We were out with some people from our social group, and conversation became proper where I could say that my daughter had died.
"Daughter," Ten said, with finger quotes.
"Don't do that," I scolded him, not revealing the wound he had just stuck into me with this gesture that was attempting to make the words I had said less devastating.
"You were a very good friend to her," someone I don't know told me at the final viewing of her body.
"A bit more than a friend," I said, rage at being dismissed not even coming close to the grief.
The first thing I did when I walked into the hospital room was lay my head on her hearts. I stood and pet her hair for a few minutes, then pulled myself away to hug Toolmaker. We exchanged "I love you"s, and he thanked me for always being there for her. "I want you to know that she really thought of you as her mama."
I know she did. Because I was.
In the grocery store much later that night, I leaned my head on Ten's chest and began to cry. "It's not fair. My baby is dead."
I keep butting up against this feeling like I don't have the right to be as grieved as I am by Dame's death. I didn't birth or raise her in this life. I'm not able to have children, and for most of my adult life I didn't really want any either. But then Dame happened, and it was the best thing, because not only did I have a daughter who gave me the most precious gift of letting me be her mama, but I had all this other family who took (and takes) that just as seriously.
It was never a question for me. There was nothing she could have done that would ever have made me love her less, and not only did she return that love, but she understood, fully, how precious a gift that is. No, I didn't do any of the hard work. No, I was never tested by bad behavior, lies, bad grades, fights, or having my dreams for her dashed by a decision to take a different path. None of that stuff happened between us. That's true. I would say that I was never given the opportunity to hurt her (as parents frequently are), but I knew what made her hurt. I knew that not from the perspective of a friend or sister, I knew what hurt her from the perspective of a mother - and there's a part of me that doesn't even know what that means!
My period was the same week that she died. As my lining shed, I felt this epic loss. The part of me that has the biological function of gestating new life became hollow and empty in a way it never has before. I mourned my ability to physically birth a child. I felt like I had failed as a woman because my daughter had died. Even though she's not my blood. But blood has never mattered to me, and it still doesn't.
Those closest to either Dame or me get it. Those close to both of us really understand, and I don't know why I give a shit about the opinions of anyone else. A lot of people are grieving though, and I want to honor their pain too, because I love everyone she loved. I see a little redemption for myself in the mama category when I look at my grandchildren. I know Toolmaker won't let me abdicate grandmaness for his daughter; and I hope Dame's son's father and step-mom will want me to be in his life as well. This, however, is small comfort. Just as it is for the grandkidlets. Just as it is for Toolmaker; for Dame's other loves; for the other people to whom she was family.
And I can't help myself from qualifying my grief. I can't stop myself from thinking of those who loved her as much, but in a different context. But I guess I have been doing this for the people who loved my dad too. Then I think.... these two completely different lives that very nearly intersected, but for death, maybe they get a chance to hang out, if only because I often think of them at the same time. I don't know.
It's not necessary for me to know. Nor is it necessary for me to justify the level of my grief. I just wish I could remember that and stop justifying it.