This is my favorite picture.
I never thought I would say this about any photograph of myself in a swimsuit, pregnant; however I have recently learned that things can change very quickly.
I am a little over six months along here.
This is my favorite picture because it is the perfect visual of how I choose to remember your life. One hand just above you, the other around your brother, the smiles on our faces, the storm approaching that I never saw coming.
There were so many beautiful pictures taken at the hospital by wonderful, caring people. Your arms were delicately folded into gentle poses. There was the gorgeous white gown you wore, donated and created by loving hands for babies like you. Babies whose parents didn't think to bring the clothes. Babies who weren't ready. Babies who never made it home.
I have only been able to look at these images a handful of times. They are indescribably beautiful to me. Priceless.
But they show me much more than your perfect, tiny features. In these pictures of you I see the physical manifestation of everything that was taken from me. I see flat lines and hands I can't hold. I see cheeks that will never be squeezed by tickle monsters you will never run from. Knees forever unscathed, arms that won't fold around a brother's shoulders for holiday pictures. I see the lips that will never kiss the prom date who will never speak your name.
In these images I can smell the hospital room, hear the sounds of the healthy newborns down the hall. I can see the nurse coming to wheel you away for the last time like some decadent dessert. Sweet and forbidden, forever just beyond our reach.
Most days this is all too much. I like to look at this picture instead.
I like to think of all the smiles you provided from within. During second hour lab experiments and countless car rides. I think of the bedtimes stories and dance parties you were privy to. The yawns and the laughter during hundreds of "Go Dog, Go!" and Ninja Turtle renditions. I imagine what our voices sounded like during Saturday morning breakfast, what it felt like to know nothing but love. A love so pure and fecund; like the ivy that circles and embraces, sending rootlets from the stem.
I like to think that you were perfect, save for one anatomical anomaly. Without warning or explanation, the heart that set you free.
When your brother is asked about you he always smiles, straightening his posture.
"Baby Josie isn't in Mommy's tummy anymore. She's in our hearts."
Then he returns, satisfied, to his hot wheel race.
As far as he is concerned there are no more questions. Regarding you, he is content. There is nothing left to ponder.
Turns out, there's a lot one can learn from a three year old.