It's another season of feeling the intense weight of Harlynn's absence. As we pack up our home and decide what stays with us, stores until we buy another home, or parts with us altogether, I'm tangibly revisiting every stage of our lives from the last eight (and more) years. Anytime I happen to touch anything having to do with Harlynn, I linger on it a little longer. I hold it close. I don't want to pack it into a box, but rather, cuddle up with it on the sofa and douse it with a good cry.
It's been almost 23 months. Just shy of two years. Yet, often even still, I have trouble accepting this is my life.
I have trouble believing that night ever happened. I have trouble believing it's possible for babies to die. I have trouble believing an active baby, who apparently loved church music and chocolate donuts, isn't here to trample her toys. Isn't here to be Anna to Little Miss's Elsa. Isn't here.
A couple of weeks ago, I was having a particularly difficult day with life in general. I was grumpy, I was tired, and I just wanted to take a nap. During lunch Little Miss hesitantly began speaking. "Mama..." I braced myself for a bargaining session on what treat she could have if she finished all her lunch, or for an inquiry on the possibility of skipping nap time that afternoon. Instead, after I curtly answered "What." her thoughts were brought to light. "I'm missing Harlynn today."
Me too, sweetie. Me too.
I have a younger sister. I was so excited when I learned she would, too. The games of school, the imaginative tea parties, the car trips, the clothes sharing, the matching dresses and pigtails... It was going to be as precious as anyone could have hoped for.
Now Little Miss's younger sister rests in a cemetery across town.
Our middle child. Her younger sister. The sister Little Man will never have seen.
The picture taken that fateful day of Brent holding both his daughters is one that tears my heart to shreds. The beauty, for one, mixed with the evident sorrow - I can't quite handle it. So many dreams and hopes left unfulfilled. So many moments cut down to one. One moment. One picture. One.
Packing our home and moving is the beginning of a new chapter. A new adventure. That said, the story hasn't changed; it has only just continued. We don't turn this page and forget about all the pages previous. We don't leave her out of our story. We don't edit her out of our subsequent chapters. She shapes our story. She shapes our whole current purpose. Who we are as parents. As a family. As friends to fellow bereaved.
On what would have been Harlynn's first birthday, I was in the hospital, warding off premature labor with her younger brother. I didn't do any of the things I had planned in order to commemorate that day. This year, I hope to do those and then some. I hope to make a tradition for Little Miss and Little Man to remember Harlynn with us. There might even be cake. I find it important to celebrate her, and to remember the joy and anticipation she provided in our lives in the months leading up to her delivery.
I find it important to remember how Little Miss would sing to her each night at bedtime. How she would pick out stuffed animals and tell us which ones she would share with her baby sister.
I find it important to show that while we continue to grieve and venture this life without her, she isn't a source of pain for us. She never was. Her death has brought intense heartache and emotional turmoil, but her life was and is always a source of joy. Celebration.
It's important to celebrate her.
I suppose that's part of why I'm struggling putting these mementos in a box. Packing these items makes her not being here feel so much darker. I find solace in the fact the packing will only be temporary. Not near as lasting as her absence. I know they'll be among the first of the boxes I unpack once we're moved.
And just as I let the moments and memories linger with each touch of her belongings now, I'll tarry on in unpacking the same treasures after our move.