Tag Archives: talking to dead loved ones

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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Singing to the Moon

Singing to the Moon, Robin Botie in Ithaca, New York, sings to the moon, to her daughter in the moon.“ I see the moon. The moon sees me. The moon sees the one I long to see,” I’d sung as a girl and later as a mother holding my young daughter.

In the first days after my daughter died I felt her presence all over the house. But in a week, after I brought her life-sized portrait home and started talking to it, she seemed to fade away. Then something was drawing me out into the night, out to the driveway where the wind roared as it rocked tall trees over me.

I’d never felt comfortable outside alone in the dark before. But there was little to fear next to the nightmare I’d already survived. After my daughter died, nighttime became one of the gifts I got. And now, even in rain or snow, I bundle up in a down coat, grab the flashlight and my inherited dog, and walk up and down the long pebbly driveway, searching for stars, sometimes dancing with the dog in the moon-shadows.

“Hey. Marika-in-the-moon,” I call to her when it’s a full moon. When it’s a fingernail moon. On moonless nights when the sky is a thick blanket of cloud. Every night. This is when I feel closest to my daughter.

Our planet has one moon. I’ve been singing to it all my life. We can’t always see the moon but we know it is there. Our ancestors watched it and our children’s children will look up to the same night sky. And wherever my daughter is, or is not, if she were to look for light in the dark night, she would look to the moon. So I keep singing to the same moon.

Where or when do you feel closest to the one you love who died?

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