In the shadows, a dazzling light

The birth of your child gives your life an arc. In fact: pregnancy. From the first strange soreness, sudden nausea, you begin to measure out your life anew. Nine months, developmental milestones, how much longer of these diapers, of this breastfeeding business? How much longer will she snuggle like this? Looming, that end tape: 18 years. 

We all see it there, a constant horizon. We look forward with dread or anticipation. After 18 years, some freedom will be restored, whether we want it or not.

Imagine, then, those mothers of mothers slain. The grandmothers who stand in the shadows of a femicide.

The murder of a young mother at the hands of her child’s father leaves many lives in ruins. But for that mother’s own mother—perhaps gearing up for a third act, perhaps easing into relaxation, graying and fraying as we do—it breaks the whole arc. In one instant of horror, a tent pole vanishes from the center of her existence. 

Her life refills with little socks and the nightly communion of teeth-brushing. To the uninitiated, this might sound comforting. Surely, at times, it is. But those little socks are not just socks. They are her entire life repeating, against her will. They are a return to the beginning just when the very beating of her heart seems to have ended.

As she grieves, she is called back into action. She must rewind to the start just when her years of work to raise her daughter have been cruelly tossed aside by hate. With one soulmate torn away, a wound never to heal, she reshapes herself around another.

In the shadows, a dazzling light. For what greater, sadder, stronger love than this?

As published today in El Colectivo 506. Image by Priscilla Mora Flores. Text by Katherine Stanley Obando, inspired by pieces by Natalia Díaz and Priscilla Mora published by El Colectivo 506 this month

El Colectivo is the new, bilingual media organization I co-founded with two friends last year. Our Sunday #MediaNaranja series collects short love stories with a Costa Rican connection: romances, friendships, love of humans, animals, things, places, ideas. To share your own ideas for stories to be featured in this space, write to me at

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