Tuesday the 20th was the two-week anniversary of Alice’s death. Every day that passed was another day since the last day I held her, and this realization was just crushing.
I recalled how unbelievably happy I was in those first few days and weeks after Alice was born. I really was just completely over the moon in love with her. I was literally on cloud nine the day she was born. I remembered her being two weeks old and feeling that every day that passed was another day away from the day I first laid eyes on her, and sort of marveling at that, in those early days of her brand-new life.
The feeling after she died was similar, but opposite. I wanted time to stop so that it wasn’t marching on, so far away from the last time I held my sweet Alice.
But time marches on, and it carried my heart with it.
Alyssa and our friend Angela came by that Tuesday afternoon to help around the house. I was so very grateful, as I was still in a fairly deep state of shock, and the organizing the house just seemed overwhelming. The kids’ playroom/office was still set up like a catering room, and I didn’t know where to start. I wasn’t even sure what items belonged to which friends.
Alyssa and Angela (who caters) went at it with a quiet fury. I was completely exhausted from work the day before, and from recent events in general. They told me to rest, but I puttered around anyway. At one point, I leaned over to pick something up, and, inexplicably, collapsed in tears. I felt as if I had been hit by a missile. My heart was pounding out of my chest, I was in a cold sweat, and I couldn’t catch my breath. I was shaking. I went weak-kneed. I was immediately, instantly consumed with guilt. The guilt was always there at a low hum in those early days, but it was like someone had walked by and flipped it up to 11 without my noticing. It was just suddenly all-consuming. I also could not stop crying. They asked if I was okay, but I could barely talk.
I felt guilty for taking a nap the day she died; I felt guilty that I was a working mother and didn’t spend enough time with her; I felt guilty for not allowing her to just eat berries and yogurt her whole life like she wanted to, because in the end, it didn’t matter. I felt guilty for not hugging her or kissing her one more time before I put her down that day; I felt guilty for putting her down at all that day; I felt guilty for not staying at school longer the last couple of weeks when she suddenly started to cry upon my leaving. I felt guilty she didn’t get to go to her grandparents’ house; I felt guilty that I ever felt relief once both girls were in bed for the night.
I felt guilty for every single second I did not, and would never again, get to spend with her.
I was a mess of guilt. As I sit here and type this, I cry. I cry not so much out of guilt, however. Instead, I cry for the me that was so consumed by guilt I was unsure how I could live a full life. I remember that Melissa, and the new Melissa really feels for the Melissa that existed in the early days after she lost her daughter. For the first time in my life, I sit here with a bit of compassion for my former self. This is a beautiful thing, but I wish to God I could have learned it in a less drastic way.
So, I felt guilty for not learning the lesson in a less costly way. The guilt just never ended.
I had no idea what had brought on that intense episode that day. I forget what I picked up, but it was something completely banal. It wasn’t anything of Alice’s or anything that had heavy meaning. Alyssa walked me to my bedroom, and got me to my bed. She brought me chamomile tea, I think. I was still having trouble breathing, and my heart was pounding in my chest so hard I was surprised that it was not visible to the naked eye.
I rested, but I could not sleep. I just lay there and cried, and felt guilty, for an hour or so, I guess.
A couple of weeks later, I realized that this was a panic attack. I had never had panic attacks, save for a mild one the week prior, so I had no idea at the time what had happened. Alyssa and Angela were so kind and understanding and supportive, and I just cannot thank them enough. By the time I needed to do a house call and get Grace from school, I was feeling better. Angela and Alyssa stayed, and cleaned and organized my entire kitchen. I can never thank them enough.
Grace was sad, but processing it all very well. She could say when she was sad, she could express her feelings, and she could still play and be a kid. I was, and continue to be so very proud of her. And, in awe of her. Grace has handled this as well as any human could hope to, much less one of the tender age of four, the age she was at the time.
At dinner that Tuesday night, Grace walked over to me with a big smile, and said, “I have a secret, Mama.” She then leaned into me, and whispered in my ear, “Maybe we can have a magic trick where Alice can come back alive to our home.”
