Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Special Days: Ellie's Original Due Date

A little over a year has passed since my daughter died. There are reminders everywhere and plenty of dates with special meanings. Today was the estimated due date of my Ellie. She should be a happy one year old.

This time last year, my husband and I headed to the coast while our son stayed with his grandmother. We were looking for the perfect place to spread her ashes. Here is our thought process in case you are wondering: We believe that when someone dies, the body remains; like a shell. Although we do not ascribe to any religion, we knew our daughter wasn't 'in there' once she died. I will let theologians and philosophers debate on where she 'is'. But I know she is in my heart, and that is enough. So there was no question that we would have our daughter cremated. I took her to every room with me from the day we came home on January 15 up until this day last year. I couldn't stand the thought of her remains being stuck in a bag inside an urn forever. I wanted them to go back to where we all begin: nature. What better place than water? It is everywhere, in everything and is always connected. Rain in its many forms, streams, rivers, etc. travel around the world again and again. No matter where we spread Ellie's ashes, whenever it rained or we saw running water, we knew she would be there. The ocean seemed like the perfect place to start.

We found the perfect spot on March 15 and returned the next day. We picked up six pink Gerber daisies, to represent her six days of life,  to throw in the ocean with her ashes. My husband and I sat on the beach for a long time that morning, holding one another and crying. But we were both oddly at peace with what was about to happen. We had decided we wouldn't save any of the ashes; she would be complete in the water. When the time came, my husband bravely led me to the water and asked me to open my hands. I trembled and closed my eyes. When I felt the ashes I began to wail loudly and almost fell to my knees. We looked at one another and told whoever was listening, "We love you, Eleanor." And then we lowered our hands and watched as her ashes were gently carried away. My husband looked down and saw a few stunningly white shells in the clear blue water and picked them up. He said we were giving the ocean our daughter (our life) in the form of ashes and in turn, the ocean was giving her life to us in the form of shells. What a beautiful thought. We collected them and placed them in the now empty urn. We walked back to the beach and picked up the six pink daisies and threw them in. Amazingly, they stayed together and we walked along the beach with them until they were out of site. We then sat on the beach a while longer, exhausted and drained, and promised to return on Ellie's first birthday.

We visited the same spot and threw six pink Gerber daisies into the water on her first birthday, January 8, 2011, with a few loving family members. We also collected another shell to add to her urn, which is proudly displayed in our living room. It was our son's first visit to the ocean and as a two and half year old, his excitement helped ease the mood. He still doesn't understand what has happened, but he knows his sister's name. And he knows we were throwing flowers in the water for, "Ellie to play with."

Some people have expressed concern over memorializing too many days when thinking about Ellie. They said it could prolong my grief and hinder the healing process. Maybe they are right, but I'm not going to forget these special days. I have a much different outlook this March 16, than I did last year. I have grieved like I never thought possible. I have loved deeper than before. I have grown and changed in unimaginable ways. But I will remember these days forever. And I will forever remember my daughter. Ellie remains the same to me; my sweet, beautiful daughter happily playing in the water with her pink daisies...awaiting our next visit. 

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