By: Autumn Purdy
“… I find sweet peace in depths of autumn woods,
Where grow the ragged ferns and roughened moss;
The naked, silent trees have taught me this,—
The loss of beauty is not always loss!”
From “November” by Elizabeth Drew Stoddard
I awaken from a vivid, haunting dream and remorsefully remember: She’d be 18.
I am walking in the woods and stop short when I see her golden silhouette, delicate features, and magnetic smile. Immediately I recognize the girl before me. In an intensely visceral, intuitive way that only makes sense to a mother, I know: she is my daughter.
She’s a stunning young woman, glowing, a vision to behold. Her image transfixes me. My heart leaps and I am breathless. I ache to embrace her, speak to her, and walk beside her. Before I am able to outstretch my arms, use my voice, or fall in step beside her, my daughter turns to me and holds my glance with tender eyes and a warm smile. She acknowledges me with a nod and a toss of her golden hair then runs out of the woods and toward the light through the trees. Gone from my sightline. Gone from my approach. Gone, once again.
Weeping, I collapse on the rocky path and stare intently, willing her to return while blinking back hot tears. Weeping for the failed chance encounter. Weeping for what could have been. Weeping for losing her all over again.
My real-life tears end my dream state and I remember: She’d be 18. I lie awake, meditating on this astonishing fact, brewing fresh tears that blur the ceiling above me. In the stillness of the early morning, I yearn for all the days we lost so many years ago. I am desolate and left with an ever-present aching for her light, her love, her life.
Reliving the heartache is as piercing as the day I began to miscarry and the tears are as profuse as the moment I called my husband on that terrible day when the bleeding began. I allow myself to surrender to the bittersweet mixture of dream and reality, to experience the loss of my first child all over again–yes, even eighteen years later. The truth is, miscarriage is a haunting kind of loss, an unusual type of grief. I can choose over and over again to let her go but she remains a part of me and always will.
I find I have been wondering, pondering, and questioning all these years. Until this recent dream, I never dared to be so bold in the present and form her in my mind. So maybe my subconscious knew what my heart finally needed. Comforted by the vision of my beautiful child, I am affirmed by my faith and the belief that, one day, she and I may meet again. For now, I remember what we endured and that is enough. Although I never held her hand along the path in a glorious wood, I carry the memory of my first pregnancy and, now, the dream of her with me along every path I go. I may have never spoken words of praise or sung a song to this child but, at any time, I can whisper the name we chose for her: Agnes Elizabeth. I may never have embraced her on this earth or in my dreams. Though, I will always hold her in my heart and feel the loss of her deep in my bones.
Autumn Purdy is a contributing writer for Sharing Magazine and a former Reviews Editor for Literary Mama. She has published pieces on The HerStories Project Blog, the HerKind Collective Blog, Haiku Journal, Literary Mama, and two photos in The Sunlight Press. She is an essayist in The Pandemic Midlife Crisis: Gen X Women on the Brink and an editorial assistant for the anthology. She earned a B.A. in English from Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, and is now writing a book about her experience with recurrent miscarriage. She lives in Westerville, OH with her family.