It was like someone pulled my beating heart out of my chest and showed it to me.
At bedtime that night, she looked up at me with giant, sad eyes and asked, “Is the lady bringing Alice back to the house?”
I had decided not to tell Grace that we cremated Alice’s remains until she was a little older. I had trouble with the concept at 44. But I had more trouble with the concept of her lying inthe ground with worms, so cremation it was. I felt fairly certain Grace was not going to love either option.
I had also vowed that I would not straight up lie to her about it either. If she asked me in such a way that I could not get around it without lying, I would tell her.
I explained that the lady was not bringing Alice back, and fought off tears. Grace cried, and hugged me and asked why.
Oh, crap, oh, crap, oh crap.
I blurted out that when you die, when you cannot run and jump and play anymore. I explained that when your body does not breathe anymore, and your heart does not beat anymore, the body starts to fade away. I explained that watching the body of someone you love fade away can be very, very hard to see, and very hard to accept, so “the lady” (aka Shari) took care of that for us so we can remember Alice in a way that was happy.
Grace sighed and asked if Alice was happy now. I said that I was sure that she was, and I meant it with every fiber of my being.
I sighed, and was relieved that I was not going to have to explain cremation to a four-year-old. Not yet, at least.
Grace then asked if we could sing “the Alice songs,” meaning “Twinkle Twinkle” and “ABCs.” We began to sing together. Grace began to cry through the song, I lost my ability to fight back tears. Now, we were both crying through the songs. I stopped a minute, thinking it too much for Grace, but she screamed out, “Don’t STOP! DON’T STOP, MAMA!”
So, I pressed on, with both of us sobbing through the songs.
She wanted to sleep with one of Alice’s blankies, so I–of course–let her do that. She chose the one with bees on it, and still sleeps with it occasionally to this day.
That night, before bed, I tried to research SUDC a bit. Bad idea. I hyperventilated within moments, and the guilts flew into high gear. “Should have done this, should have done that” on an endless, agonizing loop.
Grace woke up the next morning with a variation of what had become her morning litany. “I am sad Alice is never going to be 14, I am sad that she cannot go to my Spanish Camp with me, I am sad she cannot play in my kitchen with me” etc. etc. And then, “Mama, I even miss fighting with Alice.”
Just stab my heart out kid, why don’t ya. I just absolutely dissolved into tears. And Grace came over, and hugged me, and cried too.
Out of nowhere, Grace asked for a “neck-o-lace that opens up,” that is, a locket. “And inside, I want a picture of Alice on one side, and a tiny piece of her blankie on the other.” She came up with this 100% on her own. I was gob-smacked. She really is such a thoughtful kid. Look, like all kids, she has her moments, but she really is a very thoughtful child, and I am so very proud of her.
Stacy brought her a locket from her personal jewelry stash, but the blankie was too thick for it, sadly. I bought her another locket for Christmas and hooked it up just like she asked. How could I not?
On Wednesday, I went to yoga. It helped. But I was still pretty well crippled with guilt. I still felt disconnected from the world around me, but not as intensely as I had the week prior. I just noticed this, and decided it was something I was going to have to plug away at.
Bubba continued to be very supportive, checking in on me daily by text, and coming by when he could. In fact, he came by that Wednesday afternoon. He had just started his own company the week before Alice died, so this was really very generous of him to take this much time out of his busy day. I will never be able to repay his kindness. I was still very concerned about how I was going to work in my current state, but I had to work, so I plugged away at work as well. I spoke to Bubba about all of this, and told him I was thinking of trying to add an element of my business that did not depend on my physical presence on an hourly basis. Write a book, design and teach CEU classes, or something like that. He reminded me that this was something I had wanted to pursue even before Alice died, and that this was then, perhaps the time to look into this idea further. He was, and has been, so incredibly supportive.
