Tag Archives: finding joy

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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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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Finding Joy

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York uses a selfie to photoshop a picture of joy.My mission last week was to produce a photo that depicts joy. It would be one in a series for a photography competition entitled Three Graces: Beauty, Wonder, and Joy. I’d already assigned Beauty and Wonder from my previous works. For Joy, I was starting from scratch. What does joy look like? I wondered.

When you Google ‘joy’ you get images of people leaping with outstretched arms. You get laughing babies and sunrises, rainbow skies filled with butterflies or confetti. Try Googling it yourself. You will find a cacophony of bubble letters and bouncing people, nothing remotely resembling the elegance or refinement requisite of a grace.

I considered the picture I shot last year of my sister smiling over a full plate of food at a fancy restaurant. It had a joy I could relate to. But “joy is not dependent on external circumstances or material objects” (like food). I found that on the Internet too.

A photo of my dog standing high on a hill displayed a quiet joy that I have known myself. On sites like pursuitofajoyfullife.com they say that reaching a goal or accomplishing something is a good way to find joy. Suki, panting in the picture, had worked really hard to climb up that hill. But that, and the pictures of glorious day lilies, did not represent the humanness of a grace.
There would have to be a joyful person. This was disheartening as I had several joyful friends but none who like to be photographed and exposed all over Facebook and Twitter.
That meant it would be a selfie.

Time out — A message for my mom, as I can hear her hollering, “What’s a selfie?”
“Mom, go on Google.com and in the little box, you type ‘selfie’ and then click on ‘images’ and you will get thousands of pictures of people photographing themselves. There is no grace.”

All the slogans and headings from inspirational websites splashed around in my mind as I set the self-timer and stepped back from the camera. Joy is being content with your self. Feel happy. Forgive yourself. Find what is wonderful and amazing around you. Joy comes from within. Recycle your pain into joy… I held my head to keep the simple joy of being alive there. Finally, I thought of my daughter who died and how if she saw me now, she’d roll her eyes and say, “Mom. Seriously?”

Okay, I admit, this photo looks like I’m in pain. All over online, blogs talk about embracing pain to find joy. I welcome your suggestions. Let’s just call this a work in progress.

 

So, where did you find your joy this week? And how has the Internet influenced your concept of joy?

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Looking for Joy

Looking for Joy In Ithaca, New York, Robin Botie photoshops Vicky, a friend's fat cat with dancing whiskers.“You’ve been sounding depressed the last few weeks,” a friend told me.
“I’m trying to fix that,” I said. “These days it’s a real stretch to find joy. Like when the temperature’s stuck in the single digits for days on end. Like when weather.com is promising more snow and the snowplow has already buried the house in the process of clearing the driveway. And then I finally get to Wegmans for storm food and the store is having a power failure.”

Actually, shopping in the dark at Wegmans was a high point of the week. Picking out produce in dim light by the squeeze-and-smell method was so novel it immediately distracted me from my funk. There was something magical about reaching under the sheets of plastic that draped the refrigerated shelves to grab cool moist packages.
“Would you like anything else?” the guy in the deli kept asking cheerily after slicing tiny batches of cheese and three different kinds of ham.
“Could I have another slice of prosciutto, please?” I could have gone on all day.

Passing by, shoppers smiled at each other as they wheeled their carts in the dark depths of the aisles. They did not appear to be inconvenienced or cranky.
“Good luck in the World Cup,” a guy with a kid in his cart greeted me after I swerved to avoid colliding with them. When the lights came back on, people cheered. I paid, walked out into blinding sunshine, and brought my purchases to friends who were waiting to make lunch.

And maybe the most joyful part of the whole week was my friends’ fat cat. She rolled on the kitchen floor with the dogs and then leaped onto the counter as I unloaded the bag of groceries. Her whiskers almost danced off her face when she saw the ham.

Where did you find your joy this week?

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Finding Joy

 

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, welcomes first day of summer

Starting today, I will find a thousand things to be joyful about this summer.

Petunias, wildflowers, the perfume of cut grass, crisp salads, dogs in life jackets, fireflies, campfires, berry-picking, polished toenails, green, the nightly frog chorus, the sun, thunderstorms, Cayuga Lake, afternoons on a boat with friends, sweet time …

When she wasn’t feeling sick, every day was a party for my daughter. Every summer was an adventure. Marika didn’t get enough summers. To honor her I will embrace every opportunity to laugh and have fun.

 

Robin botie of Ithaca, New York, finds 1000 things to be joyful about this summer.

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