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Letter to My Daughter on the 10th Anniversary of Her Passing

Charlotte, two of the most profound life experiences for me were the day you came into the world as my daughter and the day you left the world as my daughter.
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Dear Charlotte,

This time of year, the weather turns crisp and clear and visibility seems to go on for miles. But there is a chill to the wind that carries along with it the message that summer is ending. These days now make me melancholy as they remind me of the day that you died. I don't need a calendar for this. I feel it in every fiber of my being.

Sweetie pea, today it is 10 years since you died. You would be 16 now. In those 10 years, we have suffered and ached and been stuck and unsure. We lost faith for a while as everything we'd ever relied upon to be true and just and safe was called into question. It was gutting and it was awful.

But Charlotte, what I want to tell you this year on the 10-year anniversary of your passing is that I've also changed since that day in August 2004 in positive ways that I never thought possible.
Charlotte, two of the most profound life experiences for me were the day you came into the world as my daughter and the day you left the world as my daughter. On the day you were born I remember gazing at the miracle in my arms and thinking life was complete. A daughter. You came in screeching and howling and we all knew you were a fighter. Fiesty and full of life. You were that way your entire short 6 and a half years and though you challenged me at every turn, I admired your intensity. The day you left this world you left quickly and quietly, and yet the black hole that was created in my life by your absence became a shrieking and sucking force that came close to pulling the life out of me. But Charlotte, what I am proud to tell you today is that ultimately, it didn't. That was not going to be your legacy.

Within days sweetie pea, literally days, it was clear there were just three choices: I could die. I could exist. Or I could live. Choosing to live seemed impossible, yet something inside of me knew that it was the only true course. It wasn't easy, Charlotte. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. But it was the only real option in my book. And it was the best way I knew to carry you with me and honor the life you had while you were here.

See Charlotte, I learned how to be a warrior from you and your siblings. A mother's love turns her into a warrior. You taught me to be fierce and protective of you during your short life. To let you do much for yourself because it felt so much better when you figured it out on your own even though the process was frustrating and difficult. I watched in awe and with pride as little you found your way in the world. I watched as you did this and I marveled at your wisdom. Since your death it has felt to me a bit that the roles have reversed. It was my turn to grow. I felt you there watching me. Nudging me along. I felt as though I had a warrior angel rooting for me and making sure I stayed positive and true and learned to find my own way. Thank you for that. Because of that I am a better parent, partner, friend, citizen of the world. It sounds like a curious legacy for a deceased child, doesn't it? Yet it makes perfect sense to me now.

I wanted to die when you died Charlotte. But I didn't get to. I had to choose to live. I've felt you sitting on my shoulder and wrapping your arms around me during the tough times along the way. And you and I both know there were some exceptionally tough times. But it's been 10 years Sweetie Pea. While I'd give anything to have you back, I've found ways to live with the loss. I've learned to find a new relationship with you as a wisdom being or an angel. I'm reconciled with life and death being just points along a continuum. You are gone, separate, and yet still nearby. I look to you for guidance and comfort as often as I look to God. Now that I am open to it I see signs of you everywhere and when I sit quietly outside as I'm doing now I know that you are not too far away. Are you listening to the gulls calling to each other over the cliffs? Are you watching this magnificent morning with me? I feel that you are. That is comforting. Separate, yet still nearby.

With all the hope and the promise, courage and inspiration I have been fortunate to have found these past ten years, I will continue to move through life and be present to all of its beauty. I'll be there for your sister and your brother and I'll continue to grow and to honor you by fully engaging in life and love. I'm deeply grateful for the gifts that I have received from working through grief these last 10 years. But as you also know, Charlotte, all that said, I'll still watch the sun set on August 18th and wish that rather than having you in my pocket that I had my arms around you, stroking your hair, chatting about your day and planning for tomorrow.