My day started out as a cleanup day. I meant to clean up the kitchen, run over and help a friend and neighbor for an hour or two to pack and move. As I started cleaning up, every bag or drawer, or table seemed to contain some sort of change. I started thinking about something I hadn’t finished writing about. All the change that I found after my daughter passed. It was unreal. Mikenna had over 50 bags. I am not exaggerating. She had bags for staying the night at girlfriends, bags for studying, bags of books, a purse or bag in every color. In the days after she passed everything was a blur. I was still looking for a sense of understanding. At that point, I was hoping I would find something that would explain what happened. In every bag, remember that’s 50, in her car, in her room, in all her jackets, I found coins. I found change everywhere, to the point I was laughing about it hysterically.
In the last 14 months, I seem to still find change, all the time, especially when I am having a difficult day. I have started picking up the coins when I find them and looking at the dates and states. I smile when I find coins in random parking lots or places I am visiting. I’ve kept this to myself until recently, not wanting my family to think I’ve totally gone nutters. The other day I was just overwhelmed with all I had going on, I went to grab my stuff for my swim class, and as I grabbed the bag, it turned upside down spilling quarters, nickles and pennies. I calmed down and I smiled, remembering when I found all the change, in all of her stuff. All right Already! “Stop sending me change,” I had said at one point out loud. I am not sure if I had been talking to her, but I had said it anyway.
Stopping by my daughter’s grandparent’s house the other day, we talked a little about the non-profit, the Hike for Hope I am trying to run, and how I have seen and read that people who have lost children, statistically stay together and move forward more often, they have found some purpose, some mission with the loss of their child. It’s some way to continue their legacy.
I have been told to put my daughter’s stuff away, to not look at it, and that doing non-profit stuff in her name just keeps it all in my face and inhibits healing. This is just not true. Maybe it makes some people uncomfortable is my thought. (And right now that is their problem, not mine.) If death makes you uncomfortable, how do you think it makes the person wallowing in it every day feel? Try just sitting with that person, you don’t have to say or do anything. The truth is, that those of us going through grief, want to still be able to say their loved one’s name out loud and that not speaking about an issue doesn’t make it go away. In fact, I am pretty sure that is how different Stigmas develop. If we don’t talk about issues then no one knows they exist, or how serious they are. Such as suicide. I used to believe if I didn’t worry about it, it wouldn’t happen to our family.
I was talking about all of this with my in-laws and my father-in-law pulls out his collection of coins he’s been collecting in random places since the loss of my daughter. He had no idea I was doing that also. It gave my heart a little squeeze. He showed me one with her birth year and one with a bird. I had one with a family tree I had just found. It was nice to know I wasn’t the only one looking for coins all around everywhere I went.
I have been thinking about “Change” a lot. It keeps bringing to mind a conversation about depression I had about nature verse nurture. Could I change the pattern of depression in my life or someone else’s life? “Be the Change”, I had heard in my mind. I had heard these words in my mind and in my heart a few months ago. I tried to ignore the words at first, but then decided I would write them down in this online journal, instead of continuing to ignore them. Even after I started to write, I left the journal entry as a draft for weeks as I contemplated the words and meaning.
Be the change. Be the change. Be the change. I had made the leap of faith to start a nonprofit for mental health with my closest friends and family, (MVP, the Mikenna Vanek Project) and it is somewhat of an unknown. I have no idea what direction it will go or what it will become, but I know I need to have faith and do it. Could we help to “Be the Change?” I come from a long line of people who struggled with mental health issues. Could I make a difference? Can you make a difference to someone’s genetics? Maybe you can at least influence their path in some small way. In a world with billions of people, if even one life is changed or saved, isn’t it worth it?
(As I write this I have to stop to answer the door. The older neighbor down the street has rung the doorbell twice. At 9am on a Saturday morning and I am alone. The second time he comes back I decide to answer. He is holding my daughter’s wallet. She had dropped it at the park. I find this ironic as I am writing about being the change, as our neighbor brings a wallet, completely untouched, to my front door.)
As I sit here blogging I wonder if anyone reads these blog posts, if they help anyone that is also struggling with loss or trying to understand someone going through a loss? I know that I need to keep writing in the hope that it does. I know that I have to try. I have to try one moment at a time in my own life, and one baby step at a time with my own grief, with my own family, with the non-profit MVP and now the hike I am somewhat blindly leading for suicide prevention in Portland. I hope to “be the change” that my daughters would want me to be and that I am teaching them to also be. To not just accept how things are, but to step out and step up, even if you have to do it all on your own.
To support the suicide prevention hike: