Meanings of words and phrases in italics are at the end of this post.
For a while I had been thinking about learning to kōrero te reō Māori, both to improve my confidence in pronunciation and as a way of gaining a deeper understanding of te ao Māori. What I didn’t expect to get from it was a way into a better relationship with myself and a new tattoo.
A couple of parts of my life were falling apart, my mental health and self esteem were at the most fragile they had been for a long time. I was struggling through the days in an ongoing toxic work situation and my self belief was further shaken by the loss of what had seemed a promising intimate relationship. I had not been sleeping, relying on sleeping pills that left me fuzzy, was losing weight, and the voice of my inner critic, the one that tells me how useless I am, that it’s all my fault, that I am unlovable, had become louder, more insistent, and harder to change the record on.
Remember death, the Romans said, to remind themselves of their mortality. The Victorians made a cult of it, with mourning brooches and rings made with the hair of deceased loved ones. Now we have Facebook memories. And this time of year they are filled with Zoe’s final days.
I re-share random photos and posts of this time because I can’t not. To do so is memento mori. Even when I don’t, I am quietly marking the days.
Today you would be thirteen. That means that some day around now, I haven’t calculated which exactly, you will have been gone from us for longer than you were alive.
It’s a thought almost too hard to bear. We have moved further and further from the reality of you and our lives together, left with only memories and photographs. So oftentimes I don’t bear it, I distract myself so as not to think of it, I skirt around the edges, so I can still keep going, still keep living, as I’m sure you would have wanted.
On your last birthday in this world, your sixth, I wrote “My baby girl turned 6 today. What a delight she is to have around.”
What would thirteen year old you have been like? At thirteen I was a mess of hormones and anxiety, on the verge of coming to form my own world view.
I will never know what thirteen year old you would have been like, but I can imagine.
I imagine you would be more fiercely yourself. More fiercely thoughtful, more fiercely loving, more fiercely optimistic, more fiercely wanting the world to be right and fair. You were all these things at six and a half, I image you would have been only more so at thirteen.
I imagine you would have been at the climate change change protest some of your peers were at because you always wanted to put things right.
But I fear that you would have been disheartened by and cynical about the state of the world you were inheriting. That’s what I also fear for your peers.
I’m glad you don’t have to come to terms with mosque shootings and genocide and increasing inequality and the instagram bullying that kids your age seem to accept as normal.
Listening to my friends I’m pretty sure you would be in the grip of your own pubescent hormones, with all the accompanying tumult and sass, but frustrating as I’m sure that is, I’m jealous they have it.
Heartbroken is not a big enough word to describe how we are missing you discover yourself as a young woman, as someone with her own sense of identity and purpose. That you will never experience all of the firsts of young adulthood that are so frightening and wonderful and exhilarating.
Heartbroken is not a big enough word to encompass all the love we still hold for you in our broken broken hearts. Miss you my baby girl, six and half forever.
Today is six years, 2,191 days, since you left us.
In four days I will be 50 years old, 18,250 days old.
Only 2,370 of those days were lived with you, yet by some trick of mathematics, or unknown law of nature, the sum of those days is more than that of all the ones before or since.
I miss your slightly raspy voice, your old soul wisdom, your thoughts as you encountered the world and came to your own unique view of it, your gummy smile, which I suspect was quite like mine.
I miss all the small things any mother can name, fleeting moments in the everyday. some noticed and seized on as they pass, some remembered only later, a touch, a phrase in passing, a moment just the two of us shared, the Zoeisms.
I miss all the moments and milestones you didn’t get. I see the ghosts of them in your friends as they grow up.
Lately I realise I miss me. The me that only ever existed through your eyes. The me you believed in unwaveringly. Who you loved fierce and true and believed was good and capable. That me left with you, maybe you needed her where you were going.
Maybe she would be gone by now anyway, you would be on the cusp of teenagerhood, your job would be growing up and away from me. “Mum’s a good mum,” you told your Nan “even if she does say bad words sometimes” (guilty).
I’m a different me now, without you. And I wonder, how many more days without you?
Postscript: I am a different me, but I’m still here and I’m still wearing the sparkly shoes. Today we will be doing a few things to remember Zoe. First up is her Nan and I are going out for her favourite breakfast.
This year I’ve neglected Zoe’s garden, going on holiday, forgetting to water it, not weeding very often, and yet it’s still putting on an exuberant display in shades of purple and white annuals, pink and red roses for my last summer here.
When I do remember to water it, in the long evening shadows, Charlie Cat often comes to me, dodging the spray to wind himself around my legs and ask for cuddles. Zoe would often “help” me water the garden. I wasn’t allowed to spray her with the hose, but apparently she was allowed to spray me. It’s a peaceful feeling, seeing the garden doing so well, a small creature for company, as I get ready to leave it behind.
I found this in among the tarotscopes and yoga class listings in a local Byron Bay magazine while on holiday. The column is called heavily meditated – and I do love a good pun. This was something I needed to read today and a lesson I needed to learn. Again.
The line that jumped out at me was this: “An inability to forgive others is reflective of an inability to forgive yourself.”Continue reading →
If you’re of a certain age and had a teenage predilection for eighties ska (who didn’t), you’re probably humming that song right now.
By the time Zoe was born in 2006, it was being used to advertise a house building company. Whenever their ad played on TV (remember life before Netflix) baby Zoe would turn her attention to it, enthralled. I would imagine the kind of family house I wanted for us. Not the cookie cutter kind being sold by the TV ad. Continue reading →
At the friendship bench dedicated to Zoe at her school
In other years I have these posts written in my head long before the anniversary of the day you left us, but this year there just don’t seem to be any words, so this may be a little disjointed.
I’m borrowing some words from another bereaved parent, songwriter, author and musician Nick Cave, from the depths of his grief after losing his son: “I think I’m losing my voice… just file it under lost things. My voice, my iPhone, my judgment, my memory… isn’t it the invisible things that have so much mass?”Continue reading →