Today started with hot, fat tears.
I had meant to send a note of appreciation to the social worker who was such a pivotal part of our experience with Hudson at Sacred Heart. I accidentally stumbled upon an online gallery of photos taken of Hudson on the night that she died.
Seeing that beautiful face, through the lens of our experience now, was bittersweet and heartache-inducing.
Anson, Maddox, and Marlowe are there. Maddox’s determined brow. Marlowe’s ridiculous lashes. Anson’s little butt-chin.
They’ll never know their big sister, not in this lifetime. But they’ll know a life with truly joyful parents.
Losing a child is a disaster. A life-wrecking event. Unrecoverable.
We have joy.
We find it.
We create it.
It’s in Anson’s frantic, kinetic dance moves. It’s in his breathless laugh when he’s wrestling Daddy. It’s in his pensive expression when he needs an extra snuggle. The way he helps out willingly with “keeping Marlowe entertained.” “Who’s the best baby in the whole wide world? YOU ARE!”
It’s in the silly facial expressions Maddox makes when she’s talking about bird poop. The way she requests “Spicy Man” soap during bathtime (that’s Old Spice). Her exuberant “I love you in the whole wide world!” (no, I’m not accidentally leaving out words there)
And it’s in the weight I savor as I lift Marlowe out of her crib. The softness of her baby skin and the way she throws her head back into me when I pretend to chew on her ears, the gooey smiles she’ll give you in return for a high pitched, overly-expressive hello.
I don’t get to hold Hudson’s hand, braid her hair, take her to her first day of the 2nd grade, teach her to ride a bike, listen, work hard, or project from the diaphragm. These aren’t privileges I get in this life.
But I had her for three days, and she changed the way that I’ve looked at life these last seven years.
We’ve started a new tradition of bringing a Mylar balloon to Hudson’s stone at Veterans Memorial Golf Course on her birthday. Each of the “big kids” gets to pick one out. This year, Maddox chose (or perhaps, I chose for her…) a large unicorn balloon. Anson chose a butterfly.
Unfortunately, the unicorn untethered from its string and floated into the sky while we were loading the kids back into the car to head to Hudson’s stone. We tried to make the most of a bad situation, encouraging Maddox to look out the window and spot the balloon as it floated up to heaven.
Maddox moaned and cried, exclaiming “It’s my fault.” Her brother comforted her by saying, “Maddox, it’s okay. That balloon was for Hudson, and now she has it.”
When we arrived at Hudson’s stone, Maddox eagerly “planted” the roses we’d brought out and then asked if she could water them. Then, she asked, “Why don’t I see Hudson?”
“Because Hudson died, sweetie. We won’t get to see her in this life.”
It’s around this age that Anson started to understand death, too.
But at bedtime, Maddox requested that I sing “Happy Home” and that I include Hudson in the song. “With Hudson in the family, happy happy home…”
“Hudson’s mybig, big sister!” Maddox said, trying to keep her heavy eyelids open.
“Yes, my darling, she is.”
“I love her in the whole wide world.”
And that about sums up my feelings about her, too.
Though the day started with tears, it ends with a heart full of joy. What gifts we have, when we choose to see them. What joy we can create, when we are mindful about creating it. And what a life we can build out of the ashes of tragedy, when we see how much life can be lived in just three short days.