It is Tuesday morning, 5:30. I was so tired after work last night that I went to bed at 9, so now I'm up early. In two days, it will be the anniversary of your kidnapping. I feel as though there is a clock ticking in my heart as the day approaches, even though it has been so many days, so many years. I never know exactly what to do for your anniversary. We usually go to the market where you were kidnapped and hang ribbons on the tree next to the spot where you were kidnapped. The year that Nana died, we took her ashes and scattered them just outside the Golden Gate on the anniversary of your kidnapping. At that time, we were still thinking that probably you were not alive, that Nana had probably found you once she'd passed on. One year I actually tried to just make it a regular day. I tried to get up and go to work and pretend nothing had happened. My body repaid me by making me very sick.
This year, your step-grandmother hung yellow ribbons not long ago, lots of them, so I don't know how much work we will have to do, but we will go there. A few people always go with me, some strangers, some friends. I never know what to do, what to say. This last year has been such a major year for us. I guess it's a time of reflection and a time to look forward. All that has happened in this last year can't all be for nothing.
I have a four-day weekend this week. It wasn't my choice. My boss decided to close the office on Saturday, which is one of my regular work days. At first I was upset, but then I realized it's probably a gift from God. I really need the time to rest and unwind, and hopefully I will get some work done on your book. Our book.
Do you have any idea how much of a gift you have been to the world? After you were gone, there was a song that always reminded me of you, "The Warrior is a Child" by Twila Paris. I had Pastor Jay from church sing it at a birthday concert a local church held for your tenth birthday. Even in those early days when I felt you to be most vulnerable and I worried most about you, I felt a certain sense of your strength. You always had that, that strength of character, maturity, intelligence, along with your incredibly loving heart.
If you read the comments that so many people have left on these letters to you, and on my other blogs, you will see what a gift you are to the world. I may write these words, but you are the one who has written them on my heart. I get so many e-mails and comments from people, I know that these words are touching people's hearts. In part, it is our love that touches them. Remember our last words to each other? "I love you." Those are not often the last words between a mother and a child who is going off to ride her scooter to the store. You were my first child, and I'd longed for you for so many years before I'd finally been able to have you. I don't remember you ever being difficult. I don't remember us ever arguing. I don't remember you ever getting in trouble. Perhaps my memory is selective, but you were such a good girl, such a really nice person.
But our love has been tested and tried in the deepest depths of grief and fear, and that makes it shine in my heart. It is hard for me to find the words for what I'm trying to say. It's like a sunset. If the sky was streaked with red and pink all the time, it would not be so beautiful. It is the fact that it is fleeting, that we cannot hold onto it, that makes us stand and stare at it in awe while it is still there. In its essence, that is what all real love is like. Whenever we choose to really love, we choose to embrace loss one near or far day. Even though love may last for a lifetime, eventually we will lose the one we love, or be lost to them. Knowing that makes us see love for what it is, as a glorious sunset, as a shimmering rainbow, a billowing cloud, something that touches us, makes us want to clutch it and hold onto it, even though we know it is impossible. This is what I've learned from loving you, and it is truly as beautiful as it is terrible, because as deep as the loss is, the love is far, far, far deeper and richer and of everlasting beauty and immeasurable value. People who have experienced loss themselves recognize this, and relate to it. People who have not are perhaps recognizing love's terrifying beauty, acknowledging for the first time something they had only suspected before.
I hear also from many people who suffer grief themselves. For them, I think they just get strength from the fact that I am still alive. They say, if you could survive that, then I can survive what I am going through. Honestly, I have done that myself many times in the last 21 years. Many times I have been faced with heartaches and difficulties, and I've said to myself, "Michaela was kidnapped and I am still alive. This is nowhere near as bad as that, so I will survive this, too." Many times when I was afraid, I have said to myself, "I have survived the worst that could happen. I can do this, too."
This is you. This is your gift to the world. And I give it in your honor, in love for you. I strive to keep you alive and present by keeping you alive in people's minds and hearts. You are so loved, always.
God bless you, my sweet daughter.
Love you forever,