~Each day that passes brings me one day closer to seeing you in Heaven~
I've been having quiet, private conversations lately with an extremely troubled mother, a mother I know very well. Sometimes, we don't even speak at all, but when we do, I usually just listen to her, trying hard not to crumble beneath her weak structure of merciless anguish. I want to pull her out, keep her from suffocating, but I don't know how.
"My daughter died," she weeps. "My beautiful, 21-year old little girl...gone. Why? I feel like Brittany is slipping away from me! Sometimes she feels like an ethereal dream. A distant memory I can't quite grasp. Was she real?"
I say nothing. I just continue listening.
"In my heart," she sobs, "of course I know she's real. Her life began inside me long before I even knew she was there. The very second her heart took its first beat in my womb, my own heart began beating in perfect rhythm with hers. Besides my son, Brittany is the only person who has heard my heartbeat from the inside, to feel my love from the inside. We were two hearts made from one...two halves of a whole."
My eyes filled with countless tears. It was like her pain and emptiness were mine, too. It was tangible. Palpable.
I watched this heartbroken mother. She was curled up on the floor, surrounded by 21-years of precious memories captured in photos, time that will forever stand still. There will be no new memories made of this mother and daughter again...ever.
"Our bond grew stronger with each passing day. She was my best friend. But now I feel her slipping further and further away. The sound of her laughter, the feel of her embrace, the sound of her voice, the brightness of her blue eyes, her captivating smile...even the way she smells. It's beginning to fade. I'm losing her all over again. I don't know what's more crippling: the fear of me forgetting, or the fear of me remembering it all like it was yesterday. How am I supposed to live the rest of my life in such a debilitating and grim manner? I gasp for air when I panic at the thought of forgetting, and I gasp for air when I'm sucker punched by the invasion of voices, cruelly taunting me, constantly reminding me Brittany is no longer a part of my daily life. Do you know how exhausting that is? I'm so tired."
I do know.
"Do you ever wish you could just disappear for awhile? Detach yourself from you? Seek silence? Nothingness?"
Yes. Quite often.
"I used to be witty and quick on my toes. I was smart and articulate. I had a career. Today, I'm lucky if I can complete a full sentence without getting lost in my own little world. I simply drift away, totally forgetting what I was talking about to begin with. My cognitive skills have taken a direct and permanent hit. I suffer from severe PTSD. I've struggled with Anorexia for six years. I also suffer from something my psychiatrist calls Dissociative Amnesia. One common factor between the two? Flashbacks. I've started to remember random events and conversations; images of things I didn't even realize I had, all trapped in the deepest, darkest corners of my confused and eviscerated brain; things I don't want to remember and wish to remain oblivious to." She screams, "I just want it to stop!"
I wish it would, too.
And then, her mind flits to another memory. No! Not that one! My hands begin to tremble and my breathing becomes more rapid. My heart is racing. I'm sobbing. I'm beginning to panic. I feel my throat closing in. Please don't go there...because if she goes there, I have no choice but to go there, too...Please don't. I can't. My resolve to try and stay strong for her is quickly imploding. She continues, anyway. And I am dragged down the dark rabbit hole with her.
The mother stares into the darkness. She's somewhere far away, and then she turns to me and begins to tell me a story. A distant memory, perhaps?
"A couple of years go," she said, "a very troubled and disturbed woman called me right before Mother's Day. She accused me of abandoning my little girl when we moved to Florida. She said I left Brittany alone and homeless, left to fend for herself. Brittany and I had never been away from each other in the 19-years before we moved. I begged and bribed her to come with us, but she wanted to stay up north with her friends and boyfriend. I thought she could use some distance. Get some perspective. But she was very stubborn and ready to spread her wings, even though I wasn't. Do you know how it feels when someone accuses you of abandoning your own child?"
"Do you know how tormented I've been since that conversation? Foggy memories flood my mind. They haunt my very soul," she weeps. "Is it true?"
She's becoming more panicked. More agitated and erratic.
"Did I leave her behind? Toss her aside? My baby! My little girl! My life! Is that what I did?!?'
I decide to speak.
"No," I tell her. Despite the ugly accusations and cruel words you were attacked with, Brittany was always taken care of. By you. Who did she call and/or text all hours of the day and night?"
"Me," the mother replied.
"Who did she always turn to for help and guidance?"
"Me," she said again.
"Who had a connection so bizarre you were like the same person?"
She slightly smiles. "We did. And in some mystifying way, we still are."
"Who did she love...then and now...unconditionally?"
"And who will you forever love unconditionally?"
"My precious little girl. My Brittany."
She sits silently for a bit, lost in her own mind.
I look at her familiar, broken, and aged face. My face. A weary, worn and sometimes vacant face. A face we keep masked most of the time. Why? We do it to protect others from the discomfort and awkwardness they feel when they find out who we really are: Two broken mothers sharing one body, trying to straddle two very different worlds: the past and the present. We're protecting you...and us. That's why we've let so many of you walk out of our lives. We want to save you from our anguish, because behind our smiles, there's a story you could never understand.
"Will it always be this hard? This painful?" she asks.
I sigh."For us, I believe it will. This isn't something we can coach ourselves into overcoming. Look at the amount of time that has already passed...75-months. I mean, let's be honest. How far have we actually come? All we can do is live with it and deal with all the emotional chaos in whatever way that comforts us. Unfortunately, it is what it is, and we are who we are now. But you know what? I think we're the ones who feel abandoned. We're the ones who were left behind to suffer the unimaginable. To face a world where Brittany no longer exists. To remind ourselves each morning that this is our reality now. I'm angry! We're angry!"
"I am angry. Very angry. I never fathomed a life without her. Why would I? I took it all for granted. Now I have to try and function in a world without her in it. A world without Brittany. It sounds and feels so foreign."
She bows her head, defeated.
"I didn't want this," she laments.
"I'd give anything to have her back...even for a day, an hour..."
"Hey." I cradle her face in my hands. "We will see her again. And whenever you begin to feel overwhelmed with those feelings of abandonment, remember this: God never abandoned Brittany...or us. This isn't our home, April. We're just passing through on our quest to reunite with our little girl and the One who now holds her safely in His arms."
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.
Revelations 21:4 (NLT)
I love you, Brittany Erin...eternally <3