I still had the irritating eye spasm. Every once in awhile, throughout the day, my left corner of my eye and eyelid would begin to spasm. A light, constant, rapid flutter. It was very irritating, and I just could not get it to stop. It was this little, annoying thing I dealt with while dealing with the enormous, soul-crushing thing.
I was receiving so many calls that I could not keep up, and my voicemail was nearly always full at this time. I was still having trouble speaking, so I could really only get to one or two calls a day max, outside of the people that I saw face-to-face and work calls. I had also overshot my text capacity in my plan, so I had to do an upgrade. I remember sitting on my back steps, thinking how stupid it was that I had to sit and deal with AT&T when my daughter had just died. I marveled at the ridiculousness of dealing with something so banal when my world had just been turned upside down.
It felt like a betrayal of her importance.
I know that it was not, but it felt like it. And that really, really, really hurt.
Thursday, Elizabeth Flaherty arrived. Sometime earlier this week I realized that I had screwed up this whole thing up entirely. I had told her that it was fine to fly in from Baltimore, having completely spaced on the fact that I had my 24-hour whirlwind trip to Sacramento that Fri-Sat. This was definitely not normal for me. She was more than understanding, but I felt horrible. I felt rude. I felt stupid. And it was so unlike me. I am generally very organized, and have managed a crazy schedule for years. Before Alice died, I rarely forgot anything. This was definite proof that my mind still not full tilt. I realized that I was going to have to use alerts on my phone for everything, even basic tasks, because I was forgetting things. Truth be told, I still have to do this on occasion, though I am far better than I was in those early weeks.
It was great to see Elizabeth. She is just a wonderful friend. She just sat, and listened, and helped, and was just a real comfort. At this point, I was distraught over the fact that Alice had not come to me in my dreams, and that I could not feel her in the house any more. This made me feel sick. Elizabeth explained that when our grief is so huge, so new, and came on so suddenly, it can make us unable to feel the presence of a loved one. She then looked down, over her leg, and said, “Melissa, I feel her. She is here.”
Now, this was quite something coming from the person I refer to as my most reasonable friend. I still could not feel her, but I was so relieved that someone could.
My other Elizabeth, Elizabeth Christie, came to visit that day too. She brought us food from one of my favorite restaurants and goodies from her family’s bakery (which is an insanely good bakery–Babycakes, you make me smile.) Elizabeth Christie is the mother of Alice’s friend Darla. Darla SLAYS
me. She was a character even as a baby. I have often said she is one of my favorite kids that I did not make myself. She and Alice used to just burst into laughter when they saw each other. No one could ever determine what was so damn funny, but those girls would just fall apart laughing when they saw each other. It never ceases to amaze me how early the humor sets in for young children.
In any event, Darla and Alice would get up to so many shenanigans together that we called them Lucy and Ethel. They loved each other. You could plainly see, that despite their young age, those two really did love each other.
But now Lucy was missing her Ethel (or Ethel, her Lucy–we never did finalize who was who,) and this thought sickened me. They were supposed to take classes together, and double date to prom, but this was not to be. Darla asked me where Alice was. I cried. And I cried. I hated the fact that Elizabeth C. had to determine what she was going to tell her two-year-old regarding Alice. What do you say to a child that young?? I felt horrible about it. I still do.
Elizabeth C. was just absolutely distraught over the loss of Alice, as I would have been if the roles were reversed. No one thinks that something like this is going to happen to their child, or their child’s friend. Elizabeth C. was also pregnant at this time. And I felt so bad for her that she had to process this loss while pregnant. It should not have had to be that way.
Despite her sadness, despite being pregnant, Elizabeth C. was, and continues to be, one of my strongest supporters, and I will be forever indebted to her. She is a member of what I call “My Irish Mafia.” I have a higher than average number of Irish friends and supporters, all of which will appear to stop at nothing to ensure I am properly cared for. What I did to deserve such care and love, I will never know, but I am deeply grateful. Elizabeth C. is a wonderful, beautiful soul, and I am blessed to call her “friend.”
