Tears of Joy, Tears of Sorrow, Sometimes I Just Need a Good Cry

Tears of Joy, Tears of Sorrow, Sometimes I Just Need a Good Cry  Robin Botie of Ithaca photographs magic carpet spirea for illustration of how joy and sorrow can blossom together.Sometimes I just need a good cry. Preferably at the movies where I can recover easily, I might have said in the past. But a good cry should not be feared. And an opportunity to do some serious sobbing came up the other evening when a small group of bereaved parents had baked a cake, and were singing Happy Birthday to one of our deceased children. Watching the exquisite storm of gratitude, pain, and love in the mother’s eyes, I remembered that conflicting whirlwind of emotions—the joy of having your child remembered and honored, the sadness of seeing each subsequent birthday sweep you ever further away from the time you were together, and just plain missing your beloved one—This can turn the toughest of us into desperate howling messes. A similar, old familiar storm brewed in my own heart. And I welcomed it.

If you are not one of the unfortunates initiated into the hellhole of child loss, you may be wondering—Why torture yourself like that?

Strange as it seems, I never want to forget the rawness of the pain of loss. If I can recall how my worst times felt, I can listen, understand, and be of comfort to someone else. A good cry is not to be feared. In being a living human, there’s a spectrum of emotions to be experienced. I write and talk a lot about finding joy, however this is only one part of the human experience. I want it all. I need to cry. I need to dare to love.

Love makes you happy, and love makes you sad. Grief and pain are simply the residue of your love when the joyful times seem like eons away. Often, I want to hug my grief the way I want to hug and hang onto my daughter who died. Tears are tangible remains of what I have left of her now. My love pours out, and I love those tears.

“You’re happy,” a friend pointed out to me recently. And I immediately felt guilty, as in—I lost my daughter, I’m not supposed to feel happy. This simply is not right. We are human. We can experience it all.

Jolly Reds, pinks, hot lime and deep greens bloom on the Magic Carpet Spirea plant in my garden. Like multi-colored teardrops. Tears of joy and sorrow. They blossom together.


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Finding Resilience

Finding Resilience Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photographs a bruised rose to illustrate resilience.After I weed-whacked flat the little rosebush in the back yard, I remembered how I’d planted it over a decade ago with the kids, to honor our Omi Rosie, my strong-willed grandmother who had moved her family out of Hitler’s Germany in 1938. Unlike the family, the rosebush had never thrived. So, intent on reclaiming its spot for more lawn, I thwacked the scrawny plant to smithereens with the weed-eater, and then stood sighing over the strafed remains, sure I’d murdered it.

Two weeks after the attack, a small splash of red in the new lawn caught my eye. The rosebush. It had survived and was producing buds. One was blossoming brilliantly.

It’s a gift, I told myself. My first inclination was to attribute the small miracle to the ghost of my daughter who, in life, had gifted me red socks and red sweaters. But when I got close up with my camera, I recognized the astounding sheer resilience of the plant. Scuffed up and riddled with holes, it was a formidable survivor. It seemed to have a mission, like my Omi Rosie. It was gutsy, like my daughter who had partied with abandon despite cancer constantly clobbering her. It was scrappy and scarred. From all of life’s poundings. Like me. And like me, it was still standing.

I don’t know if one can learn resiliency or practice growing it. Or if it’s something you only discover when your world’s been shaken upside-down. Wherever it comes from, resilience is the thing that allows you to rise from the rubble when the sky falls. When I thought I had nothing to live for, it slowly sprouted from deep inside (or maybe from out of nowhere) and filled my emptiness with hope.

Creeping on hands and knees, I took a hundred shots of the rose. It is not beautiful. But it is truly—badass.


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In the Name of Love

Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, photoshops two old photos of doing crazy things in the name of love.If you consider the many ridiculous things I did to keep my daughter loving me when she was alive, all my crazy carrying-on since she died should come as no surprise. What wild and crazy things did you do in the name of love?


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Life with a Dead Daughter: When People Forget or Don’t Know

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, tells about her life with her dead daughter, when people forget or don't know her daughter died.“How’s your girl doing?” asked an old friend at a public event last week. Dumbfounded, I stopped breathing and stared at him. He couldn’t mean My Girl, as in my daughter who died. Was he maybe inquiring about my BFF inherited dog? Or the young woman who helps me in the garden? No—he really was asking about my daughter—whose funeral and memorial he had, himself, attended eight years ago.
“Uh, well, you know she d—,” I stopped myself.

