Charlie pops back up for a bit. I’m not very surprised by this. I assume this is a fluid process, this having parts and trying to work them in.

It’s kind of his thing—trying to protect my family.

Anyway, he comes out for a while. He wants to know if he did well, if what he did helped. He wants to know if trying to help made any difference.

The black hole is that I could not help. I lost so much and I was so powerless and there was so much suffering and I could not do anything to stop it.

But I forget that I did help. I have these slices of trying to help, these memories of very, very brutal events and my part in them. I don’t have what I did all the time. I am starting to know anyway.

You’d think as I heal that I would just be trying to take care of the parts, of the babies. Often, I am. However, sometimes they are instead taking care of me. Before Hannah disappeared, I would cry and find the twins stroking my hair. Some odd things happened when the Ruthie and Hannah were a team. I got cookies for breakfast. There was a lot of tea. I got bundled up in blankets. The background hum in my head was very often, We have take care Mommy. She sad.

It’s harder for Ruthie. She wants to help, but she can’t remember how. The background hum now is sometimes I have take care Mommy. She sad. What I do?

Also, she has a lot of meltdowns and can’t help. She can only try to contain herself enough that I can sleep, that I can make dinner for us, that I can get through the day. Mostly, that’s the best she can do.

But they try. Or did.

It’s starting to register that that is my personality. Charlie first took charge because I couldn’t pack and he understood the little girls would all fall apart from anxiety if there were not some sense of structure and planning and predictability before a trip I haven’t taken before. Verka helped Sammy cook until he learned. The twins thought cookies for breakfast would cheer me up. Strip away the trauma symptoms, and I mainly want to help. That seems to be who I am.

I helped Natalya by being there, by seeing her with compassion and dignity, by nurturing her in the small ways that were possible. She was colossally strong, but not entirely on her own. She drew strength from my love, just as I drew strength from her love.

I don’t really like the choices she made at the end, but I think I have to trust those were the best choices for her and maybe they were best choices for me also: she had more life experience than I did and knew more than I about what lay ahead.

Still, she is safe because of those choices. She is dead, but she is not any longer living in torture. I am safe, although I still hurt. I think Veroushka is safe too—that may not have been because of anything Natalya did, but Natalya kept her safe for the few months she was with us. She was a good mother, and she took good care of her baby.

I am thinking now that she had the strength to do all these things in part because she was loved through all of it. She was supported. There was some place to find courage from.

My family is not with me, but they are safe now. They are not in pain. They are not suffering. They are safe in part because of what Natalya did, and I am safe in part because of what she did.

But I helped.

I did well.