My friend Deb C. came by that day too. I have known her for years, but had not seen here in years either. She had come to Alice’s service, but aside from that, I had not seen her in years. I was so very touched that she made the haul over, and it was wonderful to see her. She brought me the most beautiful box, like the old library card boxes of years gone by, filled with cards that had motivational type sayings on them. It was a touching gift, and I use it every day.
Fran, another member of my Irish Mafia, came by that night and brought banana bread, aka, Franana bread. She was checking in daily, and coming over a couple of times a week and I will just never be able to repay her kindness. I really do have remarkable friends.
And not a day goes by that I am not thankful for each and every one of you.
And, NSA, FBI, if you are reading this, my Irish Mafia deals in love and support rather than drugs and guns, so don’t you worry about me. My Irish Mafia, does like to feed people, however, so if you stake me out, you will be well fed.
Friday, Bubba, the literal Godfather of the Irish Mafia, wrote to tell me that his Uncle had died. He said that his mom thought about us the whole time she had to deal with the coroner. I felt awful for all of them, and was so touched that they had the space to support me when they were suffering a great loss of their own. So selfless. My God, I love him and his family.
Friday was the day Grace and I flew to Sacramento. Elizabeth F. drove us to the airport, which was more than kind considering I had screwed up her visit with me entirely. She is a true, true friend. I was anxious about dealing with an airport in the state I was in, but the trip had been planned for months, so off we went. I was flying Jet Blue out of Long Beach, which is an entirely different ball of wax than flying on any airline out of LAX, so I hoped it would not be too bad.
I picked G up early from camp, which made her very happy. Any day I pick her up early from school she calls a “special day.” She was happy to be picked up early, happy to be going on an airplane for the first time in years, and very, very happy to go see her friend Famke. I figured the airport anxiety would be worth it for how happy my kid was.
I had a drink, I won’t lie. I ordered myself a vodka tonic for the hour long flight, forgetting that on a plane this means you get a giant can of tonic, and a tiny bottle of vodka, and then you have to figure out where you are going to place all this stuff without spilling it. You also have to figure out what you are going to do with all of that tonic, since barely three ounces will fit in those stupid cups. I made Grace a spritzer with the remaining tonic. She was not a fan.
In those early days, I would often pour a drink, but rarely finish it. I could not see a whole drink through most days, but the few sips felt nice. I did not finish that vodka, and put the half-full (see, I still had some optimism) bottle in my bag, for later. Days later, Bubba was over, and saw the tiny half-full bottle as I cleaned out my bag. He asked what I was doing with an airplane bottle half-full of vodka, so I told him. He laughed and said, “You have had that for DAYS? Well, if you are an alcoholic, you aren’t very good at it. You would be the worst alcoholic in the world.”
I still laugh about that.
Grace and I had a nice flight, but the airport itself was difficult. Public places were still very challenging for me. Too many people in a hurry. Just too many people, period. Some lady in the bathroom was going on and on about how pretty Grace was and how I should have another. I just smiled and said nothing, and prepared to walk away, but she was undaunted. She just kept pressing on and on about how I should have another. Grace whispered “Alice” to me. And then, it just flew out of my mouth: “She had a two-year-old sister, but she died unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago.”
The lady stared at me dumbfounded. I stared back. Grace stared her down too. Eventually she realized I was not kidding, and said, “Oh, I am sorry” and walked away in a daze. I am not sure I ruined her day, but I am pretty sure I did not do anything to make it better, and I felt somewhat bad about it. But, I did feel good that I had shown Grace that I wasn’t going to pretend her sister did not exist just to make a stranger feel better.
I suppose that was one of the things that made going in public, and meeting new people so difficult: there was a high probability that I was going to end up in a situation where I had to decide whether I was going to act like I had one kid, or give them some news they were really not expecting, news that was likely to make their day turn over. Because when you have one kid, well-intentioned folks everywhere ask you “Is that your only child?” “Are you planning to have more?” and the like. My instinct, up to this point, was to absolutely acknowledge Alice’s existence. I just felt like I had no option but to acknowledge her despite what people would think or feel. So, though I was not eager to pretend Alice did not exist to protect the feelings of others in the first place, this experience in the bathroom showed me that I really could not, even if I wanted to do so, for Grace’s sake.