It had been years since I’d run into someone who didn’t know of Marika’s death, where I’d have to awkwardly inform them of her demise. I hate having to spill this to clueless folks who, as a result, will feel queasy around me forever after. Sometimes people who know my story avoid me, like maybe they’re scared I’ll fall apart howling. Spotting old friends at weddings and funerals, I’ve learned to wait and let them approach me rather than descend upon them. And I never mention my daughter unless they do, even though I’m itching to talk about her. Such is life with a dead daughter. I feel I have to protect people. I leave them plenty of time and space to make the first move. If they’re brave enough.

But this guy had known my daughter died.

“How’s your girl?” He asked again, with warm smiling eyes.
“Well, um—I’m keeping her close in my heart,” I tell the poor fellow, trying to simultaneously show him I’m okay, and he’s okay for not remembering, and remind him that Marika is dead. It was the best response I could come up with in my shock.

He cocked his head, and I repeated in a steady calm voice, “I keep her very close in my heart,” emphasizing ‘heart.’ He winced, and smacked his face. And I thought he would shrivel up and sink through the floor in mortification of forgetting. I told him it was all cool, and thanked him for thinking of Marika. He broke free of me shortly after.

“What is Marika like?” one of my hiker friends asked, the very next day, upon seeing the tattoo of Marika’s name on my bare arm.
“Thank you for using the present tense, since I think of my daughter as still being here in many ways,” I said, not entirely sure she understood that Marika is dead. Then I merrily answered her, rambling on and on about my favorite subject to talk about.


When’s the last time you invited a bereaved parent to talk about her beloved child?




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Socially Inept

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, has been talking to dead people for so long that she forgot how to socialize with live ones. She flees back to her garden where even the flowers seem to be laughing at her.I’ve been talking to dead people for so long that I forgot how to socialize with live ones. So at the reception of the latest memorial (memorials being the highlight of my weeks lately), when two men started two separate conversations with me at the same time, I froze and panicked, and fled the scene as soon as I could, not even stopping for a piece of cake. And at home, I went back to weeding the garden, grumbling to my dead daughter about my lack of the simplest social graces, until I sensed some snarky late-blooming bud of a lily laughing at me.

Life’s too short to beat oneself up about being socially inept. Unfortunately, I can’t blame this on my losses and bereavement. So I’m gonna stick to the garden and Photoshop and the safety of my own kitchen for a while, where I can’t embarrass myself. Catch you next week after I’ve recovered. Cheers!


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Looking for God

Hasta plants growing skyward by Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, who is looking for God in her garden sanctuary.“You’re a week early for the memorial service,” the woman in the parish house at Saint John’s Church told me. She must have seen I was crushed, standing there shrinking in my best clothes, under a raincoat. I’d missed a hike to attend this memorial. “But the organist is in the sanctuary practicing for next Saturday, if you’d like to sit in there for a while,” she offered. And then, for some unknown reason, I tiptoed in and silently slipped into a seat.

A statue of an eagle wearing a cloth scarf stood between the organ player and myself, hiding any view of the only other person in the sanctuary. I looked up and around at the high wooden Gothic-arch-vaulted ceiling and the stained glass windows while magnificent music poured from the organ. The sound was almost physical. It filled the hall, reached out and upward to the sky, and yet hovered over, hugging me. It vibrated through every inch of me. Some chords seemed to hang in the air forever. It felt like I was part of the music, like some part of me was being lifted. The word ‘glorious’ came to mind. What was I doing there, alone in this church? Me. Born Jewish, never found God, rejecting religion because it divides people.

The strange thing is I cried. I don’t know why. Maybe it was something I was missing in my life? Maybe because if I could imagine God singing, that’s how it would sound? Maybe it was because for years I’ve shunned churches and anything to do with God or love or faith, yet I envy those who are comforted by these.

Everyone needs a place they can come to, to feel welcome in, to find hope, find peace, and inspiration. My church is the hills and woods around Ithaca, New York where I hike several times a week. My sanctuary is my garden where greenest stems and leaves grow ever skyward, following the sun. The heavenly one I pray to these days is my daughter who died. I’m no longer looking for God. Grateful that not everyone has had to scramble around like I have, to find spiritual peace, I worship the earth. The planet I live on. It doesn’t matter who or what created it. I am a part of it.

For well over an hour Saint John’s was my own private church. And then I walked out into sunlight, drove home, and shed my raincoat and best clothes into a pile for next Saturday. Coming back for the memorial will be different. But worth missing another hike for, I decided.


Where do you find—glorious-ness? What is God and where is God to be found?






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