The Compassionate Friends Newsletter, July-September 2010
A Mother's Letter to the Daughter Who Died Almost 10 Years Ago
©2010 Valerie Kreutzer
Dear Maria Consuelo:
Please note that I address you by the full length of your first name. In typical American fashion we always abbreviated and called you Maria, but you craved to hear the sounds of your Colombian heritage, though you were probably named quite unceremoniously by the police who found you as a toddler in downtown Bogota.
I also failed to listen to your talk about a twin. There was a boy at school who looked like you and perhaps he was your twin brother, you said. But when we checked, the boy lived with his family from El Salvador. You were fascinated by twin-ness and you told strangers that you had one. I tried to talk you out of that fantasy, or was it an early memory? After your death I was shocked to find your diary dedicated to your twin. You called him Emiliano and lamented his early death. You poured out your heart and misery to him. He was more real to you than I, your living mom. Now I wonder whether you did have a twin brother who was kept by your birth family, while you, the little girl, were abandoned. Why didn’t I listen more closely to the yearnings of your heart?
Please forgive me.
There was a time when we were intertwined. We played together, laughed together, ate together, slept together. When school was closed on snow or holidays, you loved to come to work with me. “When I grow up I’ll have a desk right next to yours,” you said.
Adolescence hit us hard. You declared war on the world, felt ambivalent about your Hispanic roots, struggled with learning disabilities, and created amazing art. You needed a punching bag and decided that I was it. You ran away from home and I spent many nights driving through spooky neighborhoods trying to find you. I contacted everyone and the police called the morgue. You drove me to the brink of despair.
I forgive you.
By the time you graduated from high school, you had found your bearings. “I know I have not been the best kid but I finally got it together,” you assured me in your yearbook. “Thanks for adopting me and giving me a good home,” you wrote.
When you died in a car crash at 21, I didn’t want to live. I would have gladly given you my years to extend yours. I was tempted to mourn you for the rest of my days. But then I remembered how you used to yell during your rebellious teens, “Get a life!” And guess what, Maria Consuelo, I got a life: I ski in the winter, swim in the summer, and hike in-between. I travel the world and love my family and friends. I do good where I can, I write, meditate, and stretch in yoga. I prune my roses and eat chocolate. Mysteriously, I feel as if you cheer me on. “Stronger than death is love,” said the wise King Solomon.
Rest assured, Maria Consuelo: You’ll always be the love of my life.