Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Seventeen Months

Jackson is seventeen months old today. Seventeen months. In just nine more days, he’ll have lived as long as Hudson lived before she was diagnosed with an ultimately fatal illness. In just twelve more days, he’ll have lived as long as Hudson lived. In just thirteen more days, he’ll have lived longer than she ever did. I feel almost as though I am on a precipice, bracing myself for the inevitable fall over the edge, into an unknown that should be a known, into the rest of Jackson’s life, into the rest of my life without Hudson.

This election season has filled me with such nostalgia—at this time four years ago, we were eagerly awaiting Hudson’s birth in six or seven weeks. We met the future vice president and he rubbed my belly for good luck and told me that having a child was the greatest thing in the world. I dreamed about the day when I would get to tell that child the story of how he or she had brought good luck to Barack Obama and Joe Biden in a historic election. On Election Day, we drove home late in the evening from our voter protection post in Richmond, listening to the radio for news of the results, getting chills when our home state of North Carolina turned blue, rejoicing when it became clear that our guy had won.

That was four years ago. Four years. And yet I remember it like it was just yesterday. It seems like it was just yesterday. For the first time, I think, I am starting to get a real sense of the passage of time. Hudson has been part of our lives for more than half the time Ed and I have known each other, yet she lived here with us for only seventeen months and twelve days of that time. This is now our third fall without her. The third Christmas approaches. I see pictures of babies born long after her who are now turning three. I wrote an email today in which I noted that I left my law firm almost three years ago—this wouldn’t be striking, except that I left my law firm only five months before Hudson died. Which means she has been gone for two-and-a-half years. As if I only just realized that when writing about something wholly other.

And more than anything, now her little brother, our precious Jackson, another light of our lives, born an entire year after she died, is now almost as old as she was when she died.  And yet he is still so very little.  He is still so very young.  Our time with him has only just begun.  Only now have I really begun to understand how very short our time with Hudson was. 

And just as Hudson did, Jackson delights us at every turn with his huge grin, his friendly “Hi!,” his sweet kisses, his love of books, his ever-expanding vocabulary, his silly sense of humor, his Elvis-impersonating dance moves, his contagious giggle, his engulfing belly laugh.  He reminds me of her in so many ways, but when I try to remember what this time in Hudson’s life was like, this time in the last month before she died, I can conjure so little in my head that exists separately from a photo (photos we have shockingly few of from those last several weeks of her life). I can vividly recall the last interaction we had with her before she woke up very sick early that Monday morning. A few hours before that, about 11PM or so, after a day of rising and falling temperatures, she’d woken up again with a fever, and after giving her some medicine, we brought her into bed with us to make sure that her temp went down and that she was feeling better. At some point, she sat up in the bed between us, chatting in much the same way that Jackson chatters now, clearly saying something that is just beyond our understanding as mere adults, smiling and playing with the wooden spindles in the headboard above us. I remember smiling and saying, “OK, I think it’s time to go back to bed now,” and putting her down with every belief that she was totally fine and would wake up in the morning back to her old self. But less than 24 hours later, I was crying over her in a bed in the ICU, and 24 hours after that, she was, as far as we know, already brain-dead.

Until now, my only understanding of what we have been missing without her has come from watching the other babies her age grow older, from watching the interactions between her peers and all of their younger siblings, and from my own imagination, as I try to picture in my mind what she would be like if she were here, what our lives would be like if she were here. An almost four-year-old with thousands of words and a sophisticated understanding of how to put them together. A lean, gangly, long-haired girl where there was once a round-faced toddler with a baby mullet. Two kids to wrangle at the grocery store. Two kids to drop off in two different rooms at school every day. Two kids to make peace between in the back seat of the car. Two kids to watch grow up together, play together, make each other laugh, play jokes on each other and on us.  There is so very much we haven’t experienced that we should have experienced.  

Until now, I have had only a sense of what we have been missing, like the blurred background of a photo. But on Election Day, Jackson will wake up to his 530th day, a day that Hudson never saw. And from that day on, we will know, in sharp relief, perhaps really only for the first time, what we have been missing.


  1. I wish I could hug you. It is still so wrong. She should be here with you now.

  2. Lots of love and hugs, Mandy. I wish so much that Hudson were here.

  3. I love you Aunt Mandy! I have been thinking about her a lot lately. I miss that beautiful girl! Love you always Hudson!

  4. You are my hero! We are still here and still listening. Much love!

  5. Yes to all you wrote. Sending love, Mandy. Olivia

  6. You've been on my mind most especially for the last couple of weeks. Continuing to send love and Light. And, to celebrate and smile and enjoy your stories and photos of Jackson. And, continuing to think of the bright spark of Light that is Hudson.
    Rachel C.

  7. I remembered recently your story about Vice President Biden. As I have been working with the Obama campaign in Ohio, your sweet Hudson has been on my mind, as a result of that story. If it provides you any comfort at all, Hudson and your family are often on my mind.

    Always sending love to you, Ed, Hudson, and Jackson.

  8. Have been missing your blog - good to find you here again. I often think of you, but as I said to Katie not long ago, it's almost as if I "forget" that Hudson has died because you have continued to endure more than anyone should bear. Jackson's arrival, your battle with and victory over cancer, your move to NC - all of these events have been moved to the forefront of your daily life. Yet always, ALWAYS, Hudson is there. And always, ALWAYS, we think of her.

  9. I've been thinking of you a lot, as I knew this particular time is approaching and also wondering how you are feeling and doing. You're right in all of it-the too short time with Hudson, the awareness that this is not how it should be or what you planned, how quickly time goes, what should be.

    Continuing to send you peace.


  10. I've been thinking of you and your family a lot these last few weeks, wondering how you were doing. I came across a quote from a family who is waiting for their 3rd child, a beautiful little 3 month old, to die of a tragic genetic condition. They comment that's it's not fair, but, "One of the things we learned is that great sorrow and great joy can coexist." Crappy situation, but it's their reality, just as it is to many of us who have lost a child. I'll be praying for you all as another "milestone" passes.

  11. It continues to shock me how horrifically unfair it is that you are still without her. That she isn't coming back. I can not imagine what it must be like for you.

    Sending you so much love as you continue to learn to live without your wonderful child.

    Megan (geezlouise)