutsy and wise friend gently suggested I write an article about living gratefully. She asked me, a bereaved mother straining to understand why I was still alive myself. How could I possibly know anything about living gratefully? For months I struggled. Maybe my gratitude died four years ago with my daughter, I thought. I mean, what was there to be grateful about when my heart was bleeding? So I started a list. Leaving pen and paper on my kitchen counter, several times a day I read from the list or added to it.

What my daughter and I loved and were grateful for:
walking in rain with Wellington boots and rainbow umbrellas
our dog dreaming, yipping with feet running in air
popping bubble wrap
pink and charcoal mackerel skies at sunset

My daughter was braver than I. Marika lived on the edge of adventure and disaster, like she had only an hour left. Looking for all the beautiful things, she made trouble dance. She made it sing, made it beautiful. Even cancer.

honking v-lines of geese flying south before winter
the songs of a thousand frogs on a June night
dandelions dotting the lawn
the deluxe sushi platter for two, extra ginger

Marika blogged and collected friends on Facebook. There were hundreds of photos on her page. I thought blogging was a cult activity. I hated cameras, didn’t type, and feared technology. Some things I didn’t learn to love until after she was gone.

getting 90 “likes” on a Facebook post
sharing yearnings and embarrassing moments in blogs
“friending” strangers online
collecting photographs, making selfies, posting them all over the Internet

When she died, I dragged myself around, wishing I were dead. Then I found her words. Marika left songs, stories, poetry. She’d written a single poem in a blank journal, like she was daring me to continue. So I wrote. And I decided to become more like she was, to do what she did. I’d become more adventurous, and learn to love the computer. I would find all the beautiful things. I would carry on.

lemon wedges dipped in sugar
squeaky-clean, just-shampooed hair
burrowing in quilts while the wind howls outside
hearing our voices magnified and echoed

When I expanded my world to include Marika’s, my life grew richer. No longer simply a mother who lost her child, I became the woman who discovered her daughter and swallowed her. And now I realize that everything, every-last-little-thing, is precious, that nothing in this world is promised or guaranteed.

the silver reflection of an almost-full moon in the pond
a steamy cup of latte warming frozen hands in December
snow falling silently at twilight
oceans, Australia, running on beaches, roses, stars

Longevity, love, health, happiness, … even my grief is a gift. I celebrate it all. Photographing and blogging about finding joy after loss, I now believe anything is possible, even grieving and being grateful at the same time. Maybe that’s what I’ve been doing all along.

 

This blog was first published on www.gratefulness.org. To see the blog there, click on this link: http://www.gratefulness.org/grateful_living/mother-swallowed-daughter/

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For the Rest of My Life

With eyes bloodshot from crying, Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, Photoshops a rose over her rosy veined face.The past few years, I cried so much over the death of my daughter, I thought I was scouring my eyes bloodshot. But when my eyes were still red and itchy after a two-week period without tears, I went to see an eye doctor.

“Ocular rosacea,” he said. And I immediately blasted him with questions. “No, it’s not cancer,” he assured me. “No, you won’t lose your eyesight.”

Rosacea was not unfamiliar to me. I’d had the rosy veined cheeks for years, inherited from my father. It gave me a healthy glow and I loved the sound of the name Rose Aysha, until I learned how it was really spelled. I had no idea one could get rosacea in the eyes. Believing I’d wrecked my eyes entirely by grieving, I soon learned that emotional stress, as well as wine, chocolate, spicy foods, sun, wind, exercise, and all the things that give me joy contribute to this condition.

We can control the symptoms,” the doctor said, “but this will be with you for the rest of your life.” That blew the whites out of my eyeballs completely. My daylight was shattered as if a death sentence had been delivered.

Later, when I realized I was going to survive fairly unscathed, I thought to myself, it’s a stinking shame we can’t choose what or who gets to stay with us for life.

 

Who or what can you say will be with you for the rest of your life? What joy-busters will follow you forever?

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Time to Make Changes

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, Photoshops her inherited Havanese dog into a statue.“It’s a New Year, Suki,” I said to my dog, “and we’re gonna make some changes around here.” I tell all my ideas to my sweet, inherited dog. Cocking her head east and west, she listens.

“First of all, we’re going to clear out every cabinet and closet. And we’re gonna give away or get rid of whatever doesn’t give us joy. We’re gonna reinvent ourselves. The Internet is bursting with advice on how to change our lives. Our attitudes, our outlook, it all has to improve. I mean, who are we now? Where are we going? We need to start seeing ourselves in a different way. Be bold. No more concealing our feelings. We’re going to speak our minds more, and talk about our girl Marika more. We’re done hiding at home, gorging on cake. We’ll eat less and exercise more. We’ll play more. Read more. We need to laugh more, and sleep more. Yeah. You and me. Big changes. We’re gonna get up every morning at six and hike five times a week, even in the snow. What do you think, Suki? Can we do this?”

“Suki?”

 

You can reinvent your life but can you reinvent your self?

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