I knew that Grace needed to see me acknowledge Alice, so that she knew I would not leave HER unacknowledged, in the horrific event that Grace were to die. I knew that every time Grace asked me, out of the blue, “Do you still miss Alice?” what she was really asking was, “If I were dead, would you still miss me? Would you still miss me when you laugh? Would you still miss me when you are busy paying bills? Would you still miss me on vacation/at the store/at bedtime/when you are getting dressed?” etc. etc. etc.
I could truthfully answer “yes” to all of those and more, and it was painfully apparent to me, that Grace really needed to know this.
She still asks me daily, at random times, if I miss Alice. And she stares me down to see if I really mean it. One day, I did not tear up when she asked this, like I usually did. She put her face inches from mine, and said, simply, “Cry.”
Grace needed to see me cry for her sister.
This was handy, because I could not have fought off tears 24/7 even if you paid me to do so. I needed to cry, and she needed to see me cry. We are a team.
Once we landed, we had a nice evening with Meleva. The girls played, and then went to bed with a movie. Meleva and I had a drink and walked around her property, atop a hill, Barbula Hill, named after her family. It is a gorgeous area. Meleva cried and cried. I cried too, but Meleva could not even look at me without crying. I remember lying in the bed, going in and out of sleep, and seeing Meleva kneeling by my bed, staring at me, with giant tears just streaming down her face. Meleva isn’t a big crier. This is when I knew: this is actually as horrible as it feels. I had never known Meleva to stare off into the great beyond, and just cry, for hours. It would have broken my heart, but it was already broken.
Saturday was the party. Meleva’s mom and her beau were there, and it was great to see them, they really are lovely people. But the party was hard for me. I love Famke and wanted to go, and I really wanted Grace to have fun with some kids, but I was dreading meeting new people and dealing with the inevitable kid questions. I felt immense pressure around people I did not know. I was also just completely drained. I had not realized how profoundly exhausted I was until that day. It hit me at the party. I could barely sit up. I was simply knackered. I had no appetite. I just wanted to go to sleep.
Eventually I had to go lie down in the car. I just couldn’t sit up anymore. Meleva was kind enough to watch Grace for me so I could lie down in the car.
The party moved to Meleva’s house, and a couple of the moms came over to tell me that they knew about Alice, and were so sorry. I sat there and wondered if they were the ones that told Meleva I was barbaric for having a visitation for Alice. It was difficult for me to open up, not knowing which of her friends had said this. I was having a hard enough time without opening myself to certain judg
ement. These two gals were very kind and supportive, however, and I was relieved and grateful.
Grace had a great time, and Meleva and her family were perfect hosts. I was glad that I went, but in the end, it was really too much for me right then. I was knackered for days. This was no one’s fault; it was just too much stimulation for my state of mind at that point.
On the way to the airport on Saturday, Grace became sad. I asked her what was wrong. She got tears in her eyes and said, “I am starting to forget what Alice looked like, Mama.”
I felt like my heart had been yanked out of my chest. Literally. I felt nauseous. I knew how bad that feeling felt. I asked if she wanted to see some videos of Alice. She did. So I passed my phone to the back seat and let her go to town (at four, she knew her way around an iPhone better than most adults). She was happy to have the videos, and I was grateful I had them to share with her.
At another point that week, she told me that she “was forgetting was it was like to be a sister” and that “I do not know how to NOT be a sister, Mama.”
I thought this was some pretty deep thinking for a four-year-old, and it broke my heart that she had to even think this way. She was still asking for a new sibling at this point, and offered to be a big sister to Alice’s friends Aria and Darla. She was so desperate to fill the hole that we all felt.
It was just excruciating. I could relate, having never in a million years expected her to not have a sibling. But I was, and am still, so proud of her. She was, and still is, able to express complex feelings so well for such a young age, and in the end, this is what will save her.
