PLEASE take the time to read this:
Bambi Tidwell, lost her daughter, Kenna Lindsay Tidwell, at age 30 in May 2011 to suicide, after many years of living with PTSD, the result from a gang rape by four men when she was 17. I asked Bambi’s permission to share this beautiful and intimate message to her little girl, which she posted on her blog after hearing me speak in Sacramento.
Belly Up to the Bar, Boys!
Valentine’s Day 2012
On this celebrated day, when most are either enjoying a romantic evening with a loved one or perhaps wishing they were, I went to a support group to hear Steve Fugate speak. He has walked over 30,000 miles to spread the message on the sign he carries for all to see, “Love Life.” His story is one worth sharing.
“I am convinced that there is no pain equal to that of losing a child. The grief was indescribable. I felt as though someone had taken an axe and chopped out my heart while I was yet breathing! My son, this living, breathing, precious life, my beautiful contribution to the universe, was suddenly gone. I can in no way fully describe the pain; I don’t know how to scream on paper…” Steve Fugate
Before the evening was over, I experienced an epiphany so profound that I came home, sat in the dark and looked at the stars twinkling outside the window for hours.
He said his children adored their father, absolutely loved him and they were always trying to make him happy every day of their lives. And he simply stated, “So why would it be any different now?”
I know we all keep saying that we know you wouldn’t want us to be sad, that you would want us to celebrate more often, to feel joy, to be happy, but it often sounds like a mere justification to do so without the accompanying quilt. It feels so hollow. Celebrate? Without you? How disloyal, how absurd. What is there to celebrate without you?
Then his words hit me so hard I realized I was holding my breath. Maybe I had been for all this time.
You were always doing things to make people happy in so many ways. Just that last year, you gave me so many reasons to be happy that I am constantly reminded and amazed. There are so many memories from the day you were born to the tangible gifts you worked your magic on to make appear. Giving always meant more to you than receiving. The rainbow bouquet for Chana, concert tickets for your friends in high school, my soap opera earrings, my favorite perfume only you could find when it was no longer for sale, Kameron’s birthday dinner at Morton’s that you saved for and you beamed throughout the entire evening, your funny notes, and your constant surprises are treasures we will always cherish.
I saw the times people were disturbed by their perception that you made it all about you at times, but I know the real reason for that. They do now as well. I know how profoundly sad and guilty you felt about that and how you tried to avoid it. Trying to disguise pain can often be misunderstood by others. I know it doesn’t really matter anymore and that some feelings we just have to let go, we need to forgive you, we need to forgive ourselves. Easier said than done when blanketed by guilt.
Your last act was, in part, to spare us having to share the painful roller coaster journey you were on, although I know you could not have imagined the unbearable loss your absence would leave behind. It permeates our lives, minute by minute, dream by dream, and it defines who we now are while we struggle to find our place in this uncharted world.
But tonight this man’s words resonated so clearly.
“They wanted us to be happy before, so why would that be any different now?”
It seems so simple.
Perhaps that is the point. Not only will I take comfort in remembering your generosity, I will celebrate this life I have because I don’t want to lose that Pollyanna part of me. That Unsinkable Molly Brown is still shivering in that lifeboat, trying to sing to others. I know you don’t want me to lose that either, even though you found it quite perplexing and annoying and unrealistic at times. I don’t want to feel like I can never truly laugh again or enjoy the simple gifts of life. I want to be able to be me again with our boys. I know you want that as well. And they deserve nothing less. I would rather the laughter be with you by our sides, but I will have to take comfort in the knowledge you are with me in whatever form that takes.
I’ll keep working on my “bucket list”. I have some catching up to do as it has been on hold since you left. I’m sorry I didn’t get this message from you sooner. I should have been listening more carefully with my heart and not letting the pain block your message.
I’m listening now.