“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”
It’s hard to understand just how true that statement is until you’ve outlived your child. Sure, I would have always considered Addy my baby even if she had lived to be 20, but when your child dies at 2 all you have are memories of your baby. You don’t have childhood memories, you don’t have teenage memories, you don’t have all the memories that you’re supposed to when you outlive your child. She’s forever my baby.
Some nights I stay up all night trying to remember things. I’ll get stuck on a detail like “what bow did she wear when we were at the zoo?” or “how much did she weigh at her last checkup?” When your baby is gone all you have are the memories and you cling to every detail in them. That’s also what often brings on the panic attacks, when I can’t remember something about her. I want so badly to hold on to every moment we had together but as the days pass by the vividness of the memories fade. My husband and I were talking about Addy last night and how her smell is the first thing that has gone from our memory. I can’t tell you what she smelled like anymore. It was most likely vomit (she vomited pretty much every day) and her body wash/shampoo, but I don’t know that I could pick it out if I smelled it again.
It’s hard to accept that memories fade. I found the little bag with the locket of hair they cut off right after she died at the hospital. I was so happy I came across it and thought “I get to smell my baby again!” But when I opened it there was no smell, not even the slightest scent of anything. That ended my productivity for the day. I can’t even tell you how many times she fell asleep on my chest or right beside me in bed and I would just breathe in her smell; but now it’s gone. It makes me wonder what will go next. Will I forget how she would make it so difficult to hold her on your hip by leaning backwards, will I forget her snorting that she mastered by making her cleft uvula flap together, will it be her laugh, the way her kisses felt, or her soft yet bumpy skin? I know more things will fade. “Grief brain” is a real thing. It takes more effort than ever before to get my words in the correct order when I speak and sometimes after I’ve said something I have to think through whether I said it correctly or not. My baby took a piece of my heart with her when she left, but I think as one last joke she took a piece of my brain too. She always loved teasing us so I wouldn’t expect any less (not really…I don’t actually believe she has any supernatural powers).
When certain details of a memory fades away I try to think about what she’s doing right now instead. So many things come to mind. She’s walking and running! She’s dancing and singing! She’s swinging on the tallest swing set ever! She’s praising God and doesn’t feel any pain or have to struggle to do what comes easy for most. The most recent one that popped in my mind…maybe she’s up there naked. I always picture her clothed but who’s to say she’s wearing clothes? She would actually prefer to be naked, and that’s how God brought people into the world, so maybe they are in their completely natural state in heaven. I don’t know for sure what she’s doing in heaven and my imagination most likely doesn’t even come close to touching the magnificence she’s experiencing. I do know she got to touch the nail pierced hands that gave me a reason to hope. While my pain and grief will last until I see her again I won’t allow it to consume me. I’ve learned to live with it; I now know how to breathe with a piece of me missing. I have found joy in my sorrow, which I never thought would be possible.
There may be pain in the night but joy comes in the morning.