My daughter’s death saved my life.
It looks strange to read that statement in black and white. It sounds so very dramatic. Part of me wants to shush myself and say, “You can’t tell people that!”
But it’s true.
When my second daughter, Lily died and was miscarried at home, I had some complications and nearly bled to death. The doctors never really did figure out why I bled the way I did or what exactly happened. Apparently it’s a bit of a medical mystery.
I think that after already having had to say good-bye to my fiancé and my oldest daughter when they died, when my Lily also died a big part of me just didn’t want to be here anymore. I simply wanted to go with her and be with the ones that I loved most in the world.
Now, here’s the part where some might call me crazy.
Lily wouldn’t let me leave with her.
I died on that hospital table, ready to go meet my love and my girls again. Ready to leave this earthly life behind me and be free of grief and loss and missing them. I could see my body below me and all the doctors and nurses working on it. I remember wanting to tell them it was okay for them to let me go.
Then I heard a little girl’s voice next to me and she told me she wanted to me to stay. She told me to trust in life and let love be my safe place to land.
And then she was gone and I was back in my body.
In all the confusion, all I remember thinking was, “I’m still here.”
I can’t say that I suddenly felt wonderful and grateful and happy to be alive. Far from it, in fact. My body healed quickly, but it took many more years for my heart to fully heal and find the joy in living again. It took me a long time not to be angry that I was still here and not with my daughters.
It has only been recently that I feel like I’m coming to understand what my daughter meant by “let love be my safe place to land.” It didn’t feel safe to trust life or my heart with anyone or anything. For so many years no place felt safe enough to entrust with my heart and no one felt safe enough to let myself love.
However, I’ve never forgotten those words spoken in that sweet, beautiful voice. I have puzzled over their meaning and sought to understand what she wanted me to know and why she wanted me to stay.
Now, I can say, “I’m still here,” with gratitude. I am grateful to be alive and to be living this amazing life of mine even with the missing of my children that never really goes away. And I think I’m finally beginning to understand what letting love be my safe place to land means.
When I focus on the loss of my fiancé and my children, there is sorrow and pain and grief. I can feel only emptiness where they were supposed to be. In the loss, there is anger and fear and rage at the unfairness of it all.
But in the love, there is light. When I focus on my love for them, I can breathe. In the love, I can feel joy and happiness, peace and gratitude. In the love, the weight of their loss feels lighter and more bittersweet than achingly painful. In the love, my heart is strong and sure and whole. When I allow the depth of my love for them, it feels safe enough to love and be loved.
In the love, there is life.
My daughter taught me that.
Emily Long is the mama of two daughters gone too soon, a Life Archaeologist, coffee shop writer, consumer of bagels and hot cocoa, endless reader, lover of travel, and occasional hermit. Her beautiful new book, Invisible Mothers, was officially released today! You can find it and other fun stuff on her website at emilyrlong.com. In the meantime, she’ll be in her hermit house re-reading Harry Potter (again).