Sunday, May 14, 2017

I Find Her in My Dreams

Eight. She’d be E I G H T today.

I’ll always wonder who she would’ve been. She's my favorite daydream. 

I imagine, she’d be amazing. Full of life. She’d be magic. Like all little girls are.

Often, I become lost in the magic of dreaming her into being. I can see her there, like a silhouette with flecks of color and dimension. Hair bouncing, dress swirling, giggles reverberating around her, through me. Her presence hits me right in my soul. 

I feel lighter. For a moment I have her back. As if she never left. 

But just for a moment or two. In the end, she always eludes me. I cannot grasp the details. She slips right through my hands. 

And then she’s gone again.

So close, but still out of reach. 

We had her, then didn’t. She was almost ours forever.

She was born in the early morning hours while the darkness and silence still fell. That darkness stayed and her silence haunted me for years. I still need a constant hum of noise at all times. I no longer find peace in the stillness.

Right until the very end of my labor with her, I hoped the doctors were wrong, that they had somehow made a mistake. I still clung to the extraordinary possibility that she would be born screaming and alive. As I glanced over at my husband holding her those first few moments, I thought I saw her arm move, a quick jerk that newborns do. I think I was losing touch with reality. I wanted nothing to do with the one I was currently in. Once I had her in my arms, I remember thinking that maybe if I willed it strong enough, she would breathe. Her eyes would open and I would finally receive the gift of looking into them. I thought the universe would see how much I love her and correct its mistake. She wasn’t supposed to die.

This year, for the first time, her birthday falls on Mother’s Day. At first, that felt extra cruel to me. I’ve consciously had to redirect my thoughts and emotions on how to handle the double gut-punch that brings. I’ve chosen to view her birthday on Mother’s Day as an extra special way to incorporate her into the celebration of my motherhood. Her impact on me is just as wide and far reaching as her brothers’. She deserves to be celebrated.

The years since losing her have changed me. Her loss molded me. Some parts are better. And in the trust of being truthful, other parts of me are hallow. Only she could fill those up. The pain has dulled now. The grief has settled in, right beneath the surface, and lulled. I’ve come to accept that. I’ve learned the balancing act of grief and joy. It’s quite the art-form. It deserves so much more respect than it receives. 

I no longer speak about her every day, but still relish in the stolen moments that I can. I don’t actively mourn her daily, but the waves of grief still crash down. In both expected and unexpected moments. My life is bright now. The darkness no longer wins. I am happy. It’s possible. I wasn’t convinced it was in the beginning. 

Her death no longer defines me. But I will never diminish her existence and my love for her. And I won’t let time do that either. Time robbed me of her, but it can never take my love for her. Time doesn’t get to take that, too. I won’t let it. 

Life moves on. At first that feels cruel. But I am so, so, grateful that it does. And so I moved on too, because I still had so much to live for, but I’ve never taken a step forward without her. I’ve taken her with me. In many ways she’s become a part of me, woven through my soul and heart, we’ve become one again.

And so it’s been one more year without her, yet with the many imprints and ripple waves she left behind. Because she’s truly behind every reaction, decision, deep belly laugh, and tear. My Life is sweeter. My Love is deeper. Because she was here. 

As the years go on, I will continue to "hold her in my memory, and find her in my dreams."

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Sacred Dance

A Butterfly at Janessa's Memorial Service
Seven years ago today, I was forced to fit an entire lifetime of memories and love into a mere twelve hours with my daughter. 

So many regrets. So many should’ves and wishes of, “If I only knew.” Hindsight is a painful experience. 

Losing your baby is not just a singular event. You lose them over and over again throughout the years. You lose all their firsts, their milestones. You lose all of the should've-been shared sweet moments. You lose their lifetime. The beautiful life you had envisioned for them. Janessa lived an entire lifetime in my mind before I ever laid eyes on her precious face. And in seconds, in a mere unlikely twist of fate, her life ended. And all of our dreams were shattered.

We were forced to say hello and goodbye at the same time. 

There would be no firsts, only lasts.

The last cuddle. The last kiss. The last glance upon her perfect face. The last goodbye.

But what I’ve learned is that it’s never really goodbye. You don’t ever leave your children behind. 

Her life may have ended in tragedy but what survived is her love story. 

Not even death can negate their existence. Instead, it sends out ripples so far and wide that they continually affect you throughout your entire lifetime. 

She may be physically gone but she is with me every day. I carry her. With every step. With every breath. She is behind every laugh and every tear. I feel her ripples. And because of that, there’s a hint of her with every one of my decisions. She is there for all of my experiences. And she continues to affect all of my encounters and interactions with others, because I now recognize the need for empathy and compassion in a way I never understood before I walked through the darkness of her death.

I am better because she lived. My soul is richer because of her. And I am thankful to her for it. 

And because the ripple-effect from her death continually transforms me, she continues to impact this world. Even in death.

My life is now a sacred dance of grief and joy. So much joy, made sweeter by her.
But it’s not always graceful. 

And today, on her should’ve been 7th birthday, I just don’t feel like dancing. 
And what the past seven years has taught me is that feeling this way is okay.

Because tomorrow, tomorrow I will dance.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Seven Years

Seven years ago today, her heart stopped beating and ours broke.

Seven years.

An eternity and yet only a blink of an eye.

Grief warps the perception of time.

And love, love transcends it.

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