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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Hail Mary

Dear Josie,

I promise to do something nice for myself every year.  In February.

Last year this manifested in the material sense.  It also started an argument with your father.  I remember him greeting me at the door with the credit card bill. 

"Who is Kate Spade and why do we owe her two hundred dollars?"

This year was different.  For reasons I won't get into here, but that involve saving money for moving expenses in the near future and the avoidance of being served with divorce papers, I won't be going shopping.  This year I've been thinking a lot, instead.  Mostly about Mary.  I know this doesn't sound nearly as glamorous as a new leather crossbody, but surprisingly, it has been more rewarding.

I first met Mary nearly two years ago.  It was spring break and I was home on maternity leave, or non-maternity leave, or maternity leave sans baby...or whatever awful words one might use to describe the seven weeks after you died.

One night I was up late, scouring the web and one of my favorite support forums.  A recent loss mom posed the question at four am in all caps. 
 
WHY.     GO.       ON.
 

I stared at the words awhile, and when I realized I didn't have the answer I frantically read the responses, hoping someone else did.  That's when I "met" Mary.
 
I don't know if her name is really Mary.  That's the thing about the internet.  But I don't care either because that's not important.  What probably Mary said is important. 
 
Mary shared this picture of a man and a woman in front of a Christmas tree, surrounded by children and adults alike in red and green and smiles so bright I swear someone painted them. It was late and my vision was blurred but I counted 21 faces.
 
"Thirty years ago there were two people in this picture," Mary said.  "For that person next to you and for the 19 who don't yet exist, you go on for them."
 
When I first read her words I thought, that's a lot of pressure.  Because that doesn't help me right NOW and because I'm not trying to have eight kids, lady. 
 
But now, I think I understand what Mary meant. 



Yesterday, you should have turned two. 

You should be two years old.  You should be running, with scrapes on your knees and glitter under your fingernails and a voice laced with entitlement.  Your world and mine should be revolving around you but they aren't.  And you don't.  And you can't. 

I took the day off but in the afternoon I drove to work.  It was "Writer's Week" and I read one of your letters to the crowd of students, colleagues, and alumni.  I listened to the others read about love and war and religion and addiction.  About teaching and loss and perseverance.  I laughed some and I cried some more, and I felt less alone.

In the evening we met at your tree, all of your aunts and uncles and cousins and friends.  We wrote notes to you on pink balloons and we left roses and wishes in the ground.  And then we had dinner.

I loved everything about the day, but my favorite part was the morning.

We met at your brother's school.  The night before he helped me cut twenty-two pink ribbons for his classmates, and they were all wearing them. 

They walked us outside and they surrounded us.   Twenty-two tiny hands clasped together, singing from their perfect, Kindergarten hearts.  Happy Birthday to you. 

Your brother released the shiny, "princess" balloons his teacher purchased, his handmade drawing attached, and they all ran after them.  Chasing and waving and jumping, until they faded out of view.


I used to fixate on the absences in my life.  And by "used to" I mean still do pretty often.  The way my eyes looked happier in pictures but don't anymore, because the eyes of a parent whose children are all alive no longer belong to me.  Or the way I would kiss them goodbye in the morning with a certainty that I'd see them again. 

Of course there is the biggest absence.  The glaring, gaping space in every picture where you should be, today and fifty years from now.  My daughter, whose father should be wrapped around her chubby fingers and whose chubby fingers should be clutching mine.  In this picture of this life that will never exist.

And I can leave it there, that hole.  I can look at that gaping space next to me and I can turn away.  I can empty it day after day until there's nothing left to share.



Or I can chase that love like a child, leaping just behind. 

Willing it to rise, and watch it paint the sky. 

 
Love,
Mom





 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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