My precious Claireabelle:

I have put this off for days; ‘this,’ meaning saying goodbye to you in some meaningful way. Intellectually I know that putting it off does not make your death any less real, any less true, but emotionally, it has kept me safe from the bottomless black pit of grief I fear falling prey to. So I apologize to you, to your family, others who loved you so fiercely, as fiercely as I do, as fiercely as I always will, for taking so long to say a goodbye I still struggle to wrap my brain around. I have been hiding in my job, hiding on the trail, hiding in my own pain.

But everywhere I go there you are, as you have been for so many years since we met. At times more distant than others, but always there, in my heart. For you were that rarest of creatures (in my world) who like me, just like me, knows the despair we have known, have felt so lost, so misunderstood, so forsaken, for so many years, and we ‘got’ each other, right from the get go.

And even after a decade long silence between us, because life, it felt more like 10 minutes since we last talked, since we last cried together, since we last cursed, since we last danced, since we last laughed together and at one another, it felt like 10 minutes, not 10 years. That kind of connection can only survive and thrive in an environment of absolute honesty, absolute trust, absolute kin-ship, absolute loyalty, and absolute love between humans, absolute: meaning no matter what. We had that, even when you didn’t like my straight-up words, neither sugar coated, nor brutal, just honest, always stated with and from love, and always driven by the fear of this very reality, losing you, permanently.

But I mustn’t fall down the black hole, for it was not only ‘the pain,’ our experiences of abuse and other vileness that connected us, it was the free-spirited wild, the beautifully crazy, the wicked funny, the sharply intellectual, the intensely sensitive (always shrouded in a self-protective shield of ‘I don’t give a fuck’), that created this most precious of bonds that we had. That bond will always be there, and as your beautiful daughter said recently, I too, ‘will never stop fighting for you.’

For what has occurred, this mind-numbingly tragic event, is a direct result of pain, not one of intent, and most certainly not one of failure, on anyone’s part, including yours. I have a good idea of what you yearned for in this life, and I know how determined you were to get it. I also have an inkling of how far down in the bottomless pit of pain you landed, how deeply you felt, believed, to have let others down. I know how low, how non-existent your self-esteem was, your feelings of unworthiness for the support you received in recent months, over the last several years.

I am acutely aware of the line we cross, when the war we wage with ourselves (because that, is where the true battle lies), turns everything into a toxic quagmire of shame and self-loathing, a pain that seems quell-able only with more pain killers; that Plexiglas shield of substances and behaviours that I have come to understand over the years, as more than the convenient, judge-y, pathological label of ‘addiction.’ I have come to understand this quick-sand swamp as a set of responses to trauma, to pain, to a lack of self-worth, self-acceptance. I have come to understand it as a set of reactions, decisions and choices we have made, that others made during times in our lives when we were unable to defend ourselves, decisions and choices we made as adults when choice A and choice B appeared to be the only two available and they both equally sucked. Decisions and choices that often served others and harmed self, decisions and choices that felt like the only survival tactics we had in our arsenal of weapons in this war. Decisions and choices that in the long run, stop serving us in any useful way, no longer kill the pain, and harm others, harm the people we love most, the people who love us most, and there we come full circle.

The cycle is only breakable by breaking it, and my heart bleeds for you, for now you will not have the opportunity of knowing that freedom. That freedom does not mean a life free of pain, because we do not live in a benign world, we live in a world fraught with injustice and systems and structures which doom people, the most vulnerable people, people like you were, like I used to be, still am, just in a different way today, to failure. A world in which bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people, and ‘fair,’ is a place I go to ride a Ferris Wheel.

The freedom I speak of is one of mastering self, nothing else; because ultimately self, our response to any given situation in life, as our friend Collie recently brought to our attention, mindset, our response, is the only thing in the entirety of our known Universe, that we ever, have any real control over. I wanted this freedom for you so very badly that I can taste the foul and bitter taste of its loss to you on my tongue, and it is all I can do to keep myself in check, for I am not just sad and gutted, I am furious.

But I know how futile, unproductive, and harmful that fury can be… we talked about it, along with so many other important things, on July 10th, at 11:28 a.m. It was a long and at times difficult conversation, as real conversations, about real things, between real friends often are. And remembering that conversation since learning that you are gone, remembering how both of us pushed through the hard parts, because love and trust, having finished it, having left things, as we always have, at a place of honesty and our respective truths, a place of deep and unconditional love for one another, a place of friendship, brings me some measure of solace.

And then I went away for a desperately needed reprieve from work, from most civilization, technology, and from health and other unwelcome realities of my own, came back with the intent of responding to your most recent messages once back on dry land, and before I could catch my breath, the message from your child, and that phone call, the gut-wrenching news we all fear most, when it comes to the people we love so fiercely.

I bought a wildly coloured pair of tights yesterday, because they literally reminded me of (y)our inner fire, and as soon as the weather cools a bit, I will don them, power the shit outta that one trail, the one I so wanted to share with you next Spring, because it is wild and glorious, and covered in Bluebells…

Everywhere I go there you are my beautiful ClaireBear.  We loved (and hated) so many of the same things. I will never look at another fiery sky, another cool cloud, another Bluebell, without yearning to hear your voice, your laugh… without feeling the part of my heart that you will always occupy. This world, your childrens’ worlds, your family’s worlds, your friends’ worlds, my world, lost one of its brightest stars the day you left, but your star-dust has settled into my heart, just in a different way than when you were here, and there it will stay, until the day my own star-light burns fully out.

Always and forever, your mama M.,


July 31, 2021.