I feel like this.
Her death was the sound of a tree falling in the forest. It made no sound, because no one heard it.
When I realized my daughter fell and I didn't hear her, I screamed. I became uprooted, immediately tumbling to the ground. I was expended, losing its green the moment it lay still in the mossy bed of the forest floor. It made a very loud sound that everyone in my world heard.
It is a zen koan. The wisdom of her death and the living after. I am not wise. Don't get me wrong. But I am wiser than I was. She died. And I cannot change that. Should I deny growth to spite suffering, to accentuate the injustice of her death?
I admit, for the first year, I specifically resisted growth. There was nothing like growth. If you said something about growth, I spat at you. I bit your head, held on with my rotten teeth, growled. It was the absence of growth. It was a deforestation. I pulled up all my groundlings, the trees beginning to take root in the same place where she fell. I slashed and burnt acreage of me and acreage of friends. I embraced the ugly part of it all. Ugly felt bad, but it is what I knew.
I keep thinking of a friend who had dentures put in her mouth. Her teeth were slowly worn away and blackened by a combination of bad choices and bad genes. She finally got them all pulled, fixed, as they say. When the dentist put her new teeth in, she looked in the mirror and cried. She said that the teeth didn't look like her. They had no gaps, they were white and straight and perfect. Her teeth were yellow and crooked.
That wasn't her, she said. And the dentist asked her if she wanted him to put dentures in that look like rotten teeth. "That is not my job. My job is to put teeth in that look beautiful. You are not your bad teeth."
We grow attached to our scars.
I was attached to them. Attached to my knots, and carved initials in the trunk of me. Maybe I am still attached to them.
I keep writing about grief even when I come here to talk about a tree falling in a forest. I keep writing about what I learned after Lucia died even though I did not want to learn a damned thing. I hated advice. I rejected anything that sounded like I learned something, flipped off prayers and platitudes and comfort.
What I learned was specifically because I didn't want to grow. I wanted to be stuck with my rotten teeth, my felled tree, useful to no one. Perhaps I learned more about the extent in which I could be annihilated and still look normal, function, resemble human. My defects, my strengths, my humility, my arrogance took root in me, grew another withering, beastly creature, less tree and more fungus. I don't begrudge me. I did the best I could, but it was not enough. I took the path of selfish.
Here is what I learned: I learned what I value in my friends. I learned what I appreciate in my acquaintances. I learned how to accept from strangers.
I began to understand the necessity for boundaries. Who shares what and who gets to know about Lucia. I needed boundaries. I learned that I don't have to tell everybody everything I know, as my friend's grandmother says. I figured out whose judgment matters. I found out painfully which friends abandon me in my hardest hours, and which just didn't know what to do. There is a difference, and I appreciate that now. I learned that I am a spiritual person from the top of me to my bottom. It is how I want my life to be. Not religious, but in service to something bigger.
I suppose in some ways I feel wiser, more grateful, more mindful, more present in the moment. Because she died, her death reminded me that everything and everyone dies. I hadn't quite been living that truth. Because I could not change that she died, not through magical thinking, or dying myself. Not from giving up, or giving in. (I did both at different times.) You learn something from that. I have no control and in having no control, there is a freedom. But I chose this path of trying to figure out what I could learn from the worst moments of my life. Who I was then. Why I let my child's death erase all of what I believed so I could embrace intolerant, unkind, judgmental, and angry. I learned anger is my default emotion. I should be ashamed of it, but I am not. It is just who I am. I learned that. And then I work every day to change that reaction to everything.
I feel like Lucy's death made me better, because I have had to change every bit of me. I had to change, because being the me I was and grieving was fucking torture. So I changed stuff about me, like who I trust and when I trust and what I trust and how much I trust. I change what I give and what I take and what I give personally and what I take personally. I changed what I complain about and what I don't.
Believe me, I resented that I had to change and grow and learn something. But she died, and I couldn't change that. But I could change me. I could change my reaction to grief. I suppose, you can say that Lucy's death has given me a kind of humility and wisdom I was sorely lacking without the years of losing every. little. thing. And yet, I would give all that up if she could live.
And that seems like no wisdom at all.