Every year around your birthday, I write you a letter. But for some reason, the words for this one were harder to find. This letter has found its way back to my drafts folder more than enough times to bring about a mothers guilt. The words should be so easy. Because when it comes to writing about you and telling our story, they have always been there ready and waiting to float to the surface as readily as my love for you.
That is what I do. I write to you. For you. And yet, I’ve found myself staring endlessly at an empty page and questioning why that is. At first I thought it was because we are about to enter yet another year without you. Four years. Four long years of loving you. And missing you. Of needing you more than you could possibly know. Four years of explaining your abscence to strangers and honouring your abscence with loved ones. Four years of waiting for the loss of you to somehow become more bearable – after all, Time (so they say) is a healer.
And yes, facing yet another year without you in it is more than enough reason to be lost for words. But as I watched my eight year old son today, it suddenly dawned on me why my heart feels so much heavier this year.
Because not only are you four. But you are now the exact same age your brother was when we lost you. And that not only brings about a haunting parrallel to where you should be on your life journey right now, but it also acts as a trigger to what four years old in this family has brought with it.
I have three children. One whose world came crashing down at four years old. One who life so sadly wouldn’t let grow up to be four. And one who is one year away herself from turning four.
In this family, being four years old has brought with it alot of tears. I can picture exactly how your brother was at the age you are now. How excited he was to meet you. How he’d just started school. It was a big year for him. For change. And for his grief.
And four years old should have been a big year for you too. The world forgets sometimes that the ‘firsts’ we miss out on don’t end at the hospital or that first year. They carry on for life. This year you would be starting school. I can’t tell you how much it breaks my heart that you won’t be able to do that. I can’t tell you how much it is going to hurt walking past that classroom – your classroom – on what should be your first day. To look at all the children and see the faces of your should-have-been classmates. As your mother, alot of your ‘firsts’ have only played out in my mind; first steps, first words.
But this one isn’t imaginary. It has physical elements acting as a hurtful reminder. Because I know what your school would have looked like. Your uniform. I will stand there in the playground waiting for your brother and look at the Reception Class whilst wondering who your best friend would have been. Because they don’t exist in my mind. Your classmates are real. And it breaks my heart that you won’t be there playing amongst them. Another chance for life to throw me the “look what you could have had” card.
There’s so many days that we won’t have.
But there’s always one day that is ours. For we will always have yesterday. For some, it is four years ago. But to me, it is only yesterday, Because, my darling, that is how far away you always feel.
Hindsight can be both cruel and kind. I look back to our yesterday with the knowledge I now have and I would have changed so many things. Yet at the same time, I constantly remind myself that I am truly grateful for the time that we had. But I would have held you more. The version of myself back then told herself that it would hurt too much to hold you and yet now I crave that one moment so much. I would have taken a photograph of you. I am always thankful to our amazing midwife who captured your image against my own protests, because I could not treasure them more if I tried. But O how I wish my mind had been in a place to pick up my camera and freeze those moments for myself. Not owning a photograph of you and I together or of us as a family breaks my heart more than you could ever know.
I forever feel guilty that you would think I didn’t love you enough to want to remember you. In reality, I loved you too much. So much so that I was scared. And if I could go back and relive every moment, I would fill more photo albums than I could fit on a shelf. But I also know that if I could truly go back, I wouldn’t be able to leave you a second time. I would want to hold you forever.
I can still feel your hand in mine. I can still feel the weight of you in my arms. I can still see your beautiful perfect face as I looked at you. I can still hear my voice as I whispered wake up, baby. Please wake up, for only our ears to hear. I can still remember every silent prayer whispered to the hospital ceiling, everything I was willing to trade with life to be able to take you home. I can still remember how cold you were and no mater how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep you warm. Even to this day, the touch of your siblings cold hands on a Winter’s day is enough of a path to lead me straight back to you.
Yes, you may be four. But sometimes it feels like hardly any time has passed at all. But the cruel reality is that the world is determined to keep moving further away from you. But I refuse to be dragged along with it.
This doesn’t mean I’m “stuck in the past”. Sometimes I wish that people could understand that all we have is the past. All the past gave us was one day together. And if you are only granted one day with your child, then that day becomes one of the most beautiful days in your life – because it is ours. And I will lovingly choose to be in that day whenever I need to be with you my darling, even if it is only in my mind.
And outside of the memories we made, we still live for you, just as we promised we would. I even pushed myself out of my comfort zones this year just like I promised you I would. Your big brother continues to snuggle up to your Ela Bear every night and your little sister is learning more and more about you as she grows. You have become as much as a narrative in her day to day conversations as you have always been in ours. It’s beautiful to know how much you are loved and missed by not only us but by the people who surround us too. I think that goes a long way in showing the world just how much you matter. The ripple you left behind continues to grace the waters of our life and expands and grows with us and alongside us.
And that’s what I want you to know more than anything. That the passing of four years doesn’t take us further away from you. It’s actually brought us closer to you. Because we continue to speak your name proudly. To raise awareness in your honour. To continue to tell the world about you. About us. And in return, you have taught us one of the most valuable lessons . . . .
That death doesn’t extinguish love.
It ignites it.
And I promise you with everything I have that my love for you will shine forever.
I love you, Evalyn,