A Gift From Beyond the Grave

Robin Botie in Ithaca, NY loves rainbows on CDs, especially the CD made for her by her daughter, Marika Warden, who died of leukemia at the age of twenty.Who was this daughter of mine? I really only started to get to know her after she died.

Almost three years ago, when I thought I’d lost Marika forever, I found her poems. My daughter was not gone; she was upstairs in her room, in a dozen journals, in a million words, waiting for me to discover. Over the first year I combed the house, upstairs and down, and came up with other “gifts” that revealed things about her I never knew. Then, a year after her death, days before I flew to Australia to scatter her ashes, I wrote, “When I get home there will be nothing left to find.” But in the process of packing for the trip I found a framed picture she’d drawn of a rabbit in a heart that said, “Welcome Home Mom.” After the trip, only very occasionally an earring, a drawing or some other “gift” would surface.

Late Monday night this past week, I found one more. In a pile of CDs, in a corner of our shared workspace, stuck behind another CD was a real gift I had never seen or known of before. On its front, marked in the palest letters it said, “To Mom From Marika.”

Marika never got the chance to say goodbye or leave a letter. And I was not her favorite person, to say the least, so I never expected anything. But there I was in the middle of the night holding something she made just for me.

It was long past my bedtime but I played it. For 74 minutes I laughed and cried. I trembled, rocked, hugged myself and danced. I felt her reaching out to me, saw her sitting in her room knowing she had cancer, knowing she could die, copying 17 songs with carefully selected messages she knew her mother would listen to and be cradled by.

When it was over, wet-ratted tissues dotted the floor and I held myself up, exhausted, with dripping face, to talk to her life-sized photo on the wall.

“How did I not see the person you were, you daughter of mine?”
I can still hear her smugly poking back at me,

“Way to go, mom. It only took you three years to find this.”

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6 thoughts on “A Gift From Beyond the Grave

  1. Sandy Vehrencamp

    I share your elation at finding this gift, as we found the journals our daughter wrote from age 15 on. In there we learned about the daughter we never knew, beautifully written prose and poems, full of passion and yearning and frustration. I think it may be very typical that we don’t really know our children all that well, but may learn about them from the treasures they leave behind.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yes, if we could rewind the times. I go there sometimes and need to stop myself. But really, in actuality, we go through separate worlds even as we live alongside our children. How much do they know of us, of who we were or are as individuals aside from our being their parents? How should we know what goes on inside their heads or inside their own lives as they grow and move apart from the time and space we share? Death pulls us together again. The ones that survive anyway. For a moment, as we contemplate what exactly we loss. Treasures. All of it.

      Reply
  2. Lucy Bergstrom

    That is earth-shattering, to find a hidden message of love from Marika. It shows that the tension between you over her illness and treatment never really overshadowed your close bond.

    Reply
  3. M

    robin, thanks so much for sharing your pain, berevement, and when you manage–joy! your voice is honest and is capable of invoking tears and gifts of mercy.

    Reply

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