me and Caitlin at the temple
Bataar and me outside the temple
Friday, October first was the four year anniversary of my lovely daughter Victoria's untimely death. I have spent previous anniversaries with family and close friends, having fun and remembering Vicki with stories and laughter. And there are plenty of stories filled with love, joy, and a whole range of emotions. It's always heart warming to share Vicki stories with those who knew and loved her!
Last year, (I think it was just last year) Sue my awesome sister, Marguerite, our Mom, Pete, my eldest son and Courtney, my lovely surrogate daughter, had lunch together at Dravenstott's restaurant in Orrville. This is the small Ohio town where we had lived; where she and her brothers, Zach (her twin) and Pete, all went through school and it was the local family owned restaurant where Vicki had her first job as a salad bar girl. Yes, that's right, someone has to fill up the dressing tubs, re stock the salad fixings and make sure it all stays appealing and appetizing!
The salad bar there is my favorite, as it was Vicki's! They make an awesome broccoli cheese soup...mmmmm, I am salivating just thinking about it and now I really want some!
The first anniversary myself, family and several friends (Sue, Mom, Courtney, Mallory, Heaven and Wynter, DaVonna, Kory and Stephanie) got together and planted a memorial garden for Vicki near where her fatal accident occurred. Sue donated lots of daffodil bulbs from her beautiful yard and I brought a pink miniature rose, a little evergreen and some perennials that had been in our family back yard in Orrville. It now blooms with something year round.
This little intersection on a busy 2 lane highway is a beautiful, yet strange and lonely place for me. This is farm country in the heart of NE Ohio. Lovely fields, pastures, plenty of livestock, mostly cows; farms and wide open spaces that Vicki loved so much adorn the area. Not such a bad spot to leave this world, if choosing when and where is an option.
According to some ways of thinking, this may be exactly how we leave this world...We plan in a place called Bardo, (in between heaven and earth, life and death) what lesson we need to work on, learn, master in our next incarnation. Then we figure just how to do that. While in grief therapy, my wonderful counselor Jane helped me explore this notion. If I were to hold to this line of thinking, then Vicki would have approached me in Bardo and asked me to be her mother next time, letting me know that she wasn't long for this world as her lesson should not take very many years. I would have then agreed lovingly to do so, in spite of the anticipated mind numbing hurt, pain, grief and loss that I would be certain to endure; just for the sheer joy of having her as my daughter for only 18 years.
I have stopped there many times over the years when returning to the area to visit with family and friends. I pull onto that road, drive up and turn around and park near the intersection, with my car off and the flashers on. Tears, as well as overwhelming feelings of love, grief, happy memories and sadness are intertwined. I feel so grateful to have been her mother and to have shared this life with her, yet miss her so much that at times it is a physical aching for her.
Friends of Vicki's erected a huge white cross honoring her memory shortly after she died. Her friend Heaven and her dad made the cross, and many young people helped paint it, and wrote messages of love to Victoria on the back. The cross stood for at least two years, then one day disappeared. Turns out the family was tired of having it there and I think it's still in their garage. I just don't have the heart to go and get it and do something with it.....
This year was the first time I have been away from home, so it felt kind of weird and a little lonely. I have maintained contact with my family, friends, all my loved ones back in the US in various ways, letters, email, FB, etc., so I am not totally disconnected or out of touch with those who also knew and loved my daughter.
Let me back up and say that I do have plenty of kind and caring friends here in Mongolia. My fellow CYD trainees and all of my great site mates, especially Caitlin Rose whom I feel quite close to and spent the anniversary day with.... So when the date was quickly approaching, I knew I needed a plan for some sort of service to honor Vicki's memory. I know for me, I need to honor her memory, and deal with the loss head on; rather than letting it sneak up on me unexpectedly.
Since Caitlin knows the local head lama, (Tibetan Buddhist monk) Bataar, we went to speak with him. There are many monks (35 or so) who live in the compound. For a token offering of money and matches for each lama there, Bataar asked each to pray that Victoria's next life be a long and happy one. The money helps them with living expenses and the matches I am not totally sure I understand their signifigance. However, when someone dies here and you are given matches, you are to light one and hold it until it burns out. I plan to learn more about this in particular and Buddhism in general.
On October 1st at 10:30 a.m., Caitlin, Bataar and I went inside the temple where the monks were chanting morning prayers. This is a lovely experience and as they chant, at certain points, several of them also play instruments. Two drums, 2 horns and 2 pair of cymbals join in with the chanting to what I liken to a "joyful noise".
We approached each monk in turn, Bataar telling them please pray for my daughter Victoria who died 4 years ago today, then Caitlin handing me a 500T bill and a partially opened box of matches, which I then handed to the monk (with both hands and a nod to each). Each lama accepted with both hands and a nod. After we finished we sat awhile and listened to the chanting, which is melodic, soothing and embracing. I stayed in the safe peaceful environment during the time Vicki has passed on. (approximately 11 a.m.)
Though I identify myself as a Unitarian Universalist, I find many Buddhist teachings speak to me in a meaningful way and am comfortable visiting the temple. It was the perfect way for me to honor her memory from here in Mongolia.
In loving memory of Victoria Marie Hunt
I hold you in my heart
I hold you in my heart