I haven't written much this summer. I've tried, drafting countless posts in my head, searching for the words to capture this season. But the ones that come don't feel right. I am not myself, or at least the self that I used to be, but I don't yet know what I am becoming.
I am shaken, and I feel myself pulling back, turning inward, waiting for my feet to find solid ground again before I emerge. I find it difficult to be part of joyful celebrations, even normal, everyday conversations, not primarily because I am envious of others and their happiness, but because it feels to me like they inhabit a world I am no longer part of, a world I may never enter again.
Who am I now? What does it mean to be a mother of two daughters here, two gone? How do I integrate my grief with a life that is in so many ways blessed? I do not know.
I read beautiful posts on grief here and here, and I catch glimpses of the answer. But my own thoughts are less clear. I have written a book about miscarriage and stillbirth, but I find myself without much to say. And so I wait. For Jesus. For healing. For words.
* * * * *
I've thought about her every day this summer. I've felt her absence on the days I'd imagined her with us: our annual beach trip in honor of Avaleen, our family vacation to North Carolina, so many lazy summer afternoons.
And I've longed for her too on the days that wouldn't have been possible if she were here: the beach and pool trips I couldn't have managed with three littles, the weekday trip to the DC Zoo, the anniversary getaway CJ and I enjoyed in Chicago.
* * * * *
We all miss her.
When we walk past the shopping carts at the grocery store, my two year-old points to the one with an infant seat attached. "If Lily was alive," she asks, "she would ride there?"
"Yes," I say.
"How old would Lily be now?" her sister wants to know.
It takes me a moment to calculate the answer: "Three months."
It feels like so much longer because it has been. Seven months without her.
Later, at bedtime, my older daughter returns to our conversation. "So Lily would be half of a half of a year old?" she asks.
"Yes," I smile, impressed at her mathematical reasoning. "That's called a quarter."
She's part of our days, our Lily. We carry her with us in the form of a Bitty Baby and a stuffed raccoon, both named in her honor, and we carry her with us in our thoughts, our conversations, our hearts.
* * * * *
This afternoon, I spend a few hours teaching my five year-old to swim, the toddler floating happily beside us in her puddle jumper. At the beginning of the summer, they'd both insisted on floaties, but the oldest refuses them now, jumping from the pool's edge, stretching her arms toward me, chin up, kicking, reaching. For the first time, she swims a few independent strokes, a smile filling her face when I pull her out of the water, sputtering. I kiss the top of her head, so proud, so happy. But I think too of Lily, of this moment that should not have been, of my arms both full and empty,