When Marika was eleven, our old cat, Sushi, died. We buried her in the garden where, choking and teary-eyed, I read a long eulogy of the cat’s history and attributes. We sang a song. When I thought we were done with the funeral, Marika surprised me. She announced she wanted to read aloud a poem she’d written and typed up for Sushi. Fascinated, I melted when I heard her very different view and relationship with the cat I adored.
Almost ten years later, when Marika died, I stole into her room stalking through her things. I searched for a message, for some sign of her, for her dwindling scent left buried in her bed linens. Desperate to learn more about her, I pored over her writings and photographs and discovered an amazing young woman who had grown from my spirited little girl. During her three year battle with leukemia, we sat stuck together in the same space sharing little beyond the immediate circumstances. I missed countless opportunities to talk with her. We both loved good food, chocolate, summer and bright lights. Marika loved to sing. She loved soccer, sushi, small dogs, the color turquoise, playing with children and playing poker. She loved her friends. She had a lot of friends. A thousand people or more knew her in a thousand different ways. If I sat with each of them and listened, would I learn a thousand new things about her?
Who was Marika to you? What were some of the memorable times? What crazy or kind or nasty things did she do? What could you count on her for? What will you remember her for?
The more I talk to others about her, the more I realize her short life was so much larger than being my daughter. When I heard how she hopped a fence to sneak into a sold-out concert on Long Island, I laughed. And when I heard she tried to convince a good friend to be her healthcare proxy before giving the honor to me, I smiled. Marika’s life had grown and burst brilliantly beyond hospitals, home and her mother. And that makes me want to hug and thank every soul that knew her.
As I reach out to my family and friends, to Marika’s friends, and to people I have not yet met, I know we are linked in many ways. We hope and we dream. We have things we hold close and, at some time, we all lose someone or something dear. So how did you come to know grief?