Five Things I Learned From the Death of my Daughter
A few years ago I lost my oldest daughter – for the third time. As a child, she was “snatched” by her father 2 times. (See the article, “My Story,” at the top of my blog.) On the second occasion, he hid her from me for 12 years, and it was a long and arduous journey to establish a relationship with her after that. The final thief was death.
My beautiful baby girl, all grown up, married, and a successful businesswoman and mother, lost her 6 month struggle for survival on September 14, 2012. Her short and tragic life left me with a lot of memories, good and bad, and a resolve to make her death count for something.
As I considered what I had learned from this experience, the follow 5 things came to mind immediately, though there have been many others since I wrote this. These are a few of the things I learned from losing Dawn:
1. Say “I love you” more. Of all the things I regret in my relationship with Dawn, the biggest one is not sharing my heart with her. We had lost so much over the years that those precious moments shared with her seemed over-filled. Though I said “I love you” a lot, I didn’t take the time to share what I loved about her, how much I had missed not having her with me as she grew up, and how proud I was of who she had become.
I didn’t tell her what a sweet child she had been, how smart she was and how quickly she had learned everything from vocabulary words to complex concepts. She was indeed the treasure of my life at that time, and I don’t think she ever knew that. Don’t pass up the chance to tell that loved one how special he or she is to you!
2. Keep in touch. We each had our own businesses, and finding time to get away from the work was difficult. She made the effort far more than I did. Many times I took it for granted that she could take time for me, but I couldn’t get away to make the 3 hour drive to see her.
Sure, we talked on the phone some, but the business took up most of her daytimes, and I worked into the evening many times. It was an effort to make those connections, but I wish I had tried harder to make them happen.
3. Send flowers. Dawn loved flowers. She was forever trying to grow them in her yard – especially sunflowers. But she also enjoyed sharing that love by sending flowers. I received many bouquets of gorgeous blooms, usually in shades of purple (my favorite color), at unexpected times. They always helped me realize she was thinking of me and wanted me to know that.
Now all I have left of those thoughtful gifts is a few vases, kept because they were a special color or a unique design. Do I need to tell you how much I treasure those inexpensive vessels? They remind me of her every time I use them. I have also planted a beautiful purple hydrangea (a flower she often chose for me) in my yard as a tribute to her, and I use sunflowers in some of my decorations. Take the time to send a specially chosen bouquet to your loved ones today!
4. Be careful choosing a medical surrogate. As Dawn accepted the fact that she was dying, she knew she had to choose a surrogate to make end time decisions for her if she was unable to do so herself. She chose her teenaged daughter to represent her, and made sure her wishes were followed.
Unfortunately, that daughter found it hard (naturally) to give consent when the hospital wanted to disconnect Dawn from the machines that had been keeping her alive, even though that had been Dawn’s wish. Don’t leave a young person with that awesome responsibility – he or she will never forget having to make that choice.
5. Don’t drink! That was the biggest thing I took away from Dawn’s pain-filled last months. She was in agony much of the time, and the treatments often caused her even more pain. Her body finally responded to years of alcohol abuse and all her organs started shutting down. It was a horrible way to die, and a horrible thing to watch. I’m sure if Dawn could speak to you today, she would echo this sentiment. She wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer as she did.
Conclusions As time passes, more and more things occur to me as a result of having lost her so many times: Know where your children are at all times. Don’t believe “it could never happen to me.” Appreciate every minute God gives you with those you love. The list goes on and on, as do the memories.
As I share my thoughts and observations about losing my daughter, I hope you will continue to join me in the journey to make sense of the loss of loved ones.