My dearest Hudson,
Oh, my sweet girl. How can it be that you have been gone for four years? Four years. Each year on this day, I try to wrap my head around how long it has been since we said goodbye to you, and each year, I fail. It used to be that I felt like you were just here, like it had been only yesterday since we saw you last. And yet as the years roll on, taking us farther and farther from the time when we had you here with us, it hurts me to say that it doesn’t feel like that anymore. It feels like it has been a very, very long, long time. As I predicted early on in the days after you died, as time continues its relentless march through our lives without you, never stopping to look back for one single second, even when I beg it to, the gaping hole that your death tore into the fabric of our lives has changed. While it has not grown smaller absolutely, more fabric has grown around it, so that by comparison, it seems somewhat smaller than it did during that long, dark, first year after we lost you.
And some days, I just want to grab that fabric and rip it into shreds with my hands and teeth. Some days I want to blow a hole the size of a house into it. Some days I want to go back to the days when you were sick, the day you died, to the days afterward, when everyone was thinking of nothing but you, when you were the center of the world, when no one could imagine how the world could go on without you. Because how could it? How could we? How did we?
It has been a hard year without you, dear one. While I’m not sure anything could ever be harder than that first desperately lonely year without you, this one may be a close second. Watching your brother and sister begin to form a relationship has been such a joy and a delight, but it has also brought into such sharp relief, yet again, how much we have missed without you here. Watching them play together, kiss each other, snatch things from each other’s hands, yell at each other (yes, your nine-month-old sister already yells at your brother), envy each other, laugh with each other—watching them together feels sometimes like someone has taken a tiny loose string of that delicate fabric that is our lives and yanked on it, threatening to unravel it right back to that giant hole. And sometimes, I think, “Good.” Because sometimes, I want the giant hole right back where it was, at the center of everything.
I’ve said once before that you felt more gone than ever. But now you feel as gone as you have ever felt. Before your sister was born, I had somehow finally stopped imagining our life with two children. But now that she is here, I can somehow only imagine it with three—your absence is palpable every day. Two weeks ago, we visited your bench at the Arboretum during a weekend trip to D.C. Your daddy took some beautiful photos of me with your brother and sister and had them made into a gorgeous collage for Mother’s Day. And all I could think when I saw them was how gone you were, how missing you were from them, how much you should have been in them.
Your dad and I have struggled since your sister was born with trying to decide whether to have another child. In our mind’s eye, we always planned to have three. Three seemed like such a good number, not too few, not too many. After you died, I was absolutely intent on having three more, for a number of reasons, but chief among them was because of the fear of something happening to another one of my children—if we had only two more, then one sibling would be left alone to grieve the other, left to deal with aging parents, left alone to deal with grieving our deaths.
And yet, I think we will probably have no more children. To some extent, this is because we both feel very tired, and after doing it three times already, we are very ready to be done with parenting infants. We are ready to move on to the stage of our lives where everyone in the family can start doing things together.
But if I am being truly honest, if I am speaking from that part of my heart that wants to grab that loose thread and pull with all my might and unravel the delicately woven fabric that has emerged around the hole left after your death, that part of me doesn’t want to have another child because that part of me likes the hole just the way it is. I’m supposed to have three children, but I have only two with me. And even though I know wholeheartedly that no fourth child could ever fill that hole where you are supposed to be, that part of me still likes that hole just the way it is. And somehow, it seems that if I had three living children, while the hole would still be there, it would look very, very different than it does now. And that part of me likes the hole just the way it is. Just the way it is.
Last night, before I went to bed, I snuck into your brother’s room and lay down beside him in his bed. I tucked my head into that sweet place between his cheek and his shoulder and laid my hand on his chest. I felt the little rabbit-like thump of his heartbeat and the rise and fall of his ribs as he took the deep breaths of sound sleep. And I thought of you. I thought of the time I spent in your hospital bed, willing you to breathe on your own, to open your eyes, to see the Elmo balloon I’d put at the end of your bed so that it would be the first thing you’d lay eyes on if you would just open them. I wished I’d had the chance to lay in a big-kid bed with you at home, snuggled up just so, listening to you breathe and feeling your ribs rise and fall. For just one instant, I wished it was you I was snuggling with last night. Not that I wish your brother weren’t there—not by the farthest stretch of the imagination—but just for a moment, I just wanted it to be you lying there with me, sleeping softly and soundly while I lay there, feeling so very fortunate to be your mother, to have that moment with you. I’m sure your brother will forgive me this one day—it will never be right that it can’t be both of you, all three of you, sleeping in a grand heap of limbs and runny noses and wispy hair. It will never be right.
It will never be right. And that’s why there’s a part of me that likes the hole just the way it is.
I love you, my dear, sweet, darling girl. I love you and miss you so very much.