Sparkles Won’t Bring Back Her Laugh

Death! Death! Death! My daughter died of a cocaine overdose on February 18, 2012. My sister died of cancer on June 18, 2012. I miss them both and find myself talking to them as if they were still here, or wanting to buy something for them that I think they might enjoy. Usually, it’s jewelry for my daughter and Bonsai plants for my sister.

One day while in T.J. Maxx, I picked up a pair of earrings to buy for my daughter. Heading for the check-out counter, I stopped dead in my tracks, confused and bursting into tears. I had forgotten once again that she would no longer need earrings, no matter how bright and sparkly they may be. Sparkles could never bring her or the sound of her laughter back. I wanted to buy them anyway, just-in-case-by-some-impossable-outrageous-irrational-bizarre-miricle-the-sparkles on the earrings-would-make-it-possible-to-hear-her-laugh-again-and-I-didn’t-care-where-she-may-be-in-the-stupid-huge-entire-universe. Ok?

A stranger put her hand on my shoulder and asked gently if I was ok?

Tears streaming down my face, I gulped, “No because I want to buy these earrings for my daughter and she went and died.”

The lady said ever so softly, “Buy them anyway Honey.” So I did!

In July I was gifted a book by Pulitzer Prize winner Gail Caldwell, Let’s Take The Long Way Home: a memoir of friendship. Caldwell’s words touched so many parts of my grieving heart. The angry part, the sad part, the devastated part, and yes, even the relieved part. Whether it’s dying slowly by cancer ravages or “suddenly” via the claws of substance abuse, there is relief amidst the devastation. It’s just the missing that leaves the bereaved sometimes acting like a crazy person. Anguish can make you FEEL crazy. Grief will have its way with you.

In writing about her grieving process, Caldwell talks about the day she started going through her beloved friend’s closet. Trying on her clothes the way girlfriends, sisters and daughters sometimes do. Heck, I wouldn’t have made it through high school the least bit modernized had it not been for the gracious sharing of clothes closets by my high school girl friends. Most of my clothes came from Goodwill stores, which, in those days, were rather dreary in there disarray and strange odors.

Caldwell says that for a long while she was baffled by her behaviors such as talking to her dead friend in the mirror while trying on her clothes. She reports feeling desperate, confused, and guilty. Bless her for sharing those feelings because that’s how I felt standing in that store with earrings in hand and tears streaming down my face. I felt utterly desperate, confused and lost.

Thank God for people like Caldwell who tell the truth about the seemingly wacky behaviors driven by the holes left in our heart by those we miss. It’s as if the missing itself takes on a life of its own and does with us what it will. She normalizes feelings and behaviors that at the time make no sense to us, much less to those around us. I am also grateful to the compassionate stranger (or angel) who told me to buy those earrings. Sweet! Very Sweet!

Let’s Take the Long Way Home is a beautifully, poignant must read. Please don’t miss having this book on your “to keep” bookself.


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  1. A great read this morning, Dawn…. made me teary and made me laugh… and made me feel good. I also talk with my loved ones who have died and sometimes they seem very near and that feels so good. I’m glad you bought the earrings and I’m going to buy Gail Caldwell’s book. Thanks for writing.

    • Hi Betsy,

      Nice to have you know what I mean. I have “felt” Ann close to me since her death. Even if it is wishful thinking, the thoughts are comforting.

      Blessings, Dawn

  2. Kathy Messer-Erickson says:

    Hi Dawn, i dont think there is any greater sorrow than losing a child, i have grieved along side my girlfriend and my mother who have both lost children. I was at Nordstrom rack about 1 month after my brother Kirby died of a brain tumor July 6 2010 at 12:20pm, funny how you can remember every detail, shopping wasnt so much fun that day i felt like i was in a daze. All of a sudden this woman walked by me and yelled ,”Kirby”, “come look at this”. What are the chances of that, i took that as a hello from my brother and it filled me with a bitter sweet peace. Thinking of you often, much love to you Dawn , thank you for sharing all your thoughts. Kathy Messer-Erickson

    • Hi Kathy,

      Thank you for your comments.

      I choose to believe that those moments of connection with our loved ones are as real as any other so called reality. In any case, they are blessings to our wounded hearts.

      Hugs to you, dawn

  3. Judith Churchman says:

    I talk to my dead loved ones too. I love their responses. Keeps me sane at times.
    Love, Judith

  4. Hi Judith,

    Your comments remind me of something Helen Keller said just before she died. When asked if she was afraid of passing she replayed, (paraphrased) “Oh no my dear, dying is like going from one room to another, God has allowed me to see these things.” I trust her experience as well as yours. I am delighted to hear that the departed help keep you sane.

    I hope that all of your new life adventures are going as you had planned. Miss you.

    Love, dawn

  5. .............k says:

    I’m into my 13th month of grief. There has been a shift in my thoughts. My thoughts used to be filled with missing her, but now my thoughts seem to be about her struggle and her grace. I feel sad because I witnessed her sadness and her “letting go”. I was gathering her classroom books and remembered how much she loved teaching and how she had to let that go. She cried and moved forward. Last week I cried for her. School is about to start and I thought of her. I imagine I’ll get remnders as time goes by. I guess the bottom line is: she loved me and I loved her and my grief is not just about loss it is about love. I greive deeply because I cared deeply. I’m grateful for what we had and what we learned and what I’m left with to carry on. Which, of course, are stories to be shared. Thank you for your stories.

  6. I lost my daughter, Heather, to accidental morphine intoxication 5 days after my birthday last October. She loved pink, tinkerbell, and fairies, and I find myself looking for those things when I am out shopping. I, too talk to her, and I started a journal where I write her letters and poetry and do art pages with her pictures and letters/cards she sent me.

    • Dear Teresa,

      I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter. You sound as if you have found some beautiful means to comfort yourself through your sorrow. I have as well with the death of my daughter. Nevertheless, I am startled at times by the ways she appears in my thoughts and daily activities. Greif truly has a life of its own.

      Thank you for sharing your story with me.

      Warmly, dawn

  7. Cannot believe I’ve found you, Dawn, and to see how successful you’ve become. So sorry to hear of your tragedies and know what you are going through. Lost my dear Tony two years
    ago this month and my youngest sister Linda (21 years younger) on July 25, 2012, and my oldest sister Clara in 2007. With my being the oldest, I never expected to lose the younger ones.

    My deepest condolences in death of your daughter as I understand that is the worst of grief.

    All these years, wheniver I drove on Oakland Park Boulevard, I have thought of you and Mike.
    And in the past, have made attempts to find you.

    Plan to leave near end of month for a “northern jaunt” to see friends and family along the way from Florida through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York to Connecticut
    and back through the Carolinas. I plan to stop and see Howie Hansen (who married Diane Brown) as I head north and will tell them about “seeing” you again! Love, Irene

    • Hi Irene,

      Thank you for “finding” me and your kind words. So sorry for your losses as well, especially for the loss of your beloved Tony. Have a safe trip. I will send you my personal email. Love, dawn


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