I sat quietly alone on Emilie’s bed staring up at the flowers painted on her wall. Memories of her filled me. This room, her room, had been custom designed by the two of us, together. We picked the drapes, the bedding, the furniture… together. We sewed the pillows side by side on her little sewing machine.. together. We carefully crafted all her accessories, her pictures, her walls…together. As I looked up again at those same flowers… the flowers she and I created together, I didn’t know if I was strong enough to take the next step.
The flowers on her wall had been hand painted by Emilie and me months earlier. She picked the colors at the craft store and we stenciled them on her wall later that day. She loved those flowers and talked about them often. In fact the last conversation we had together was centered on these flowers. “Mom!” she said, “Come here and look at these two flowers! One is black with a pink center and one is pink with a black center! Do you see it? They are connected! It’s amazing to see how all things are connected!!” Torn inside, I took my camera out and slowly began taking pictures of every inch of her room. This was my final goodbye.
Robbie recently accepted a job that requires a big move for our family. This was not an easy decision. We hadn’t been looking for a job and this one really was just perfect for us in every way. But as perfect as the job truly was, it came with a lot of tough decisions and steps that frankly scared me to death. Are we ready to leave the other families? Can we leave this house? Can we leave these memories? Can we say goodbye to her room?
I have control issues. I couldn’t control the choices of someone else that ultimately led to my daughter’s death. I couldn’t control the media coverage or what was being said about the case, right or wrong. I couldn’t control the fundraising frenzy that took place around us from large organizations that I thought we could trust, that used Emilie’s face to raise money for their own benefit. I also had no control over graphic images of my daughter’s body and who had the right to see, post or print those pictures however they wanted. So, moving meant selling our house. Selling our house meant people are allowed to come into our house. Emilie’s room was intimate and personal to me and to allow anyone to come into her room and see that… well, emotionally I had issues with it. I needed the ability to control that privacy I desperately needed. So Robbie and I decided to pack her room up and paint over her flowers.
After I had my photos and my videos of her room, Robbie and I carefully packed up all her belongings. We took down her pink bed and pink curtains and the room began to feel different. It wasn’t her anymore. I laid the drop cloth down on the ground and closed my eyes and said a little prayer to help me through the next few hours. Together, Robbie and I did it. We painted her wall. It was awful and it was emotional, but we forever made it ours and ours alone. We had control over her memory. It was tough, but it was right. I had the closure I needed.
Now as we pack up our belongings this next week and head back to the Northwest, I do it having taken the emotional steps that I needed to feel like I was truly ready. And I am ready. We are always “connected”. Our memories have always followed us and will continue to, no matter where we live.