My Beautiful Girl

I would love to say that I’ve learned and grown since losing my 24-year-old daughter Jessica on November 10, 2013, but the truth is all I have managed since is to survive for the sake of my older daughter, Sarah. I would like to tell you that I have remained for the sake of my husband and others who love me, but the reality is not even their love could have kept me here, so great is the pain of this terrible loss. I’d like to tell you that my faith in a benevolent Being has seen me through this tragic horror, and that I take comfort in knowing we will all share eternity together. But, once again, that would be a lie. I’m more disconnected and alone than ever before, and I question everything: my present reality, my past and the notion of eternity. But I still live and breathe and hope for answers and peace and perhaps even a hint of joy someday. I still use humor to lighten others’ moods. I still work for justice. Even with this huge hole in my heart, I do my best, but I do not pretend to be who I was before losing my child, for that would be a lie.

Sarah, Bernie and Jessica sitting on a couch. Sarah is wearing a black jacket and navy t-shirt; Bernie has her arm around Sarah and is wearing a sleeveless jean dress; Jessica is wearing a pink print shirt and has her right arm around Bernie and her head on Bernie's shoulder

My husband and I have many songs that are “ours” that we’ve shared over the 25 years we’ve known each other. One of these is “Beautiful Girl”. Chris has always looked at me and smiled when we heard it together. Only now, when I hear this song and the chorus “Beautiful girl, stay with me ..”, I always tear up, and in my heart, sing out to my daughter Jessica who left us four years ago. She was 25, strikingly gorgeous (a sometime model, in fact) and my mini-me in many ways. Jess and I shared so much — our favorite color, orange; our love of arts, crafts, animals, the ocean, mountains, dancing, cooking; our physical similarities (eyes, long limbs, the shape of our faces); our loudness; snorty laughter, daredevil attitudes, extraverted natures, passionate beliefs and the way we both felt way too much, leading to confusion, sometimes depression and tears. My sadness led me to spirituality as a child, but Jess dealt with her darkness through partying and later, a drug habit that we thought she had quit.

black and white photo of Jessica wearing white tulle around her head looking up to the left

I remember an episode from the old 1980s nighttime soap Dallas. During the previous season, many bad things had happened (naturally); at least one beloved character had been killed off and other lives had been ruined, leaving fans unhappy. Being Hollywood, ratings were everything so during the first episode of the new season, fans learned that the entire previous season of Dallas had been a long, bad dream of one of the characters — no one had really suffered or died; no lives were ruined or favorite characters eliminated or left bereft.

I know that I believe deep inside my heart that someday I will simply wake up, and the past four years since Jessica left will have been a bad dream, induced perhaps by eating the wrong thing late at night, but not resulting in the devastation of all of our lives. So I light candles on my home altar for Jessica and beg her to return to me, to wake me from this nightmare that won’t cease, to give back to me my life that has been forever derailed and left me with my head constantly in a foggy state of disbelief and enduring questions. If I can’t have this tragedy undone, then I want to see my child, my beautiful girl, standing in front of me, smiling and letting me know that she remains by my side. Yes, this is selfish of me to not encourage her to move on to new adventures. But my mother soul is still corded to my child and unable to let go.

How can a parent release the life he or she created? All parents must say goodbye to the baby, the toddler, the young child as they watch the youth grow older, become an adult, seek out their own dreams and create their own children to continue the cycle. But to have to say goodbye to all of these inevitable growing-up stages along with all the future celebrations, accomplishments, hugs, talks, dreams fulfilled and the simplest small moments together with our children, this is too great a loss. So I say to my dear daughter, “Stay with me, Jess. I want you to come home. Stay with me, beautiful girl.”

Jessica in a white flower girl type of dress with white shoes holding Bernie's hands and looking up at her; Bernie is wearing a blue print dress and is looking down at Jessica

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