After my grandma died and her funeral was over, my mom and I took my aunt and uncle to the train station. The rest of our relatives had long since left, but they had lingered. They knew what I hadn’t realized yet. I stood on the train platform and watched their train roll away, and it hit me: I had to go back to my routine, and everything was going to be exactly the same. Other than, you know, the big hole in my life. The world suddenly looked very different.
Maddie’s death didn’t just leave a hole in my life, it shattered it. But I still looked the same on the outside. Or did I? The circles under my eyes were darker, the hair was limp, my eyes were lifeless. But strangers didn’t know my story by looking at me. I’d go for walks in my neighborhood and I’d be crying. Once, a passerby stopped me, concerned, and asked me if I’d broken up with my boyfriend. If I’d seen a woman in her twenties walking around crying, I probably would have thought the same thing. Who thinks, “oh, I bet her child just died?” No one, because that’s not supposed to happen.
When I walked away from her I wondered if it would somehow be better if a person could just look at me and know my daughter had died. In Gone With The Wind, Scarlett O’Hara wore black for a year after her husbands’ deaths. But that wouldn’t suffice – grief doesn’t end after a year (unless you are Scarlett). And then, there are times when I don’t want anyone to know about Maddie, usually because I don’t want to deal with the sadness, the questions, the pity. So, being instantly identified as a grieving mother wouldn’t always be better.
As I lay here sick and tired, I wonder if any of the old me survived Maddie’s death. I now know that anything can happen – even the really bad things that I thought only happened to other people. When I look at pictures of me taken before 2009, it’s like looking at a different person. Would Maddie recognize me now? Would Annie recognize me then?