Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 10/2/2008 [Archive]

Martha's Big Adventure - Remembering Lily

Martha's Big Adventure -- Remembering Lily

By Martha Randolph Carr

It's early October, which always makes me think of Lily, my best friend's child, and her approaching birthday. This year she turns 22 years old but it has been a handful of years since we lost her. Not lost in actual space. We all know where the beautiful slip of a girl is at any given moment. It's her mind that stepped out with no indication of when she'll return. The girl who used to embrace us so enthusiastically no longer knows the faces in front of her.

There are questions that burn into the minds of her parents, Susie and Mike. Why did she leave and how did it happen? Her mother, who I call by the southern term of affection for any woman held in high esteem -- Sister -- has asked that question a thousand different ways of any specialist, any friend or any philosopher who might give her the beginning of an answer. She is searching hard for the whereabouts of her child.

The child, Lily is still tall and shaped like a reed with soft brown hair and a strong chin. In her day as she turned 19 she moved like a fashion model, hips forward, but without any of the self-conscious awareness. A favorite attribute was her penchant for dancing with abandon and an open smile. Lily made all of it look so easy and swayed and twirled without hesitation. She was the embodiment of the magic young girls hold to bewitch and yet be unaware anyone has even noticed. But all of that has ebbed away.

Now, Lily will go where she is led but her grace is gone. She is more likely to stumble or hesitate, and is lost to an inner world we can't see. Just as she was growing into a young woman, balanced on one part of life and looking ready to jump into the new, she fell away. Something took the essence of Lily away from us. It was probably happening gradually for awhile but so slowly that no one really noticed. Slips of memory, or periods of distraction that were overlooked but somewhere in one of those moments, Lily just stopped.

She stopped telling me how her younger sister hogged the bathroom or what boy she had noticed lately. She stopped keeping me abreast of the hottest new country singers and sweetly singing a line or two. She slowly unwound into a distraction so profound that this new inner space absorbed all of her curiosity. We were left with a Lily that possessed a faraway look focused on something unseen that she has been unable to tell us about.

All of Sister's searching for the map that can lead her back to her daughter has turned up a lot of different answers without lasting solutions. Despite all of the testing and the long list of professionals no one has been able to say where Lily went, how she got there or if she may ever come back.

Her mother holds back most of her tears and keeps the smallest piece of hope buried deep within her heart that somehow Lily will just as smoothly return.

Sometimes, when glancing at an old photo or remembering Lily as she danced and swayed the pain washes across her mother's face and the anguish is so real people look away. But Sister's tight circle of friends grasp her tight in those moments anchoring them both with love and compassion so that the pain of a missing child who is standing right in front of them doesn't wash Sister away too.

We love this Lily the best we can while trying not to pile the expectations of the girl we once knew on top of this new being. We try to let go and love this new child with open hearts and without the ache of loss so this slip of a girl doesn't have to bear our memories of another Lily, especially on her birthday. More adventures to follow.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, a memoir about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. If you'd like Martha to come and speak to your group visit: Martha's Big Adventure coming soon to World Talk Radio and Voice America. Email Martha at: or visit

© 2008 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email

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