What can be said that has not already been expressed? Nothing has so much impact on a parent’s life than the birth and death of a child. My tiny helpless daughter was born in the early morning hours of December 28, 1974.
I barely had a glimpse of her before she was whisked away to neonatal care, yet my world was changed forever. She may have been conceived in idealism and fantasy but this was reality.
I wish someone had told me, “Put your classes on hold. There is support available. The best thing you can do for yourself and your daughter is simply to be with her every day. Learn her rhythms and personality. Give yourself a chance to recover.” But no, I was close to the end of my studies. Cara stayed in hospital for four weeks while I returned to University. She then lived with Auntie Barb for two more months, coming home on weekends, before I was able to relax.
We did spend a few months together all day our first summer, hanging out and getting to know each other until I started my first professional job, the reward of student debt. We were blessed to find a wonderful day home and I thought we were doing okay. Probably we were, although I often question those first few months when reflecting on what might have been different.
Of course, any small adjustment at the beginning of a path can change the trajectory dramatically as time goes by. But then it would be a different story and we only have what we have.
My daily inspiration from Facebook was Three Steps to Healing Emotionally: (1) You must let the pain visit. (2) You must allow it to teach you. (3) You must not allow it to over stay.
September 1st, 1997, was the second day that changed my life. The following evening two members of the RCMP came to my door to confirm the skeletal remains found in a farmer’s field the morning before were my daughter.
This day remains pivotal in my reflections. Cara was missing for the month of August and September marks both grief and healing. The pain visits frequently, I have allowed many teachings, and often have trouble letting go because recovery feels like betrayal. My reconciliation is to speak for justice on behalf of all the vulnerable young people like my daughter who were taken far too soon.
2020 is the first year Cara has been gone as long as she was with me. She died at age 22; that was 23 years ago. My memories wander through the years from her happy outgoing days of childhood to horse camps and modelling camps and the challenges of young adulthood.
“Undaunted” is a word that often comes to mind. She sought new adventures, just as I had done, although some of her choices took her to darker places. Addiction, mental illness, and exploitation were unexpected consequences that left us both overwhelmed.
Cara’s spirit lives on in a multitude of ways. I am appreciative of her many friends who remain in touch after all this time – our next door neighbor Michelle who was her first true playmate for years; Kerri, Sherri, and Amy from grade school; faithful Paula, Taya, and Shelly from junior high days; her step-brother Jason; Brandy, Jessica, Heather, Chris, Katherine, Tanya, and Shauna from St. Joe’s and beyond. It fills my heart with gratitude to know Cara is remembered and loved by so many. It was Taya who said, “I try to live each day to the fullest for those who cannot.” That much we can still do.
RIP my beautiful daughter!
May the memory of your short life be used for good so others can enjoy the peace and freedom you were denied.