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LivAlive

Updated: Jan 24


Keith revved the engine as the truck ascended into the Texas Hill Country.

We were on our way to the gym and the sky ’d just opened from a week worth of storms.

The clouds in my own head lingered.

Keith’s voice punctured through, “What-cha thinking about?”

I swung my head to look at him, hesitated, then reluctantly answered, “Girl named Outlaw.”

“So, I’ve been meaning to ask…” he paused to take stock, “…what’s our purpose for having girl named Outlaw anymore? Have we just become influencers of some sort?”

“God no!” I retorted. “Influencers?”

“What I mean is…” Keith’s voice trailed off as he maneuvered the sharp and winding roads. When he approached a stop sign, he looked over at me tentatively, “What I mean is,” his voice softened, “It’s not like we’ll be giving updates on Olivia.”

I bowed my head toward the window, eyes glazed. I watched mutely as the sun flickered through the firmament onto the grass below.

“I don’t know.” I finally mumbled, tears breaking and running down my cheeks.

Keith fell silent.

“I guess…” I attempted after a long while “I’d initially started girl named Outlaw to share Olivia with our family, friends, and the special needs community we’d come to know.” I shuffled, “But in doing so, girl named Outlaw has become more than that. It’s become a community of people who’ve become participants in our story; people who are invested in our family… as a whole.”

I studied him. He listened intently; his eyes glued to the road.

“There’s so much of Olivia to share still…” my throat tightened, “and I want a podium to share the messiness of loving her, the messiness of raising her, the messiness of losing her. The whole truth, our truth, without censorship.”

He nodded mutely for a long time and then he spoke, “Maybe I can write something.”

I sat up and peered at him. “Really?”

“Yeah. I just feel like I’ve been silent for a long time, and maybe it would be good for me to process a lot of this by writing it down. If that’s alright?” He stole glances my way.

My face unwound, “Of course it’s alright!”

He continued, “Perhaps sharing my own perspective could be a benefit.”

“Yes! Of course, it will be!” I chimed.

He continued, “Sharing what it’s like to lose your only daughter: a father’s perspective.”

My eyes glistened. “Yes.” I responded.

The truck fell silent for a long time, then I spoke, “That’s what I want.”

He looked over to me.

“I want to write about the breadcrumbs…all the while writing Girl Named Outlaw (the memoir), LivAlive (our life after loss, sequel to the memoir) …and… (I inserted a title for a fictional novel I’d been plotting).”

His head bobbed along, “I see it.”

“Yeah?” I asked.

“Yeah.” He decided.



Breadcrumbs


On March 29th, three days after my thirty-seventh birthday, Keith’s sister (my sister-in-law) Kellie gifted us tickets to participate in a Somatic Grief Circle.

Somatic Grief Therapy aims to address the physical disconnect between the body and mind in times of great distress. The purpose of somatic grief therapy is to dislodge static and unhealthy energy so that our “coping mechanisms” don’t fester into a variety of unprofitable tendencies or physical ailments. It looks a lot like a community of messy and broken individuals coming together to breathe, meditate, move, and cry together.

During this session, we were encouraged to recall our lost loved one (or the loss of many, grieving as a collective) ….

I closed my eyes tightly struggling to conjure up an image of my Olivia and I couldn’t.

As I sat there collectively breathing, desperation took hold, “Where are you, my girl?” I trembled. A few very dark minutes passed, then very simply, very vividly, the image of a meadow drenched in sunshine emerged into my line of sight.

In the distance, Olivia’s voice bellowed playfully, “Mommy, come find me!”

The field gave way to butterflies and cairns. I followed them, alongside her voice, to where the meadow met a forest.

“Breadcrumbs, mommy,” her voice reverberated, “Follow the breadcrumbs.”

This imagery cracked me wide open.

I cried out with ugly permeating sobs and heaved my body onto Keith. He held me tightly as the storm passed.

When I’d regained my faculties, the message of what I’d seen permeated further into my heart: a game of hide-and-seek with my daughter joyous, filled with laughter, excitedly waiting to be discovered.

Bob and I looking for breadcrumbs.


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