Monthly Archives: February 2016

Holding Each Other Up: A Story

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops paper doll chains to illustrate her inspirational stories about loss and online support groups.Once upon a time, a sad one wrote on her Facebook page, “Too miserable to ever go out dancing again.”

Then her crazy godmother lent her clothes and made her look beautiful. So the sad one went to a dance and had a magnificent time. She came home late with only one slipper. Sound familiar?

In this story, however, nobody showed up knocking at her door with the lost slipper the next day. So she set out, wobbly on her single shod foot, to find it herself. Or to find a close match. But instead, she found lots of other stumbling people who had also lost a slipper. Or a sneaker, Or a boot.

So she limped around with them. Online. Their names, faces, and stories became familiar to her as she bumped into some of the same ones on several different support-group sites. And soon she discovered they were holding each other up, walking hand-in-hand, talking heart-to-heart. As they traveled, they gathered more and more dazed, floundering, teetering people. There were thousands of them. They held and hugged one another. They grew stronger and steadier. Soon these sad strangers started leaping out from their Facebook pages and into the sad one’s life, and she wasn’t so miserable anymore.

Then she knew they could all journey like this forever, finding new hobbling friends, all over the world. And that one day, maybe, together they might even dance.

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Addiction Like Cancer

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, Photoshops a collage to illustrate being lost in the wild woods of addictions and cancer.“How’s your daughter doing?”
“What’s your son up to these days?” I’m afraid to ask my friends. Because too often there’ll be a scrunching of brows over eyes suddenly filled with torment, followed by a torrent of emotion, the significant word finally gushing out – “addiction.”

“My daughter is….” “My son … heroin, meth, …addicted,” people who know I “lost” a child send me emails and personal messages online. Offline, I hear it going around the table during introductions at bereaved mothers’ gatherings. Almost every day there’s another heartbroken parent. Waiting for The Phone Call. Preparing for the worst. Aching. And OMG, I hear the pain.

I remember that pain. It isn’t so different from when your child has been diagnosed with cancer. Your heart sinks into your gut. And there’s little you can do to get rid of this scourge. You start wondering how you contributed to it, what was the something you did or did not do. You’re angry, sad, and ready-to-embrace-whatever-might-help scared.

Addiction, like cancer, is a deadly disease. Mostly, what I remember from plodding through the wilds of cancer, is fighting for my daughter, for her health, her life. Fighting and worrying. And loving. You love so hard it tears the breath and light from you.
“We will never be out of the woods,” one mother told me. And it’s true.
“You don’t want to be out of the woods,” I wrote her back. “Because then you’ll be in my neck of the woods.” There’s no more worrying here, but –

There’s nothing I can tell them. “I’m sorry,” I say, the same words people said to me when my daughter died.

The only thing that helps, either side of the forest, is knowing you are not alone. There are gazillions of us crying for our children, praying for our children, singing to the moon hoping our children know we will always love them. However they are. Wherever they are. Or are not.

If you are the parent of a child with an addiction, I humbly share your tears.

 

What do you do or say when someone is in pain over a loved one’s addiction?

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Look for the Light

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops borders around a picture of her daughter Marika Warden riding in fields with horses.“Look for the light, Marika. Follow the bright light,” my sister Laurie called out when my daughter died. That was almost five years ago. Since then, I’ve learned to keep my daughter close. Since then, light is not what it used to be.

On cloudy days, I imagine Marika riding off into sunlit farm fields with beautiful horses. Or standing in the driveway, laughing at the sky as snowflakes land on her iridescent eye-shadowed lids. In my mind she’s always smiling. Nothing’s as bright as my daughter’s eyes were, when she was happy.

“I’m stuck in black and darkness here. The light’s so near,” Marika had written in one of her poems. Walking her dog in the driveway on frosty moonlit nights, I scan the sky for distant lit planets and sing to the moon. Because, wherever Marika is or is not, she would look to the moon in the dark.

“Look for light,” said Harry my photography instructor at the community college. In the windowless classroom, I’d fallen half asleep on my feet as students spoke endlessly about their work. “Look for light.” It startled me awake.

Three mornings later, on the coldest day of the year, I headed down my long driveway to catch the early morning sun kissing the field across the road. By the time I reached the edge of the field and tore off a glove to adjust the settings on my new camera, the sun had disappeared. I waited, the camera before my face, the glove dangling from my teeth, thinking the clouds would break up. But it turned dark, and it was too cold to stay outside for long. The weather report said the sun was not due to shine again for days. Before turning back for home, I stood in the wind a moment, with hands bunched in pockets, and planted a picture in my mind of Marika racing across the field with ponies. Finding light in winter, in Ithaca, New York, is harder than hanging onto the ghost of my dead daughter.

 

Where do you find light? What lights your life?

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A Mushy Valentine

A mushy valentine Photoshopped by Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, for her daughter Marika who died of leukemia five years ago.Do not tell me I’m the only one emailing a dead daughter. I could not have invented this idea myself.

When my daughter Marika was alive, I never saw her Facebook page. And she emailed me only once, to share photos of her new puppy, no words. Last week, clearing out my emailbox, I found that old email. So I sent a reply back. The poor computer churned as it tried to deliver my message. But it stopped eventually, and I sent a second message, expecting the inevitable automatic notices stating the messages were undeliverable. Checking my Sent Box, I saw my emails were indeed delivered. You might be thinking this is silly. It is. And it’s sad. Because before Marika died I did not tell her goodbye or I love you. And last week, in the emails, I did.

So today I’m emailing Marika the mushy-gooshiest Valentine I can conjure up in Photoshop. You’re shaking your head, saying, “Poor Robin’s gone ranting-off-the-roof crazy.” You’re wincing, thinking Valentine’s Day is such a dopey, over-commercialized holiday. But for those of us who don’t often say I Love You, it’s an opportunity to show our love. Inspired by my love for my daughter, I spent hours making this valentine. So after I email it to Marika, I’ll post it to friends on Facebook, and mail it off to family members who don’t have sweethearts this year. Anyone who wants to is welcome to copy and send it to whomever, living or dead.

After all, like the Crosby, Stills & Nash song says, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one[s] you’re with.”

 

What do you do when you’ve lost someone you used to spoil on Valentine’s Day? Does anyone else ever send emails to their dead loved one?

 

 

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I Will Never Forget

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, Photoshops multiple frames around a portrait of her daughter Marika Warden who died.My dead daughter’s pictures pop up on Facebook, and each time I see one, my eyes pop out of my head. I’ve been planting her image all over online. And every time someone shares or comments on what I’ve posted, the response and the article with its photo come back to my email box. You wouldn’t think something like this could bring so much joy. But it does, to me.

The joy doesn’t come just because I know Marika loved collecting friends and putting her pictures on Facebook. It’s not because I’ve learned to like doing what she did. And it’s not to show her off or to grab your sympathies.

“One of the most scary things for us as bereaved parents is that our dead child will be forgotten.” These are not my words. One of my Facebook friends wrote this in response to my article, How I Swallowed my Daughter. This is my truth. I need to feel Marika won’t be lost and forgotten. I’m framing her face and pasting her all over the Internet so she’ll be remembered. “There’s that girl again,” you will say. Even for the short time it takes to look at her, or share her image, she will have been seen. And maybe when you remember she no longer walks the earth, perhaps you will cherish your own time here and your own loved ones, more.

That’s why, when I’m not looking for joy and finding life after loss, you can find me posting photos of my daughter on Facebook. Before friends and strangers, I am promising Marika and myself, that she will not be forgotten.

Thank you for sharing and celebrating her with me.

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