Monday, January 14, 2008

Five years without her...

Sunday, the 13th of Shvat, is 5 years since the awful and unreal day that my daughter, Liam died, just 2 months short of her 14th birthday. Although I do not usually talk about it, I decided to share some thoughts.

In the days and months after your child dies, you don’t believe that you will survive. It hits you first thing in the morning and last thing at night – your child is dead. I remember there were times when I was out and I wanted to just stop on the street and yell “How can you go on? Don’t you know that my daughter died?” The unfairness of life continuing and moving forward as though nothing happened was unbearable.

The question everyone wants to know is does it get better. Five years after Liam’s death I can honestly answer yes… and …no. The raw pain that is always with you in the beginning fades. It doesn’t assail you when you wake up. Flashbacks happen less frequently. And yet, time moves on. It is hard to believe that it has been five years since I’ve seen Liam. Since I’ve spoken to her, or heard her voice. Kissed her, touched her, hugged her, been exasperated by her, or yelled at her. The pain comes from watching her friends grow up and wondering what she would be like not as a child of 13 but as a young woman of 18. What she would look like, what decisions she would be making, how she would be changing and maturing. I am losing my frame of reference for things I measure by Liam’s age; it is getting too complicated to figure out. We left kibbutz the summer she finished 3rd grade. My mother died the winter she was in 4th grade. We moved to Zufim the summer before she went into 6th grade. How old would she be now? So how long ago was that? I wonder about her interactions with other people – how would she and Maor get along these days? How would she get along with my cousin’s daughter who is a bit younger than her? Or with my friend’s daughter who’s a bit older than her? And you realize that the questions will never stop. For as long as I live, I will be astounded that time continues to march on without her. One day I will be amazed to discover that Liam has been dead longer than she had been alive.

When Liam died, everyone in my circle knew that I had a daughter who died. As time moves on you meet new people, your circle expands, and you have to decide who to trust with this information. The simple basic question “How many kids do you have?” asked innocently and often is a loaded question. If you don’t include her, you feel guilty. But you don’t always want to get into it. At least I don’t. I don’t want to explain my life story to people who are basically strangers. They inevitably ask what happened and I don’t have a simple answer. I don’t want to see the pity in their faces. I am quiet and I keep things inside and I don’t want to talk about it in every casual social encounter when some unsuspecting person asks what they believe is a mild straightforward question. By not disclosing this information, however, I lose the ability to share parts of my life with others. I made aliyah when I was pregnant with Liam. We went to Disneyworld when Liam was 6 and Maor was a baby (Without Liam why we took Maor to Disney when she was 4 months old is a mystery). My parents came to Israel when Liam was one year old. There is a lot that I do not say without the context of Liam.

Losing a child creates a hole and a gap that cannot be filled. Yes life goes on (because what choice do we have) but you always feel that someone is missing. Everything you do as a family, both the big celebrations and the small mundane activities, leave you thinking and wondering and just plain missing her.

People imagine that missing a loved one works kind of like missing cigarettes.
The first day is really hard but the next day is less hard and so forth, easier and easier the longer you go on.
But instead it's like missing water. Every day, you notice the person's absence more.
Back When We Were Grown Ups, Anne Tyler

חמש שנים בלעדיה

.יום ראשון, י"ג שבט, נציין 5 שנים לפטירתה של בתנו, ליעם, שהייתה כמעט בת 14 במותה

בימים וחודשים לאחר פטירת ילדיך קשה להאמין שתשרוד. זה מכה בך דבר ראשון בבוקר ודבר אחרון בלילה – ילדיך מתה. אני זוכרת שלפעמים כשירדתי לעיר רציתי לעצור ברחוב ולצעוק "איך אתם ממשיכים בשלכם? אתם לא יודעים שבתי מתה"? הרעיון שהחיים ממשיכים ומתקדמים כאלו לא קרה כלום היה בלתי נתפס.

כולם רוצים לדעת אם זה נעשה יותר קל ככל שעובר הזמן. חמש שנים לאחר שליעם נפטרה אני יכולה לענות בכנות כן... ולא. הכאב החד שתמיד מלווה אותך בהתחלה דוהה. זה לא מכה בך כשאתה מתעורר בבוקר. פלשבקים קורים לעתים רחוקות. ובכל זאת, הזמן ממשיך. קשה להאמין שעברו חמישה שנים מאז שראיתי את ליעם. מאז שדברתי אתה או שמעתי את קולה. מאז שנשקתי אותה, חבקתי אותה או התעצבנתי עליה. מקור הכאב נובע מלצפות בחבריה מתבגרים ולתהות איך הייתה ליעם לא כילדה בת 13 אלא אשה צעירה בת 18. איך היה הייתה נראית, איזה החלטות היא הייתה מחליטה, איך היא משתנה ומתבגרת. אני מאבדת את נקודת ההתייחסות שלי לדברים שאני מודדת לפי גילה של ליעם. זה מסובך מדי. עזבנו את בית רימון כשליעם סיימה כתה ג. אמי נפטרה בחורף שליעם הייתה בכתה ד. עברנו לצופים לפני שהיא התחילה כתה ו. אז בת כמה היא צריכה להיות היום? לפני כמה שנים זה היה?
אני מדמיינת איך היא הייתה מסתדרת עם מאור. או אם הבת של בת דודתי שצעירה ממנה בשנה. או אם הבת של חברתי שמבוגרת ממנה בשנה וקצת. ואתה מבין שהשאלות לעולם לא ייתמו. עד יומי האחרון אני אתפלא שהחיים ממשיכים בלעדיה. יבוא היום ואהיה נדהם לגלות שליעם מתה יותר שנים ממה שהיא חיה.

