About two o'clock, I suddenly could not hold back any more and started crying. The kids are getting used to my tears now. I took them outside for a long recess so they were not as distracted by me as they would have been sitting in the classroom until 3:00. I stood alone and fought to retain my self-control.
After school, I decided to go to the cemetery. Ronnie and I had planned to do this on Saturday, but I felt as if I needed to go then, and I wanted to do it alone; when he is with me, I feel as if I need to try to help him and I cannot let go of my own emotions as well.
It was raining fairly hard, but I decided the rain did not matter. Some say rain is God's tears, but I am not sure if I believe in god anymore. The rain made no difference to me.
At the cemetery, I stood by Arlyn's grave as the rain drenched me for a long time. I tried to talk to her. I don't know if she heard or not.
The visit was horrible; the excruciating pain I had felt after Arlyn first died returned, and for what seemed to be an eternity, I stood by my precious child's grave crying and wailing so loudly it was frightening to me, but I could not stop. The sounds just emanated from my guts and seemed to be ripping my soul into shreds.
Eventually, they subsided, and I left. Tears were still spilling down my face, but I was silent.
As I was driving home, about halfway to Pavo, I was amazed to see the most beautiful, perfect rainbow I have ever seen in my life arching itself across the highway, as if I were driving through the center of it.
I realize a symbol has no power; it is simply a symbol, but I have always believed a rainbow symbolizes hope, so I could not help but read great significance into that rainbow. I don't know what the hope is for, other than to be able to survive the rest of my life without Arlyn, but it brought me a reasonable amount of temporary relief.
I went home and I was okay, optimistic that Arlyn's birth day would truly be a day we could celebrate her birth and life rather than dwelling on the terrible circumstances of her death.
Saturday morning, Arlyn's birthday, I reluctantly got out of bed, because I had dreaded this day so long, but when I got up, I still felt okay.
After a while, Ronnie and I went upstairs and started going through some of the things Arlyn had stored or packed there through the years. Mostly, we read through hundreds of papers. Many were full of debate evidence she had amassed during her debating career, covering every issue imaginable. Many were school papers, assignments, tests, homework, and essays.
We decided the expedient thing to do was to throw away most of the routine assignments, tests, etc. and simply hold on to the essays, even though most of them were specifically related to classroom lessons.
In this stack, we found a few writings that made us laugh. Arlyn was well known for spicing up her writing with humor, and she clearly did this well. In the middle of one essay test, for example, she inserted a paragraph informing her teacher, a lovely young single woman, that half the boys in the class fantasized about all the sexual things they would like to do with her, and she thought she may like to know that. (The teacher had written in the margin: Let's keep it clean.) *g*
We found a letter from Arlyn's second grade teacher bemoaning the fact that Arlyn would not keep still, that she had disrupted the standardized test by pulling out her Princess of Power sunglasses and putting them on for all to see.
She also complained that Arlyn sat in strange positions with her legs everywhere, including on top of the desk, that she played with her food at lunch and when reprimanded, simply said that her finger was an airplane and it had to move down the runway, and she said teacher was very frustrated by all these things.
We had to laugh, just as we did when the letter arrived in second grade, because this was the Arlyn we knew. So bright, creative, amusing, and unwilling to live a dull life.
Then, I found a note she had written to me in anger, and all of a sudden, the good feelings I had been experiencing were shattered. I told Ronnie I was finished, and came downstairs.
From then on, I could not focus on anything except bad memories, the mistakes in parenting I had made, the times I used poor judgment, the battles we had fought verbally when our expectations of Arlyn did not match her desires, the frustration I experienced when I could see she did not seem happy.
The rest of the day wavered from depression to acceptance, never returning to high I had been at earlier, but not sinking to the depths I had plunged to at the cemetery. That night, I cried myself to sleep.
Today, I have woken up feeling okay, because I survived that milestone, and I know that in spite of the fact her death was more terrible to me than I could ever have imagined, her birth was the most precious gift I have been given, and so I must always try to celebrate her life first.
January 26, 1998