It’s May again. Mother’s Day was yesterday: a day that makes me feel very torn. I am overjoyed and beyond lucky to have Nora and also plagued with a sense of incompleteness because the one who made me a mother isn’t here. It doesn’t help that this week is also the anniversary of “the worst day.”
You’re almost two. Though I know you’ll never grow bigger than that tiny newborn baby I cradled in my arms, I like to envision you as a silly, chubby toddler. You’d run around our house wreaking havoc and spreading joy. You would be starting to really talk – I hear you as a soft-spoken little girl like your mama, with the occasional outburst in a public setting that would get me frazzled and looking for the door. I imagine you with a cheery and confident disposition, you would bravely try new things – something I’d love about you, but also fear as you approached teenage years. You’d challenge me in the best ways and you’d be a Daddy’s girl. Most of all, you’d know love. Without fully understanding the word “love”, you’d know the feeling – I wouldn’t have let a day go by without telling you how much you meant to me.
Last year on May 12th, your Daddy and I visited you. We brought with us all of the letters, cards, and emails sent to us by our friends, acquaintances, and loved ones in the weeks after we lost you. We read every single one of them over and over as we sat with you. When we were done reading, we listened to all of the voicemail messages we had saved from people expressing their sympathies. It struck me how none of these people had any idea the impact their outreach would have on us at the time or continue to have on us today.
With loss comes inexplicable loneliness. It was important on the anniversary of “the worst day” that we remind ourselves we aren’t alone on this journey. We never were. It was important we focus on the beauty you brought out of people: the kindness, the thoughtfulness, the raw emotion. Of course it’s hard not to dwell on the tragedy of it all, but we had come so far in a year and it made sense to turn our attention towards the people who kept us moving. Through heartbreak, we witnessed true goodness. That’s something only you could have helped us see.
After we left you, we went to the Recorder’s office to pick up Nora’s birth certificate. That too was important to do that day because it symbolized to us that there is life after loss. Nora was the physical manifestation of that mantra. When she was born, the darkness that had been looming dissipated. She was undoubtedly our light, but without you, we couldn’t have ever truly understood the warmth or brightness it brought to our lives. It made sense to honor you by having May 12th forever listed as the “issue date” on her birth certificate.
As the emotions surrounding this second anniversary flood in and we discuss how we’ll honor you this year, I keep thinking about how we just finished celebrating Nora’s first birthday.
It was a bubble party. I had spent weeks planning it – I got clear balloons that looked like bubbles, a bubble machine, giant bubble wands, drew “thought bubbles” on the patio in chalk if the kids were feeling artsy, we served POPcorn and cake POPS and champagne bubbly for the adults. At one point I was second-guessing the time and money we were putting into a gathering she would never remember. After all, she’s only one. She’s not able to blow bubbles or draw with chalk yet anyway. But in truth, the day wasn’t just about celebrating Nora being one. We were celebrating Nora being HERE. We were celebrating how lucky we were to be throwing her a birthday party at all.
We missed out on a lifetime of things to celebrate with you, Ruby – birthday parties and Mothers Days included. With you, so many “firsts” would never be realized. With Nora, it’s been a year of over-celebrating firsts: first bath, first smile, first laugh, first roll, first crawl, first foods, first time in a swing, first trip to the zoo, first words, first teeth, first time in a pool, first meal at a restaurant, first signs, first shoes, first fall, first steps. Every “first” is a really big deal to us, so it makes sense that her first birthday was no exception. We were celebrating the miracle that is our beautiful, feisty little heart-healer because we CAN.
Yesterday, we spent Mother’s Day with your Uncle Mike, Aunt A, cousins Zoe & Hannah and your Bubba. As we were leaving, we commented on how beautiful the flowers smelled outside their front door, but your cousin Zoe was quick to say, “Maybe your baby in the sky is making it smell good for all of us.”
Year after year, May will come and I’m not sure I’ll ever shake the initial feeling that something is missing on Mother’s Day, but I know you’ll find ways like that to remind me that you’re not really gone.
This week, on the anniversary of “the worst day,” I’m sure we’ll carry on the special tradition of reading letters and listening to voicemails. As we find new ways to honor you on your day, I guess I hope you see our over-celebrations of Nora’s milestones as our way of honoring you everyday. They mean more because of you.
Happy early Birthday, baby girl. Thank you for making it smell like flowers.
I miss you and love you everyday,