My first earthly memory is that of looking sleepily up into wise and smiling eyes. I was an infant of only a few months but the memory is very clear. My maternal grandfather was cradling me in his arms. He died only a few months later and I never got to know him but I feel so much was conveyed to me in that moment of memory, through his eyes, and in a way I do know him; the most important things, anyway. I know he loved me. I know he was happy I was in his arms. I know I felt content there, bundled and warm. Even as a child, I noticed people’s eyes. I saw there a measure of emotion, intent, validation. As I grew older, I noticed deeper things in people’s eyes. There was something there, in some of them, that I couldn’t describe. Something that attracted me to them and made me want to know what was inside even as I knew that whatever it was would be kept, held close and not lightly shared, if shared at all. I wondered if anyone would ever see something like that in my eyes. What might that look like? Would it be something I would keep, hold close, not lightly if at all share?
The day Dannica and I were released from the hospital following her birth, we were sitting together waiting for a wheelchair to be brought up by Daddy and Big Brother. It was a very quiet moment. She was wide awake and her eyes, though new and fuzzy, were bright and alert. Her tiny head was resting on my left shoulder and I was looking into her sweet face and she into mine. There was a spark of recognition as we regarded each other, sweetly, through the windows of our souls. Our bond was complete. Our little family was complete. “Let’s go home, little ones.”
The night my baby was taken from me, just over 18 years later, I waited for the car in front of the hospital, this time my arms wrapped around my 21-year-old son who was shaking almost violently from shock and cold; our family no longer complete. As I climbed into the car, my arms had never felt so empty. It was only the beginning of the realization that my arms were not the only empty thing about me.
Two months later now and I am beginning to wonder who I am. I have started picking up some of the pieces scattered around me. Some I set gently on the table, others I allow to slip from my fingers again to rejoin the others on the floor. I envision the pieces fitting together again but when they’re all together, there is one very important piece missing from the very center. This makes me angry, this makes me scream. This missing piece draws my attention to the pain of the loss of it. The space this piece left has pulled me through it and on the other side of that space, Dannica’s tragic accident and death are my introduction, my identity, my autograph. I’m realizing I can’t just be who I was before; that person is also dead. But how long will this be my identity? How long is it my introduction? How long do I sign my name with it?
I received a letter on Dec. 7th, 2012 from Lions VisionGift. Dannica chose to be an organ donor. Her donation resulted in two corneal transplants, giving two individuals who were blind the opportunity to regain their sight. I can’t help wondering about those two people. What would it be like to look into their eyes? Would I see her there? Will they see the beauty in this world that she always saw?
Maybe I’ll never actually know what it is in the eyes that attracts me but I think I’m beginning to understand what goes into the creation of it. Challenge, pain, loss, disappointment, heartbreak, and any number of other events that bring about a deep and abiding sadness. I see that sadness sometimes, yes, but what I really see shows up when these eyes smile, when these eyes love again, when they sparkle with laughter or happy tears. At some point, all of these people were also hollowed out. Perhaps what I see is a glimpse of the resilience of these human spirits and the result of their simply moving through these horrible times the best they can.
I still love birds. I still love flowers. I still love the earth and being here. I still love my son and my little, incomplete family. I know there is joy in my memories. I know the blessings will come if I watch for them rising like steam from pavement warmed by the sun after rain. I hope the something people see in my eyes becomes greater than the sadness that lives there now. I hope I can come to see the beauty in this world that Dannica always saw.
So softly I whisper…
Black Bird singin’ in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free….
Black Bird Fly…
Black Bird Fly…
Into the light of a dark black night.