Friday, May 13, 2016

Six Years: A Letter to My Girl

My dear, sweet, precious girl—

Six years. Impossible. What is there even to say, dear one? I feel like everything I am about to write is simply a record with a cracked seam, skipping again and again, replaying the same dull and melancholy notes. I love you. I miss you. I desperately wish you were here. I don’t know how we’ve gone on without you. I’m so sorry we’ve gone on without you. What more is there even to say?

I both love and hate these letters to you. I love them because they give me an opportunity to focus my love for you, to lean into my grief, to connect with you and imagine life if you were here. I hate them because of everything they are not and will never be. I hate them because there is no one on the other end of them. You are not here, reading them, soaking them in, feeling the love radiating off of them and into your fingertips and bones. You are not here to print them and fold them up and save them for some day in the future when you need to feel and remember how deeply your mother loved you. You are not here for me to fold you up in my arms and breathe you in and save a memory of you for some day in the future when I need to feel and remember how deeply I love you. My last such memory is from six years ago today, when you were already gone.

I love these letters, because I imagine you on the other end of them. And I hate them, because I know that you are not there.

Your little brother will start kindergarten in a few months. The thought startles me. I am reminded again of everything we’ve missed with you, everything we lost when we lost you. The way he is growing so fast makes me long to know what you would look like now. I see pictures of your friends and am stunned by how big they all are now. Trying to picture you among them strains the limits of my imagination and my heart. We made our annual spring pilgrimage to DC a few weeks ago to visit your bench at the Arboretum, and for the first time, I could not bring myself to see your friends. As much as I miss our community there, as much as we’ve missed out on by having left, I know for certain that I could not have withstood watching them grow up right in front of me when you were not there to grow up alongside them. It was hard enough when they turned two and three. Seven and eight are tolerable only from a safe distance, and even then, they are barely tolerable. You should be here. We should be there. This should all be different.

It seems like not a year has passed since we said goodbye to you that we haven’t experienced some monumental shift in our lives—so many things that you’ve missed, that we’ve missed with you. This year is no different. In a very few days, we’ll begin packing up a home that you never lived in. A whole house that you never knew. A whole era—albeit a short one—of our lives from which you were missing. Your Aunt Jess said the other day that it was neat to think about how our new house would be the house that Jackson and Ada would always remember growing up in, that their memories of this house we are in now will be either very faint or nonexistent. And I couldn’t help but think about how you would be old enough already to have made memories of this house. You might even be mad at us for leaving it. Although I feel your absence in every breath, somehow I feel it even more deeply every time we make our way through these transitions without you. With every one, it feels as though we are leaving you further and further behind, as though both the physical and the metaphysical distance between us grows ever greater at each turn.

As Jackson and Ada grow older, they grow more and more curious about your life and your death. As hard as some of these conversations are, I can’t say enough how much I love them, how much I even look forward to them. My one job as your mother—the only one I have left since you died—is to keep you alive in the world, in our hearts, in our family. And I cherish every opportunity I have to do that. People—usually people who don’t know me well or know about you—sometimes apologize to me when our conversation somehow steers to you and I have to tell them that you died. And I always tell them not to apologize, even if I am crying, because I am always grateful to talk about you, to tell others about you, to remember you, to be your mother in the only way that I still can.

I think Jackson and Ada are beginning to understand what it means to have a big sister who has died. I think they are beginning to understand that in some way, it makes them special. Their whole preschool came out to the playgrounds to blow bubbles to remember you today, even though Jackson and Ada were not there. Yesterday, when Jackson learned that they were going to do this, he was so proud, running up to every teacher and explaining that the next day was “Hudson’s Bubble Day” and that everyone was going to blow bubbles just for you. He felt proud to be part of something so special. I remember about a year after you died, I spoke with an old friend and colleague for the first time since your death, and she told me that she had known another family who had lost a child at a young age, and she said that family always had something of a patina to it, some kind of sense of something different and special and most importantly, good. That word—patina—has stuck with me. I wonder if our family has that same patina. I don’t always, or even often, do a good job of honoring your life by cherishing my moments, but I hope that it’s enough that I try. I hope that it’s enough that, because of you, I try every day to be kind—to your siblings, to your dad, to everyone who crosses my path—and I take comfort in knowing that even when I fail, I’ll have another chance soon to do better, to keep carrying out into the world that piece of you that changed me forever.

I hope that it’s enough. Like so much of this life without you, it really just has to be.

I love you. I miss you. I desperately wish you were here. I don’t know how we’ve gone on without you. I’m so sorry we’ve gone on without you.

So much love,