Tag Archives: After my Daughter Died

Who Am I Now?

Who Am I NowIn the photography lab at Tompkins Cortland Community College, a student played back a video she’d taken.
“Look,’ she said, handing me the camera. I watched a silent scene of my instructor patiently speaking with some non-descript middle-aged woman. Wearing my favorite reddish-color, the woman pointed and pontificated.
“Oh my gosh. That’s me,” I said three minutes later as the segment ended and the screen turned black. Who would know me? I hadn’t even recognized myself.

Who am I now? I wondered the first day I came home after my daughter died. Am I still the mother of a daughter?
“What am I supposed to do with my life now?” I asked after traveling alone to Australia to scatter Marika’s ashes.
Who am I? I considered as I wrote the author bio for my book proposal. “Designer and dreamer in Ithaca, New York,” I used to say. For years I was, “art teacher, special education teacher.” Now I type, “writer, blogger,” and remember Marika wanted to be these things. “And Photo-shopper,” I add, feeling I’m getting closer.

On Sunday August 3rd, 1PM at Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, I will read for 30 minutes from my book. If you come to my reading you will not see a bereft, shell-shocked mother with tissues lining her pockets. The depressed, directionless wimp who couldn’t consider tweeting or exposing her fears online will not be there.
You will see someone who still tries to duet with her dead daughter, who appreciates the ways her daughter’s dreams have affected her own. You will see me stretching into my new role, humbled but not devastated by what life has thrown at me. Somewhere in the process of learning to accept change and challenge, I’ve allowed myself to grow.

Some days I don’t recognize myself.


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The Positive Force in Life

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, with Marika Warden living big.“Mom. You’ve been eating dinners standing over the kitchen sink for weeks now. Enough.”
From the far wall, the life-sized portrait of my daughter, who has been dead over three years, smirks at me. I turn away to rinse the tiny Stone Wave pot I store food, cook and eat from. But I still hear Marika’s words, “Mom, you’re becoming a hermit.”

“Yeah, but I’m on this weird diet that makes it impossible to eat out. All my friends are away this week anyway. And everyone else is coupled-off now so … Besides, I have a lot of work to do,” I say.
“Mom.” With this one word she can still shut me up, like gunshot.

A year after my daughter died, family and friends were sending mixed messages: get over it, it’s time to let go; take as much time as you need to heal; you will never get over this.
In support groups I watched bereaved parents tell their stories and grasp for tissues with quivering hands. Grief was not something to get over or through, the counselors told us. They said grief was a measure of love so I imagined love as a long ribbon with grief and joy at opposite ends. The evening a mother announced she still talked to her dead son, I felt I’d joined the right club. That’s when I knew my daughter would be with me, in some way or other, forever.

I decided to make it a good thing. Marika could be a positive force in my life; I’d hang onto her but allow her memory to pull me up and out into the world she loved. It meant I’d have to live bigger in order to live for us both.

That is how I came to be at Ithaca’s Istanbul Turkish Kitchen last week, seated at a table piled with beautiful food, with nine new and old friends, and eight bottles of wine.

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Carry Me Up

Robin Botie's tiramisu bowl before it broke in Ithaca, New York.Before leaving for the luncheon, I snapped a photo of the tiramisu I made. It looked perfect. But in a joyful spirit, I’d doubled the Kahlua. By the time we got around to dessert the whole thing had drowned. My friends ate most of the beautiful mess anyway. Everyone knew I’d made it with love.
A day later I broke the tiramisu bowl. The glass bowl that had contained magnificent salads and trifles slipped from my soapy hands, hit the side of the sink, and cracked.

Tiramisu in Italian means “carry me up.” That is what I did after my daughter died, when I got the mixed messages: give yourself time to heal, get over it, this will be with you forever. I carried Marika and found ways to make her part of my life. And part of my life has been to carry salad or tiramisu to friends’ dish-to-pass suppers.
“Carry me” is what my friends did.
I carried the cracked bowl to its final resting place on the top shelf of my closet.

In homage to my bowl, I hereby humbly set free my recipe:

Carry Me Low-fat Tiramisu

1. Put 16 ounces of Neufchatel cheese (low-fat cream cheese) into mixing bowl. Add 2T sugar, 1T powdered cocoa, 1T vanilla, and 3T Marsala wine (sweet or dry). Mix and let sit.

2. Pour 1¼ cups of Kahlua and 1¼ cups of strong (decaf) espresso into bowl. Halve and dip 12 ladyfingers, one at a time until saturated but not crumbling, into mixture and place in a decorative pattern on bottom of large glass serving bowl. Sprinkle generously with powdered cocoa. Let sit, covered.

3. Put 4T Birds Custard Powder and 4T sugar in medium saucepan, mix, and gradually stir in 3½ cups nonfat milk and ¼ cup Marsala. Mix until smooth, cook on medium heat stirring often until boiling. Boil 1 minute stirring constantly, remove from heat and cool 5-10 minutes.

4. Pour custard mix into Neufchatel mix and beat until smooth. Gently pour mixture over soaked ladyfingers. Halve, soak and arrange 12 more ladyfingers on top. Sprinkle with cocoa. Refrigerate. Cover when cold.

5. Just before serving, shave or grate a good dark chocolate bar over all.

Enjoy with friends. I wish you much sweetness this first week of April.

Who or what do you carry?


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