I know that Elizabeth F. met us at home that night, but I cannot recall doing much. I recall being totally exhausted. Just utterly spent.
Sunday morning, I worked a little. Bubba was one of my clients, and it was so good to see him. Grace’s Spanish teacher, Doris, stopped by the house in the afternoon. She is the one person I failed to notify immediately after Alice died. I felt awful about it. I remembered the day after the service that, somehow, she had not been notified. Doris adored Alice, and always gave her special attention, even buying her a toy at one point. Doris is a wonderful teacher, and a beautiful person, and I was touched that she came by. My girls adore/d her.
Later that day, Chrislie took Grace to the park with Elle so I could have a minute to recuperate. I was so very grateful for that, because I was pretty drained after my first week back to work. It was very difficult to go about the regular business of life, with that enormous, new hurt and shock. Chrislie and Tommie were, and remain, wonderful friends to our family.
I recall walking into Trader Joe’s that week for the first time since she died, looking around
Bubba wrote that night to tell me that he felt so much better after our session, which helped me feel less worthless in return. It was good to feel like I was doing something right, because the rest of my life seemed like a dream sequence. That said, there is also no way I could have worked my full schedule then. I look back at my books from that time and think, “Is that my handwriting?” and, “Guess I did not enter my deposits for, oh, about three months.”
I could get through the day of work, but I could not do one extra thing, including record deposits, apparently.
Monday morning, I “walked” Janet, thus enabling me to avoid that studio for an extra day.
Now, I am not someone that likes to make a scene, or get special attention in class. I like to go in, do my thing, and leave without a spectacle. But the urge to do this really was so strong, that it trumped my “be nice and do what you’re told” approach to yoga class.
As I lay there on my back, I felt like I did when I held Alice all those hours in the last weeks of her life. JUST EXACTLY LIKE IT. And I wondered if she was sending me a sign that she was still there, with me, on my heart.
It’s corny, I know, but I’m going to go with yes, she was there, because the behavior was so unusual for me. I felt her. I did.
I wish to God I could feel her every day.
Elizabeth F. thought I needed a necklace of some sort with Alice’s picture/fingerprint/ashes—something of hers that I could touch, that I could wear on my body. It was a great idea, but I keep forgetting to do it, because though I am better, my mind is still iffy at times.
Sometime that week I began to read the book “Survival of the Soul,” the book that the medium had suggested I read. I had tried, and failed, to get anywhere with an entire stack of grief books, but I sailed through The Survival of the Soul.
Now, this book is pretty damned woo-woo. I would call myself an “open skeptic” when it comes to the world of the woo-woo, and I started the book skeptical, but open to what it might have to say.
I can say that that book helped me more than anything else did in those first three weeks. Well, that book, and the support of family, friends and strangers. But beyond the support, that book was key to my turning away from the downward spiral of guilt.
It described the afterlife, or heaven, for starters, and what souls do once they get there, and a sort of hierarchy that exists in the world of the souls. It all sounded very similar to Biblical accounts, and even accounts from other religions. There are various levels where healing take place. The “worse” you were here on Earth, the more healing you needed. Alice was two, was a happy little gal, and had never done wrong to any living soul, so I felt comforted that she probably was enjoying a relaxed afterlife.
The book also describes what happens when the soul leaves the body. Apparently, there is no pain. Even in traumatic deaths, the soul apparently leaves the body before the body can register any pain. This helped me tremendously, because I was haunted by the fact that Alice may have suffered, while I lay sleeping in the other room. The coroner said she had not suffered, but the coroner could not determine how she died, so that opinion was of little comfort. The medium might be making stuff up, sure, but hey, I felt better immediately upon reading her account of what happens when the soul leaves the body. And I say, when you lose your kid, any safe port in a storm, people.
