Thursday, June 23, 2011

What's Left Behind.

 On Friday I will celebrate my 26th birthday and I never actually thought I would struggle with it the way I have. I always told myself that when the time came, it would just be numbers on a calendar; that my ghosts wouldn't really return to haunt me; that I wouldn't find myself staring into a pool of grief as I approach the anniversary of my mother's death 22 years ago. 
My mother, herself only just turned 26 left this world suddenly leaving behind my sister, myself and my baby brother; on the eve of my fourth birthday. 

For too many years; my life has been lived, out of necessity, like a well-tightened jar. All the confusion and grief of that little girl has gotten stuffed down with all the subsequent confusion and grief the growing girl, the newly-married girl, the bewildered mother-girl. Once and a while the lid will squeak open just a touch and slowly, as I go from strength to strength, little bits of all that hurting come spilling out of the jar.  Somewhere in all that mess; healing happens and something beautiful get's reborn every time I am brave enough to revisit that death.

I know it is out of the ordinary for me to post something like this here on this blog, but bear with me won't you? Let us be two souls who can sit comfortably with my grief and trembling put out on the table. Somehow in it's nakedness there's a comfort; like somehow to put all of my heart's pain out there as though it sat between our two cups of tea takes the mystery and fear out of it, and I am left with the peace of said my piece. 

If nothing else I hope you see some light in my circumstance; that perhaps the pains of my heart might touch and encourage the pains of yours, and somehow in mutual understanding we can go somewhere new with what we have been left with.

 I have absolutely no idea what to title this...

If this was all that I had left of you...

It would be the moment in my day when I looked at your face.

Saw myself in it and looked harder and harder and harder still

For something more.

If I had the chance to ask for just one more thing from you

It would be would be a cruel thing in and of itself, for you could never give what I want.

Another lifetime, another history with more than this.

I do dream small dreams

Miraculous, yes...

But they take place humbly in kitchens, where you teach me recipes

Bathrooms where you brush my hair

Bedsides where I make my confessions

And hear yours.

If I had more of you than this

I wouldn't have my breath catch up with me

Stolen wouldn't be the word that springs to mind

And my  birthday of 26 years wouldn't feel like a precarious thing

Falling on the anniversary of your ending at 26 short years

22 Years ago.

 If somehow you had left more behind

Perhaps my questions would finally be answered

Perhaps my children would sit in your lap,

Play with your necklaces

Hunt for sweets in your pockets

The way I did

When I had more of you.

More than a distant memory

More than an aching need

And a desperate prayer for God to fill the void that is left in the wake of not having

All of you.... since I was four years old

A little girl celebrating her birthday

Her family reeling behind her back.

I make do with what is left.

But sometimes I catch myself in weaker moments looking too hard into your picture

Trying to emulate you in my tasks

Conjuring up some ghost form called "mummy", or who I imagine you to have been

Someone sitting in my living room

At my kitchen table

On the other side of the phone.

The suddenness of your leaving still hits me and I get stuck like a small girl thick with slow motion feelings of wondering when you will return.

Reality can't really hurt a child who still believes so much in fairy tales can it?

On better days I am reminded

That there is  in fact more of you still left behind than just a photograph.

For in the ache of absence, I can say that in this reality

Perhaps my courage is greater

Perhaps my capacity to rely on Greater Strength is more realized

Those muscles of trust more flexed

Born out of tragic necessity.

Something of living force  stronger than just one life

Lives on in me

I am at the threshold of where you left this life behind

My arms and heart are full

To follow the journey you set out on

And completed far too early.

The heart of this motherless mother beats differently

Than all the perhaps in this world could suppose.

For it beats with a percussion that was what you left behind

For me to find, pick up and take hold of

And never take for granted.


  1. thank you so much for having the courage to share such an intimate and heartbreaking part of your story.

    My thoughts and prayers will be with you today especially.

  2. My dear Ashley, Your thoughts are so deep and so full of love and yet so full of void. We cannot fathom what you are feeling, feeling every day but especially on this day - the eve of your birthday and the anniversary of the passing of your mother. The pain, the missing, the hurt, the loss! We cannot imagine what a little girl of 4 would feel nor how those feelings change and yet remain with you a young woman of 26!
    We say congratulations on this your special day! Congratulations you made it - you've survived yes survived - without your mom - you are a mom a wonderful mom, as we are sure she would have been for you! It is a cruel and horrendous thing you have lived but you live - yes you live and are what you are because of what you have lived. We cannot take away your pain but only hope that we can somehow be a support to you not just in your good days but also in the bad! We love you Ashley and love that you make our son a better man and a happy man. We love that you take care of your children - our grandchildren to the very best of your abilities. And we love that you take care of yourself - yes with all that you have ahead we see that you try your best! You are a blessing to our family and we pray for health and strength in the year ahead. Your mom would be proud and I'm sure she is smiling today - your day!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR! WE LOVE YOU!

  3. Oh Ashley. I have so much to say in response to this post and no idea how to say it. Your words are incredible. Beautiful and honest and touching and a gift to yourself and your children.
    I am sorry for your loss. I can't imagine that. And yet, how incredible you are that you are who you are as a mother without having had a model of your own to grow up with.
    And happy birthday. I had no idea you are so young. Oh my, you are so young. (So young!) You are one wise (young woman) and I am honored to know you online. Happy birthday.

  4. You made me cry.
    I know grief well.
    If I am not careful it will creep in and begin to suffocate, depriving me of the joy in the life that remains and leaving behind a sense of fear that I may walk through the fire again. It is in those moments that I find myself on my face before the throne of the Creator of Days, the Life Giver, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End....the Author, Creator and Sustainer of that is, all that was and all that will be. It is there that I wrestle with mortality, with pain and with hurt. It is there that I begin to face the temporal nature of life and surrender my fear of the unknown as well as the pain of the known.
    Thank you for your words. It is a powerful reminder that we do not walk alone and I am thankful to have you as a companion on this road I call life.
    Blessed birthday dear friend!

  5. What a beautiful post Ashley. My heart aches for your loss. I cannot even imagine the experience you have lived through. So much so soon, so young, and you are still, so young. But you have gained in this loss. I can see it, as so many others who visit here can. You have so much strength, humor, and good heartedness. I am so pleased to know you the little I do :). Happy Belated birthday Ashley.
    much love
    xx oo



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