When Hudson and I got home from picking her up at school, I usually set immediately to getting dinner ready so that when Ed got home, we could all eat and still get Hudson to bed at a reasonable hour (at our house, this was 7:30 at the latest). I started pulling things out of the refrigerator and cabinets and Hudson set about doing any number of things. Reading books or playing with her toys in the playroom, which was right next to the kitchen. Climbing in and out of the rocking chair in the living room (she’d say, “Rock, rock, rock”).
We washed hands again and then we asked, “Hudson, what time is it?!” She smiled and said, “BATH!” If Ed was home, he took her upstairs to take a bath while I cleaned up the dinner dishes. When I heard them wrapping up and walking over to her room to put on her pajamas, I knew one of my favorite moments of the day was coming up. After she was in her pajamas, she walked over to the top of the stairs, leaned her face against the baby gate, and said, as loud as her little voice could manage, “Mama!” (Her daddy taught her this trick—he taught her all her best tricks, really). I can still hear it in my head as clearly as if it had happened last night, but it is one of those sounds I fear losing the most. I dried my hands, climbed up the stairwell on my hands and knees, and gave her a snuzzle (cross between a snuggle and a nuzzle—it was really just a nose-rub) and a kiss through the bars of the baby gate. Then I stood up and took her into my arms and we gave each other a great big hug before her daddy took her into her room for storytime. This is one of those moments I go back to many, many times every day.
If Ed wasn’t home, then I would take her upstairs for her bath. I usually let her climb the stairs on her own, either on her hands and knees, or, in the later days, with great big steps while holding on to the spindles in the railing. At the top, I closed the gate behind me and we went into the bathroom. I put her toddler tub in the bathtub and started drawing the water and told her to go get a washcloth. She wandered out of the bathroom and into her room, opened the cabinet door in her dresser, and grabbed a washcloth (or, usually, several). I grabbed a towel and we went back to the bathroom, where I told her to pick out her toys. She poked through her bin of tub toys—mostly squirting sea creatures and one plastic turtle with three building blocks for his shell—and picked out a few, which she threw into her tub. Then I sat on the edge of the tub, pulled her into my lap, undressed her, and plopped her in.
When we got to the “Good night stars, good night air,” I would soften my voice, and then finish “Good night noises everywhere” with a whisper. By this time, she was usually already curling up on my shoulder with her thumb in her mouth, ready for her song. We finished our bed time ritual with one round of “Hark the Sound,” her head tucked under my chin, me swaying gently on my feet. When I got to the end of “I’m a Tar Heel born, I’m a Tar Heel bred,” instead of “Go to hell, Dook!” I whispered, “Don’t go to Dook!” which always earned a smile or a soft giggle. Then I hugged her tight, kissed her cheek, and put her down on her tummy. She turned her head to one side, thumb still in mouth, and I tucked her little polar bear and panda bear up under her arms on each side, and she closed her eyes. I said, “Good night, my sweet girl” and closed the door behind me.
On the day Hudson died, her blood pressure and other vital signs were pretty unstable throughout the day. The doctors had talked with us about the possibility that her body might not even make it through until the evening, when they were planning to do the second brain death test, even with all the medications and monitoring they were doing to try keep her alive and stable until then so the results would be reliable. We assured them that if she crashed, we did not want them to take any extraordinary measures—we knew our girl was already gone, but we just wanted a little more time with her before we would never be able to see her again. I didn’t leave the room that entire day. Knowing that this might happen before the planned hour, Ed and I took some quiet time alone with her earlier in the afternoon so that we would feel like we’d had a chance to say goodbye, just in case. We talked to her, cried over her, told her how much we loved her—I remember telling her that there were so many things I wanted to say, but I didn’t know what they all were right then, so I just had to trust that she knew. And Ed told her that we knew she would still hear us when we talked to her for the rest of our lives. Then we read Goodnight Moon. On each page of the great green room, I said, “Where’s the mouse?!” and then pointed to it myself and said “There’s the mouse!” We said, “Good night stars, good night air, good night noises everywhere” and then closed the book and said goodbye to our beautiful girl. We were fortunate to have more time with her and a chance to say goodbye to her again later that evening, but I will remember that most precious moment for the rest of my life.
As parents, it seems we often focus on remembering and documenting “big” moments—Christmas mornings, birthday parties, first steps, and the like. As I’ve said here many times before, now that Hudson is gone, it’s the ordinary, everyday moments that I miss the most. And it is these that I most want to remember.
We love you and miss you so much, my sweet girl. This memory of you is my One Good Thing on this otherwise very bad day.