Those who don't know, I lost a daughter. Today's BlogHer writing prompt compelled me to pull out the little dress Lauren wore when they brought her to the my hospital room after delivery. Whenever I calculate the time, I am shocked. Even though the pain and grief has lost its grip, the memories do not at all feel distant and they certainly don't feel 10 years worth of distant.
Unlike many people who have lost loved ones, I see Lauren everyday in the flesh as I watch my other daughter grow. They were identical down to the moles on their cheeks, inherited from your truly. So I see the brightness of her smile and hear the heartiness of her giggle. I know the clothes and shoes that would fill her closet and even know the names of what would have been her teachers and peers. But that is where my sight ends. I can only guess at her fashion sense, or what would make her laugh and who would she would call friend. These thoughts aren't at the front of the line. So to speak.
Gone are the days when I simultaneously celebrated Noelle and grieved for Lauren. Noelle has her own orbit. What's hers is hers.
The BlogHer assignment was to open a storage box and take a photo of one item and write about it. Immediately, Lauren's stuff came to mind. I sometimes worry about coming off as a sad sack, so I tried to pick something else. For about two minutes I considered things that belonged to my other kids. Like Noelle's tiny preemie diaper that had to be folded down three times at the waist or Jon-Jon's first piece of art, a paper fried egg so cute I thought he was an artistic genius. Lastly I considered Q's bubbly sonogram picture that when his brother showed it to him, he melted into a pool of sobs and tearfully asked, "Mama! Why did you do that? Why did you eat me!?" But I pulled out the dress Lauren was wearing when they gave her to me in the hospital.
I never closely examined her dress before this morning. I couldn't see past the tiny blood stains. In fact, today may mark the 3rd time I have intentionally pulled this dress out in 9 1/2 years. Today I noticed that the fleur de lise embroidered on the bodice is actually pale green and white. I always thought it was blue. For the first time ever I saw the "Threads of Love" label stitched right onto the front bottom seam. Even though the dress is made of an inexpensive cotton/poly blend, is obviously made with care. I imagine a blue haired grand-mom in a floral sewing smock, zinging away on her sewing machine, just so I wouldn't have to freak over what to dress my deceased baby girl in.
I keep the dress unceremoniously in a zip lock bag, along with a creamy beige seashell, a mini pink afghan, a "you lost a baby" poem and Lauren's photograph. Everything was given to me in the hospital in that ziplock bag. The poem and photograph face each other so I don't have to face the dark and unflattering photograph of my baby lovingly (but badly) taken by the nurse on duty. That photograph is the one and only thing that I avoid at all costs. So it stays turned away and hidden in the folds of the tiny pink baby blanket.
I reject all this "get over it" crap. How do you ever get over the loss of someone you deeply love? They become all stirred up in our life like cream in coffee.
You get over the flu. Not the death of someone you love.
There is no removing, erasing or even separating what those you love added to your life.
Thoughts of my dad are never far from the surface and he died so long ago I lost count of the years. I keep his hairbrush. Not out of sentiment or as a memorial, but because it is a hair brush worth having. Those boar bristles that so efficiently slicked back his curls over 30 years ago still smooth my daughter's beautifully rebellious hair on an almost daily basis. He is still a part of my everyday.
Lauren is never too far away from my thoughts. There are times when she is more present than usual. Last week when I was justifying a middle aged-brain fart at my Drs. appointment, I laughingly blurted out to the nurse, "You have to excuse me I have 4 kids!" It was the first time in a very long time I forgot to subtract Lauren from the equation.
Everyday I tell stories about my kids. Whether I am writing, sharing with friends over tequila shots, or giving the family run-down to my sister or mom. I have a 14 years worth of stories for 3 children to choose - but with Lauren there is only one. It's a sad story but I am fine with it. Today it was her turn.