Since the last time that I saw your pretty face. . .
But you're still on my lonely mind.
I think about you, Baby, and I dream about you all the time.
--"Here Without You," 3 Doors Down
In the beginning, we grievers count the days. We count to measure the distance of how far we've come on the road of time; we count to see how much further we may need to go to escape the tight claws of pain and hurt. We hope for a salve of nepenthe so we can forget a little, but we count so that we can also remember. Tomorrow is the three-month anniversary since you were born and died, 90 full days. On the same date of March 29th, 17 years ago, was Mommy's and Daddy's get-together date as a couple. Even if I had a crystal ball, I wouldn't quite believe that 17 years later, we'd be husband and wife, standing in front of our daughter's granite headstone to visit after we arranged to have it engraved.
March 30, 2002 also marks an important date in Mommy's heart; it was the day Daddy took Mommy to pick up our late yellow Labrador, Argos, and brought him home into our lives. He lived for 10 years until cancer took him; he would've been 16 this year. He allowed me to witness the full spectrum of a life, from youth to old age. He taught me how it feels to let go, to get through grief, to move on and accept love again in my heart. It's been 6 years since he departed this earth, and yet he still visits me in dreams and in memory. Sometimes, the pain is just as fresh as that warm October day when Mommy and Daddy took him to the vet to finally end his pain. Though time is linear and time aids grief, grief loops and backtracks in unpredictable ways. With the convergence of so many memorable dates around this time of the year, I am assaulted with feelings, my emotions running free reign and out of my control.
Your death cripples me as I'd expect it to. I'd have spontaneous emotional triggers, like when I walk to and from the parking garage at work. I'd think back to the last few weeks when I thought you still lived, nestled in my belly. What were your final sensations? Did I rock you to sleep as we drove home together at the end of a long workday? Did you feel the tremors of my laughs and giggles during my department's White Elephant gift exchange? Did you savor the flavors of our last meals together? Mommy and Daddy need to book a trip to put some physical distance between us and the grief, but whereupon I planned our vacations with gusto and experience before, I am stuck now, with no motivation to look up accommodations or attractions. And so time pulls us forward in the unstoppable waves of days and weeks. At night, we sink into the exhaustion of having to deal with a life laden with fresh grief, catching our breaths in the pause of sleep before facing tomorrow. Not living, but surviving.
But your death liberates me in ways I'd least expect. I was such a planner before, always analytical and following a set schedule. I'd plan out our weekly meals, decide what I'd have for lunch hours before I'd go out, book up our weekends with activities and outings months in advance. Without the energy to plan, I'd succumb to spontaneity, join random coworkers at lunch, jump into the middle of conversations. I'd park my car and randomly take a casual walk or suddenly turn it into a shopping trip. We'd have nothing to eat for dinner, and I would order last-minute takeout or meal deliveries to our door. It feels strange, like I am not entirely in my own skin.
In my heart is always a mother's guilt. I feel guilty that I only get to visit you once a month, and maybe even less as the years go by. I feel guilty seeing the fresh flowers I last left for you wither away, scorched by sun or water-logged from recent rains, and I was not there to tend to your grave, Baby Girl. I feel guilty to be ashamed of losing a pregnancy when I already have a healthy son to look after and love. I was supposed to be eight months along, you weighty with the promise of life, a couple of weeks before my maternity leave, a couple of months before meeting you. I'd subconsciously lay my hand on my belly all the time, before my mind could stop myself with the memory that you are no longer there. I wish I could cuddle your soft, warm body in my arms, free and generous with my hugs and kisses, that I were not standing in front of your grave with a hand laid on hard, cold granite, stroking it softly as I would your hair. I miss you, Baby Girl. I wish could perfect this art of picking up the shattered pieces of my heart and reassembling it like fine glass; sometimes, it shatters anew, and I am on my knees, frantically searching for the fine shards, cutting my hands and bleeding raw in the process of putting myself back together.
I can't visit you always or be with you. My brave girl, your spirit has to to learn to navigate this world without me often by your side. I know you've already spread your wings and explored; friends have said they dreamt of you, felt your presence. Today, I left a little toy airplane at your grave, which will hopefully weather the sun and rain better than those ephemeral flowers. To let you know that Mommy and Daddy have visited, and send their love. To remind you that you are remembered. To let you fly to any parts of the earth to explore, and once in a while come back home to visit me since I am here without you.