Healing from Loss on the Longest Day of the year

early photo of Marika Warden with angel wings taken by Robin botie of Ithaca, New York at the old Michigan Wymyn's Music FestivalThree years ago in December, I was staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester, a few blocks from Strong Memorial Hospital where my daughter was preparing for her stem cell transplant. At the time there was only one family and very few staff there; everyone else had gone home for the holidays. When a small troupe of musicians showed up one night, the volunteer in the office begged me to join the tiny audience in the living room. I did, although I was not in the mood for Christmas carols. Marika had sung in caroling groups and now she was stuck in the hospital with leukemia. It didn’t seem right that I should be serenaded in that beautiful living room, next to a huge lit-up tree.
The musicians outnumbered the audience. I sat before them in a rocking chair and tried to smile. It was fine for the first couple of songs. But when they started “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” something inside me cracked. I tried to hide my tears. I did not want to be hugged by the volunteer or anyone. By the time they got around to “Silent Night” I was completely broken.
My reaction surprised and confused me. Marika was still alive and there was so much hope. We were moving forward. We were on the upside. Why was I miserable? I had no idea then that in less than three months our world would crash.

On the longest night of the year, three years later, I went to the Gifts of the Winter Solstice concert at Ithaca’s Hospicare. The large living room was packed. There were only a few familiar faces in the crowd as I wormed my way to a seat in the back.
It was supposed to be a celebration of the winter solstice so I did not expect Christmas carols. Three notes into the introduction of “Silent Night” my heart catapulted into my stomach. I glanced around wildly to make a quick exit but there was no way out of the crammed room. I was stuck.
The lights blurred through my tears. But halfway into the song I knew I would be all right. The lyrics were about heavenly peace and redeeming grace, brightness and calm. It suddenly became a lullaby and I let it settle me.

In the past three years, peace has grown within me. The pain of my daughter’s death sits more gently on my heart now. After the concert I lingered a short while to have cookies and a few words with friends from my old grief group. And later, in the rain, walking my dog before bed, I sang “Silent Night” to the invisible moon. I sang to my angel on the other side of the moon, on the darkest longest night of the year.

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8 thoughts on “Healing from Loss on the Longest Day of the year

  1. Renée Paule

    Hi Robin,

    You are one courageous woman. It takes guts to pour your heart out on the internet. I can feel your pain from hear but I can also hear your heaing. We have a young lad (my partner’s grandchild – 12) who has been in hospital for 4 months now. He only has a few weeks left because chemo has failed. Sadly this is a part of life now but your courage has helped and will continue to help many.

    Bless you and Marika … I know she’s just fine 🙂

    1. Robin Botie

      Bless you, Renee Paule. And your partner’s grandson, and the families. It is totally unfair that these things happen to such young ones. It is hard, especially around the holidays and winter. You are right: it is sad but it is a part of life. I wish you and your extended family peace.

  2. Carrie Stearns

    Thank you Robin. Such truthful sharing about the movement of grief and the sense of finding your way with it all is beautiful and wrenching at the same time. Blessings to you. I would still love to share a cup of tea sometime. Hope to make that happen in the new year.

  3. Samar Hatoum

    Another beautiful peace! Just believe Robin!
    As one of your readers, I would like to know Marika better… So please keep on writing.
    Wishing you peaceful holidays!

    1. Robin Botie

      Thank you Samar. Sometimes I wonder about what I should write. It seems silly but I never thought about just writing about Marika. Other than what I’ve written in the book, I mean. In the next few weeks I will do that. Cheers!

  4. Elaine Mansfield

    So beautiful, Robin. Of course, you know I would say let those tears flow. Mine flow as I read this story. Enriches my day and keeps it all in perspective.
    Wishing you love and the return of Light,

    1. Robin Botie

      And I wish you all the sweetness, warmth, and light to more than fill your holidays and new year, Elaine.


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