כשליעם נפטרה, כולם מסביבי ידעו שהיתה לי בת שמתה. אבל ככל שעובר הזמן אתה פוגש אנשים חדשים ואתה צריך להחליט למי לספר. השאלה הבסיסית ופשוטה "כמה ילדים יש לך" שנשאלת בשיא התמימות היא אקדח טעון. אם אתה לא כולל אותה, אתה שטוף ברגשי אשם. אבל לא תמיד בא לך לחלוק את המידע הזה. לא בא לי להסביר את סיפור חיי לאנשים שהם בעצם זרים. הם שואלים מה קרה ואין לי תשובה פשוטה. אינני רוצה שירחמו עלי. אני שקטה מטבעי ושומרת דברים בפנים ואינני רוצה לדבר על זה כל פעם שאיזה מסכן שואל מה שהוא חושב שאלה סטנדרטי. מצד שני, כשאני לא מגלה את קיומה אני מאבדת את היכולת לחלוק מידע על חיי עם אחרים. עליתי לארץ כשהייתי בהריון עם ליעם. נסענו לדיסני כשליעם הייתה בת 6 ומאור בת 4 חודשים (בלי נוכחות ליעם זה באמת תעלומה למה לקחנו את מאור לדיסני כתינוקת). הוריי בקרו בארץ כשליעם הייתה בת שנה. יש הרבה שאינני יכולה לספר בלי להזכיר את ליעם.

אובדן של ילד יוצר חור ששום דבר לא יכול למלא. אומנם החיים ממשיכים (יש ברירה?) אבל תמיד מלווה בהרגשה שמישהו חסר. כל דבר שהמשפחה עושה, מהקטן ועד הגדול, משאיר אותך עם מחשבות ותהיות וסתם געגוע


JMC said...

So sorry for your loss.

Rivka said...

"The simple basic question “How many kids do you have?” asked innocently and often is a loaded question."

I didn't know how to answer this when my pregnancy last spring ended in an unexpected stillbirth. My oldest child was the one who gave me my answer, though mine is a very different situation than yours. He said he has a brother who lives with him and a baby sister who lives with G-d. Even though I never got to really meet my daughter, never got to kiss her or hear her cry or see her smile, she is very much a part of me and my identity as a mother.

I, too, don't want to get into it and hear all the stories about miscarriages and stillbirths--and it seems everyone has one--but I can't leave her out either.

I think it would be so much harder in your situation, to have a child with you for the time you did and then lose her. I can't imagine that kind of loss. I am so sorry you have to bear the pain of her absence.

chasidar said...

jmc: thanx.
rivka: i'm sorry to hear of the death of your daughter. i know the pain of infant loss and know how difficult it is and how some people can be so insensitive (well, you didn't really know her, she wasn't a real person, so it shouldn't hurt). of course it's a terrible loss. take care.

Baila said...

I found you through Jameel and after reading your post, I realize that I know who you are. It's been many years since we've had any contact--I guess we lost touch after you made aliyah. But I was at your wedding (I remember your keds :) ). I had heard that you had a daughter that was not well, and that she passed away. I never reached out to you, because I didn't think it was appropriate at the time, but you and your family were in my thoughts. Years later I have had the experience of having a seriously ill child, and well, I know what that's all about.

I do have to say one thing: when I myself was ill, your husband called me from Chicago to wish me well and ask if there was anything I needed. I will never forget that. We were friends because we were in the same shevet and had some mutually close friends, but on our own we were not particularly close. I remember where I was standing as he spoke to me and being so moved and appreciative when we hung up. He reached out, and it made me feel less alone. Please let him know that I always remember that about him.

Anyway, now that I found you, I'll add you to my blogroll. I'm also a voracious reader, and will slog through the other blog as well.

Take good care.


Gila said...

I simply cannot imagine....

mother in israel said...

I had no idea. I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing.

Fern Chasida said...

baila, gila: thanx for your comments. i've written to you privately.
mother in israel: thank you for your thoughts. yes, i'm usually pretty secretive about it.

Anonymous said...

Dear Chasida,

I could not get the energy needed to read Liam's memorial blog until today. I always think of Liam's courage and the love and care that she received from you. Liam was an energetic, determined, beautiful young lady.

I remember commandeering our tour bus to your kibbutz in order meet our new infant cousin, Liam. The other passengers thought we were in the clouds as we approached the kibbutz. I remember how charming Liam was when we spent a day at the Hotel Daniel with your family. Liam was extremely happy, jumping from bed to bed, getting her nails polished, and talking a mile a minute while she and I walked along the beach together. When you visted us one summer weekend, Liam and Maor bought huge dolls at Toys'R'Us and Liam left one of the doll's shoes at my house. I never dreamed that I wouldn't be able to return the shoe to her.

I will always remember those times and reach out to you with love, and I believe Liam is resting in peace.

Jack said...

I am very sorry to hear about your daughter.