I’ve been told by two mediums that Cameron died instantly without pain. That she was immediately transported out of her physical body and as quickly as we blink, she was in the next moment, in the next realm. I never asked either of them for an answer to that question. I never felt the need to ask. Somehow I always knew. I was as certain about that fact as I am about being her mother.
In those first few weeks, there was one piece of the puzzle about the accident that I did have wrong. Even more compelling is the fact that she corrected my misimpression – after she had died.
Shortly after learning that Paris, Cameron and Dodie had been tubing when the two girls died, Tim and I had each commented, rather blithely, about our sense that Cameron had not even been scared as the accident was happening. We had each created our version of the circumstances surrounding the accident (not being there forces one to do so) and we found that they matched in that way. Cameron had a zest for adventure; she loved physical challenges. It was an arena in which she had great confidence.
A few days before she died, she had competed in a “Survivor” like challenge at a camp connected with St. Hilda’s. She was so delighted at her performance, in borrowed shoes no less, that she sent me a photo of the bruises on her legs. That’s all that was in the photo – her bruised legs from the quads on down. In her words, she had “gotten shredded on the rope bridge” and she was so proud! Knowing that, and knowing her, we figured, we believed, we wanted to believe that as she and Paris came loose from the raft, Cameron experienced the thrill of the adventure alongside her customary certainty that it would end OK. (Broken bones, in her world qualified as “ok.” Such was our closeness with her orthopedist that Dr. McCambridge even came to her viewing.)
Tim likes to tell the story of the one time he remarked to her – after she had been falling and simultaneously calling out that she was “OK” – that she’d be better off waiting to hit the ground before she declared herself unhurt. Doing so while she was still falling undermined her credibility!
So the narrative of no fear was the one we carried those first few days. My naivate ended 6 days after her funeral on Friday, April 22nd. That day, at work, I was awash in tears. Now, I’m not known as one of those people who cry at the drop of a hat, or commercials, love songs, and sappy movies. However, since my daughter died, I do cry and I do so whenever and wherever. I don’t fight back the tears…I just let them flow. I know that it only hurts so much because I loved so much. When the hurt causes my eyes well up with tears I honor her and cry rather than begrudge myself that simple expression of natural human suffering.
But that Friday was unusual. My tears were coupled with a gut level of unease I had theretofore not experienced. The disquietude had gnawed at me from the moment I had awakened at 5 a.m. that morning. I had been asked to go to lunch that day by a friend from work. It was a lovely gesture and, initially, I had accepted but as the noon hour approached, I knew I couldn’t go. I had something I had to work through and wasn’t up to lunch. Even with someone as dear and undemanding as Joe.
Then it hit me and the unease evaporated as swiftly as it had come. Cameron had been afraid. I had the story wrong. She was known as a “tough kid.” She had a widespread, well earned reputation as someone who went hard. She was relentless in her pursuit of the ball. Yet, as her Mama, I knew better. I knew the side of her she rarely showed others. I knew how nervous her tummy got, how challenging life could be, how she’d blossomed as a sophomore on the soccer team and become a leader simply because she “wasn’t scared to death anymore” as she acknowledged she had been as a starter during her freshman year. It was as simple as that. And as soon as that feeling came upon me, that I had been wrong, my unease vanished. I apologized to Cameron for having made an assumption based on her reputation alone. And I thanked her for showing me our special connection endured, even after her death.
As I describe it, the change seems and sounds so simple. It felt like that at the time. The difference between gut wrenching nausea and feeling transformed in to lightness happened like the flick of a switch.
After that moment of connection, of transmission, I revised my internal story of how things happened, how she felt as she lost her grip on the raft. I even shared my “discovery” with Tim. It didn’t change his mental version of her story. Why should it? The honesty and connection, the pureness of her ability to trust that she was loved as she was, that showing weakness was just an expression of self not an indictment of self, was something she and I shared, something precious and special between her and her Mama.
Oddly enough, knowing she had been afraid brought me peace. Learning that what I had thought had happened had been wrong and finding out that even that early on, she had the power to set me straight, to help me see and feel clearly was worth all the tears.
Cameron helps me still. She helps remind me to live knowingly, intentionally and in the moment. I nonetheless stand in awe of the fact that my growing clarity arises out of a split second where she was scared and helpless and her Mama was, literally, 10,000 miles away.