Mothering my Daughter’s Spirit into the New Year

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops ghosts of her daughter who died, in an effort to carry the spirit of her daughter into the new year.Lying awake, I worried about how I could carry the spirit of my daughter with me into yet another New Year. The phone rang shortly after I finally fell asleep. A voice said something about a young friend, too drunk to drive home. Could I fetch her from the bar and keep her overnight?
“Sure. I’ll get dressed and be right there,” I responded, suddenly wide-awake, my heart bouncing. It had been a long time since I’d been summoned like this.

Years ago, my daughter would phone me from her apartment around two in the morning, “Mom, I feel sick.” I’d throw on clothes, head out to the car in the dark, and drive the empty streets across town to bring her home. Before she got cancer I would have gotten grumpy about being awakened in the middle of the night. But I learned to make peace with matters serious enough lose sleep over. When my daughter phoned, whether it was chemo or something else, it felt good to be needed. I’d keep my mouth shut and not ask questions. I’d just get her home. That was our deal; call when you need me. Back then I never had to wait long.

And now, here was this young friend, about the same age my daughter would be. Collapsing into the back seat of the car, she told me she was embarrassed.
“Don’t be, I’m happy to help,” I said, thinking of how relieved and grateful some mother would be to know her daughter was safe and cared for, hoping someday someone would help my own son if he was ever in need.

Entering the house, she left her high heels in the mudroom. I walked her upstairs, spread an extra comforter on the bed, plugged in a few nightlights, and said goodnight. Halfway down the stairs I looked back to ask if she wanted a glass of water, but her light was out.

In my still-warm bed, I fell asleep quickly, like I used to whenever my kids would find their way back home. When I woke the next morning, I saw the heels parked in the mudroom. That’s when I knew my daughter’s ghost would find a way to follow me into every day of 2019.


What brings you peaceful sleep? How do you carry the memory of a loved one into the New Years of your lifetime?



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4 thoughts on “Mothering my Daughter’s Spirit into the New Year

  1. Lynne Taetzsch

    Thanks for sharing your joy in being needed, Robin. My daughter and grandchildren don’t really need me in that way any more, but now I have a sister nearby and I’m always happy to help her in whatever way I can. There is something about giving that is so much more satisfying than receiving, but we need to allow others to help us as well so that they, too, can enjoy giving.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Allowing others to help is something I have to learn and practice, Lynne. There is so much joy and validation in being able to help someone else out. But I know my own time of needing will come again, and I hope I can find a way to accept help next time with a little more grace than I could muster when my world fell apart and all I could do was run off to be miserable by myself. I can imagine having a sister nearby must be great for feeling needed. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Lucy Bergström

    This is beautiful. It makes me think about how having children takes our focus off ourselves. We are born self-centered, it’s a survival thing, for sure, but along the way, we gain empathy. Especially if we have kids! Getting that wake up call to come and get a stranded partygoer, while annoying, also fills us with relief that we can do something to keep her safe. Our own indignation over this huge inconvenience (a selfish reaction) flies out the window, what a joy for you to be called upon to help this young woman. And how on earth did you photograph yourself sleeping?

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      OMG, Lucy. That’s not me. I love that I can write about Marika sleeping, about the young woman I “rescued” sleeping at the house for New Year’s Eve, about my own sleeping (or trying to sleep) and then get a completely unrelated friend to pose under a comforter so I could illustrate someone — anyone sleeping. I fooled with the features in Photoshop, trying to get the bit of face showing to resemble Marika. My model-friend is close to my age so the parts of face and feet that showed were never going to be perfect. But photographing myself asleep — well, that would be a neat project to figure out.
      You’re so right about how having kids changes your empathy and your whole view of what’s important in this world.


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