GRACE: A mother captures all of her wishes for her daughter in a single letter.
Like most moms I have flashes of terror when I think about not being there to guide my daughters through life. How can I possibly convey all of the things I want them to know?
A few years ago my husband and I decided to skip the midlife crisis portion of our stories and instead distract ourselves by taking the grand leap of moving our family across the country. The year before we left our long-time chilly east coast home base for the sunny shores of California was an intense and brutal one. Bonds forged by college, grad school, parenthood and proximity had to be stretched to reach across the country. We didn’t know if they would withstand the pull. The year was spent packing and looking towards the future. It was also a year of intense grief following the death of one of my oldest and dearest friends.
My friend, Kateri, and I met when we were just a little older than my young daughters are now. We had both relocated to New Jersey schools a few years prior and so we quickly bonded on what it was like to set up a new life in the wilds of suburban NJ in the late 80’s. I was goofy and she loved to laugh. We cracked each other up. She had a warm and kind heart. My fondest memories of that time are thinking of the two of us and our other dear friend laughing into the early hours of the morning. We entered that awkward world-spinning time together; not realizing the whiplash transition of going from having secret crushes to having actual boyfriends would happen so quickly. There were trips to the beach and college and profound tragedies that we weathered together. In our 30’s we kept in touch as friends with long bonds and small children do- as much as we could. Then on Christmas Eve I found out she had what would become terminal cancer. She passed away a few months later. Our hearts were broken. A light went out. She left behind a young daughter.
On one of our last weekends living on the east coast Kateri’s husband brought her daughter over to play with my girls. We reminisced and laughed and sat at a table next to a window that looked out onto our backyard. My daughters and my beloved friend’s daughter held hands and skipped around our yard. Their heads fell back in laughter. When they left I wept harder than I had since Kateri died. Could bonds stretch across the country and across generations? The pain was profound. I fell asleep next to my daughters that night.
A year into arriving in our new home in California I decided to apply to a film program for women. I was thinking so much about this next phase of life- about who I wanted to be as an artist, a mother, a human in the world. I thought about what I wanted to say to my daughters if I was no longer here to say it myself. I got together with a handful of friends for one day and filmed a short film, titled “Grace”. Grace because it is how Kateri carried herself through the world. Grace because it is the word I kept landing on when I think about how I want to travel through this life. The film is a love letter to my daughters, to my mom and sister, to my tribe of female friends- and to my friend that taught me that some bonds stretch so long and deep that not even death can alter them.
A few months after Kateri died my oldest daughter brought in the mail and handed over a letter addressed to me. It was from Kateri’s mom. Tears poured down my face as I read the message. She had crossed the bridge of the most painful experience a mom can imagine- yet here I was holding a letter containing consoling words to me. She spoke of the joy of knowing that Kateri’s life continued through the people that loved her. That’s motherhood. And strength. And Love. And most of all, that’s grace. Mothers can wave the red flags, provide guidance, and then we must let go; keeping the faith always that the lighthouse we’ve build has a light so bright it shines a beam powerful enough to cross into the heavens.
I am releasing my short film “GRACE” here. I hope you will feel the love of the friends that made this film with me and the love I have for my daughters. I hope it will fill you with all the things you think of when you think of lasting, deep, enduring bonds. I hope it helps you find that spot in your heart to give yourself love, compassion and grace.