This has typically been a forum where I honor my best-beloveds. Last Wednesday (the 14th) was my daughter's birthday. I simply couldn't make a post on Wednesday, and on Thursday I struggled with a variety of photos that I could not size correctly, and gave up. Today I decided to do my best, with several still improperly sized. Eleanor would have been 39, had she not been struck by a car and killed in 1983. She was 14 years old. It was a very, very long journey to any sort of healing, but healed I am (admittedly, with scars that will be with me forever -- but I carry them with honor). I scanned a number of photos, and could not seem to edit them to proper size. I've done it before, and don't know what step I may have left out of the process this time, but I can't possibly delay this post in honor of her any longer.
Eleanor was born when I was 16, the product of an impetuous youth, but a great gift. I raised her as a single mother since I was 19, when her father joined the military and moved halfway across the country. Just about the time he came back to the midwest, I moved the other direction, to Buffalo. Five years after we moved there, she died, and half my heart was struck, as well. Until I lost her, I truly did not know how much a part of me she was.
Here's Eleanor as a little, nearly-bald baby, held by my mother:
It's a little blurry because I enlarged it -- but you can see her clearly. What a sweet, happy baby! I always wondered what I did to deserve her.
We were usually best of friends, obviously. We kind of grew up together. The next photo that came out size-appropriate is much later, when she was 10 or so. That's a great age for a girl -- old enough to be great conversational company, but not quite into full-tilt adolescent horribilility yet.
Isn't she something? Not only beautiful (look at that lion's mane of hair), but both brilliant and wise beyond her years.
Here she was, the fall before she died (in May). This was not far from her 14th birthday.
You can see the beginnings of a really beautiful girl here. And her spirit was beautiful, as well. She was clever and talented, and so much like me that it almost makes me weep. Writing was her main talent (as it is mine, I think). She was in full-tilt, diffiuclt adolescence, but still sewed doll clothes by hand. She was an anigma and a paradox, and managed to enrage me on a regular basis. We were fierce, but we loved each other so. I have another before she died:
This one is far from perfect, of course. I couldn't get it edited to the proper size for this blog -- thus the great space here between photo and text. But I am on the left, Eleanor is on the right, and we were given matching sweatshirts the Christmas before she died. Gosh, she was gorgeous -- but we both weren't bad. I miss that friendship we had, though the friendship was limited -- sometimes I was "The Bi---" (fill in the blanks) because of the limits I set. I acknowledged that being that "Bi---" was my job just then, and managed to live with that. It's really a parent's job sometimes, isn't it?
Losing Eleanor was the single most definitive event in my life, I think. Having her was traumatic, and lots of our lives together was hard work. But losing her was greatest. I grieved long and well, and I still grieve, though less intensely and less often. Maybe someday I'll write the details of that grief process, and all the lessons I learned in that process (and still learn, from time to time).
I am risking one more photo, poorly edited. I took it in New Jersey, Sandy Hook, on the Atlantic shore. We both loved the ocean.
See, I hate all the white space, but haven't had the time and energy to figure out how to modify it. But this is the important thing. Shortly after she died, I had this dream. It was her, just like in this photo. We were both on the beach, and I saw her, just like this. I said to her, "So, you're not dead, after all," and she simply nodded at me. I can't remember if we embraced (in my memory, we did -- but there is so much healing that has taken place by now). I awoke knowing that the dream was a visitation, and that she was truly not dead, and really okay (dead, of course in the physical sense -- I was not in denial about that -- but surviving somewhere, somehow). It was the first gift of her presence that I ever received, but not the last.
Eleanor, you know I love you. Live long and prosper, my child and friend, wherever you are. And my prayers go out this day and always to parents who have lost a child.