The thing that turned me around the most, however, was a discussion of “soul contracts.” According to the author, as well as other mediums and religious mystics, we all “sign” a contract of sorts, before we come on down to Earth. The contract includes what lessons we would like to learn while we are here, what work we would like to do for our souls (and the soul of others), and how long we will be here on Earth. Some mystics and mediums feel that we have more than one point at which we can exit, and this is where free will comes into play. Others think there is just one exit point, pre-determined before we ever enter our tiny bodies here on Earth.
In any event, according to this book, Alice apparently had a two-year contract. She died only 11 days after her second birthday, after all. And the day after her birthday, just before her big party at the house, she slept so long, I was nervous when I went to go get her up; a fact that haunted me once she died a few days later. Alice, if you can hear me, thank you for not dying right before your birthday party. That would have been horrendous. It was horrendous anyway, but that definitely would have been worse. Your sister would have been home, for starters. So if you did that for me, for us, thank you, sweetheart.
If Alice wasn’t going to be here for more than two years no matter what I did or did not do, I could not really blame myself, could I? If she was only going to be here for two years, thank God she died such a peaceful, noble death. She died like a little monk. In her sleep. Peaceful. With a hint of a smile on her lips. If we have to go, is this not the way to do it? Is this not the way we would all like to go, when it is our time?
Now, I realize that this could all be complete and utter bullshit, I do. But, when I read the part about the soul contracts, I felt a complete and total shift in my mind. I felt like a weight had been lifted off of me. I felt the guilt dissipate like a slow leak in a tire. I won’t say the guilt was gone completely yet at this point, but it was no longer debilitating, and it no longer consumed my every waking thought, and I no longer wondered how I could possibly go on living for possibly decades more, with that hideous sinking feeling of guilt. It was the true beginning of my turnaround. It was the true beginning of my new life without Alice. And even if the contents of that book are bullshit, if a 10 dollar e-book can do all of that for a person, then, by God, that is well worth 10 dollars of woo-woo.
Thus began my comeback.
# # #
I have always loved two-year-olds. It has always been my favorite age. Even as a little girl, I loved two-year-olds. They are just so damned cute, and their proportions are all crazy– all giant head and huge eyes and wobbly legs. Their ability to get their point across with so few words has always amazed me. The acquisition of language I find just utterly fascinating. I just want to scoop them all up and take them home.
It occurred to me that Alice would forever be my favorite age. This thought was both sickening, and comforting. Losing a child apparently comes with the ability to feel incongruous feelings simultaneously. In any event, she will always be two, in the way we record time here on Earth anyway. My sweet girl will always be two.
I assumed I would spend a lot of time, in the months ahead, wondering what Alice would be doing if she were here. What new words she would say, what new milestones she would hit, etc. But I don’t, really. The only time I find myself doing that is when I see her friend Aria, who was only four weeks younger than Alice, so they were in very similar places developmentally.
In the early days, I would get a sinking feeling in my stomach and heart when I saw Aria. Not Aria’s fault, mind you, it was just that she, more than anyone else, brought to mind what I was missing with my daughter. You see, Alice and Aria were the age where kids can be completely different in like, two weeks. And this was evident in Aria. I could see she had new words, new likes and dislikes, only two and a half weeks later. This gutted me at the time. Again–not Aria’s fault. But hard nonetheless.
Mostly, however, I remember Alice as she was. Is this good or bad? I have no idea. It just is. And she was just two. She will never be two years and two weeks old. She will never be three. She will never be 44. She will never be 102.
Two, well, two is all I have to go on.
I was turning a bend, but she was still two. And this is one of the worst things I have ever felt in my life. The realization that your life is marching forward, that you are improving, but that your child will forever be in the past, is the single most distressing feeling I have ever felt. I can see why people stay in bed, do drugs, or otherwise derail their lives after such a tragedy. The guilt of moving on, which one must do, is so overwhelming, that it feels like it could ruin you. You feel like you are betraying your child by NOT locking yourself in the past.s
I knew I needed to figure out how to move on, without allowing guilt to ruin me. I was getting there, but it was going to be tricky, I knew. Thank God I had another child that needed me here, a child that needed to see me heal. She was aptly named, my Grace.