Hudson is dead.
Her death is a fact that still hovers just out of my grasp, like the perfect word that I can’t seem to conjure when I need it. My awareness of it drifts in and out of my consciousness, like I am constantly in that hazy state between asleep and awake, where I have to keep vigorously shaking my head in order to try to understand.
On one side of that muddled state is a dream world, a sideways existence where Hudson is still alive. In this world, she looms so large in my imagination. I see her in all the places that she should be: running willy nilly as we picnic with friends in the Arboretum, in the space next to Jackson’s in the back seat of the car, pushing the “Little Shoppers” cart at the grocery store, putting her grubby fingers all over her little brother, singing with me in the kitchen at the top of her lungs, learning to swim in her Poppy’s pool, pointing out every plane, train, bus, and automobile she sees, learning letters and numbers. This is the world I wish I lived in.
On the other side is the harsh reality, the world where Hudson no longer lives. On this side, I try to restrain myself from imagining all the places where she should be. I wear a One Good Thing bracelet, a necklace with her name on it, and turtle earrings every day in memory of her. I stumble and stutter whenever I am asked if Jackson is my first child. Sometimes I can say, “My older daughter died” rather matter-of-factly and without crying; most times I can’t. I talk about her all the time, taking any chance I get to mention her in a conversation, as if she is just as alive and present as my living child. In real life and on Facebook, I watch all the children who were Hudson’s age continue to grow up and change and do new things she will never do, and I watch all the children who were born long after she was grow older than she ever did. I am reminded of her just about every other moment of every day in some way or another. This is the world I actually live in.
I still don’t believe it, not in the sense that I have accepted it as an unchangeable fact. It still feels unreal to me. It still even feels changeable at times, as though she can come back to me if I can just figure out how to make it happen. Her death is like a terrible mirage, an image that exists only in the vapor on the horizon, an optical illusion that I can only really perceive if I squint and concentrate very hard.
Hudson’s ashes are all that grounds me firmly in the reality that she is gone. When I begin to drift into the dream world where she is alive, as I do more often than you can imagine, all I have to do is remember that her ashes are sitting in the downstairs playroom and I am snapped back into the real world where she is dead. Honestly, if I didn’t have them, I’m not sure I’d ever be fully convinced.