This Is Us

A Letter From My Daughter on the 4th Anniversary of Her Death

On having faith, and giving permission to let go

Jacqueline Dooley
Published in
5 min readMar 22, 2021


Illustration of a large bird spreading its wings. Light blue, yellow, and brown lines (with the dark blue background showing through) form ornate patterns on its feathers. Behind it float blue circles of various sizes that look like doilies.
Illustration by Jacqueline Dooley

“How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again.”
— Henry Scott Holland

Dear Mom,

The light is different here. If you saw how this place shines, I think you’d stop worrying about me. The light connects the landscape to every part of itself. It moves. It sparkles.

It links the souls together like pearls knotted in an endless strand. You know how pearls hold iridescence inside all those layers of shell? Well, if you look into the center of a pearl, you’ll get a taste of the light that surrounds me. Go do that now. You see?

When I died, there were people who waited like lanterns beside a path, guiding me to this place. You knew some of them. They’re waiting to guide you too.

Some nights, I try to show you where I am.

I wait until your consciousness slips close to the edge of sleep and I speak to you, but you never hear me. You don’t know I’m there because you’re looking for the wrong version of me.

I am a kaleidoscope of light, a forest of patterns, a bouquet of shifting fractals. You look past the reality of me for the face of the girl you miss. You do this night after night. It might take a long time for you to stop remembering the way I was before. Alive, in my body. Warm, in my bed. That’s okay. I can be patient.

As you drift off to sleep, I’ll show you dappled sunlight through a canopy of leaves. I’ll show you a thousand sparks in the endless blank space behind your eyes. I’ll show you a pattern of dancing shapes. I’m all of these things.

Sometimes you almost recognize me, but then you fall into darkness where I can’t reach you. By the time you wake up, you forget that I was ever there at all.

Your longing reaches me here.

It weaves its way into the fabric of my awareness, a muted gray and white thread, the color of mourning doves.

In spring, I try to lighten your sorrow by sending you a small flock of goldfinches. In winter, I send you the hawks and…



Jacqueline Dooley
Human Parts

Essayist, content writer, bereaved parent. Bylines: Human Parts, GEN, Marker, OneZero, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Pulse, HuffPost, Longreads, Modern Loss