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I Wasn’t Prepared for What I’d Miss Most After Losing My Daughter

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I think of my daughter every day. Who am I kidding? I think of her every minute of every day.

I don’t think there is anything simple about the grief a parent feels after losing a child. Memories flood in and threaten to suffocate you when you least expect it. Memories can make you laugh, even if there is a heaviness to the laughter. However, somewhere between suffocation and heavy laughter, there are memories we hold onto, ones that lighten our hearts and bring smiles to our faces. These memories enrich our lives and remind us how grateful we are for the experience of being a parent to that child in the first place.

girl holding cup and smiling
Mariah’s daughter, Savannah, holding a coffee mug and smiling.

On the days when chemo wasn’t making her sick or her appetite wasn’t waning, Savannah would want to make a smoothie.

While the process of making the smoothie was usually met with more exuberance than drinking the smoothie itself, routine it was. She would measure the ingredients with a baker’s precision, insist that she press the buttons, and cover her ears and laugh as she exclaimed how loud the blender was.

The important part followed: the straw, the final touch to make it perfect.

“What color should we have today, Mommy?”

“Blue!” I would say, knowing that she hated blue.

She would shake her head jokingly and say, “No blue.”

Red, yellow, pink, striped. So many days and so many smoothies. Eventually, I longed to hear those cheerful words so much that I sometimes worried she would have grown up too much overnight to say them.

She never stopped, until the days when the cancer became too much and she requested smoothies from her hospice bed. When that first day came, my sister silently put a straw in her cup and brought it to her. She didn’t know the routine, and the smoothie remained untouched. The next day, I opened the bag of straws and said out loud:

“What color should we have today, Savannah?”

She never answered me, so I brought her a blue straw just to check. Even in her weakened state, she refused the blue straw. After that first day, I never asked her what color straw she would like. After that first day, I held a private ceremony in my heart every time I picked her a brightly colored straw.

“What color should we have today, Mommy?”

Red, yellow, pink, striped — I even bought some with umbrellas.

Today, there are no smoothies. There are no rituals or precise measurings of ingredients. Today, there is only me and my memory of her need to have the perfect colored straw for her smoothie.

I don’t drink smoothies anymore; my afternoon treat has changed to chocolate milk, and like every grownup should, I drink it through a straw. It’s been so many days since she passed I have even bought a new bag of straws, brightly colored with the blues immediately going to recycling.

If I were to preview my grief, I would expect to long for the touch of her hand or the feel of her head as she rested on me. Instead, every day I long to hear her voice ask the question of which color straw to choose. Her voice resonates in my head and echoes in my heart each time I put the straw into my milk.

The simplest of memories, the only one that will both make me smile and want to cry and shout at the same time. The only words I would trade a thousand lifetimes to hear again.

“What color should we have today, Mommy?”

Originally published: January 25, 2016
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