A few people still ask how we’re doing. We tell them we’re doing ok, we’re making it, we’re getting through. These statements are true in a microscopic way, and most importantly give people the assurance that we are not plummeting into a sea of grief that is going to claim our sanity or our ability to function. These statements are the easiest way to share just enough honesty without exposing the snarled webbing of volatile thoughts and emotions that hold captive our reality.
The truth is, we get up and face each morning because it’s one of the few things we have been able to choose. We didn’t get to decide when our daughter would enter the world. We didn’t get to pick when she would be strong enough to come home. We didn’t vote on which battles she would have to fight, and we certainly didn’t elect to have to send her soaring back to Heaven after only 4 and a half months in our arms. All of that was decided for us. What we do have a say in is how we will respond. So we resolve to embrace each moment, whether it brings tears or laughter, and continue to point back to a plan that we know is bigger than all of us. Is it easy to do? Does it feel good? No. But we know it is healing us and shaping us, and hopefully leaving a legacy that will mutiply with each new “yes” we choose.
January usually means a clean slate. A fresh new start and a chance to overcome the shortcomings of the previous year. For Mark and I, it’s a reminder of a world that is going on even after ours stopped. I hate the constant calculating in my head; the math that tells me how old she would be on the 2nd of each month, and the equation every 14th that measures how many months my arms have felt empty. We don’t talk about March. We don’t want to imagine the birthday she never got to celebrate.
This month I thought I was ready. I grabbed a few boxes and headed for Ellianna’s bedroom, having convinced myself it was time to make a more functional space out of the room she vacated 6 months ago. Looking around, I saw the warm green paint that the girls had helped me sweep across the bare walls. The lacy white curtains that give the perfect balance of femininity without being pink. The whimsical canopy that I stood on tiptoes to hang just centered over the rich wood of her crib. The simple white ‘E’ that boasts the elegant beauty of a name so carefully chosen. All of these symbols whose meanings translate to things that will be missed instead of things yet to come. All these meanings, and I couldn’t change a thing. I couldn’t tuck the soft and delicate of all that was hers into boxes to be put away, slipping from daily sight and becoming memory. I thought it might ease Little One’s tears to not daily soak in the empty fabric and the hollow quiet of her baby sister’s room. But I didn’t have the strength. Often I find her sitting, shoulders hunched, tears streaming, surrounded by memoirs of her sister she has carefully laid out in array around her. I took a picture when she didn’t know I was watching, but I think she heard the sound of my heart break.
Last night she told me “I just want to go to Heaven now.” Even more painful than my own grief is the inability to soothe the pain of the Little 3. To watch such tender hearts have to bear such a great burden is a dagger that sears hot and deep. I pray daily for grace with which to press forward and for faith that is bigger. Big enough to overcome the fears I feel and big enough to mend the wounds that are all around and through me.