In April, not long after we told Rebecca we couldn’t find the special medicine, I heard her crying in her bedroom. I went in to find her with her brother Joshua and Kat. She was sobbing, huddled in Kat’s arms.
“Rebecca says she wants Joshua to have her Cinderella’s Castle alarm clock forever and ever,” Kat told me through her own tears.
This is the clock that, for a while, is how Rebecca got to sleep, listening to the two stories it could play, one after the other, until she drifted off. She loved to watch the tiny figures of Cinderella and Prince Charming twirl about as cheery music played and the towers lit up with slowly shifting colors.
Our five-year-old daughter, a fan of all princesses but of Cinderella above all others, willing her treasured clock to her little brother.
I cannot ever describe the emotion that pierced me in that moment.
A few days ago, Joshua added a new component to his bedtime routine. We didn’t prompt him; he just did it of his own accord, and continues to do it. Just before it’s time to read stories, he goes over to the clock Rebecca gave him, sitting there on his dresser as it has since that day in April, and starts the music. Looking at the spinning figurines within, he says in a clear, slightly wistful voice, “Good night, Rebecca. I love you, Rebecca. I miss you, Rebecca.”
I cannot ever describe the emotion that pierces me in those moments.
But I can say that it has helped me start to pierce the numbness I described earlier.
Of course it brings tears to my eyes when he wishes Rebecca good night. The first time I saw him do it, I almost completely broke down, only containing myself for fear of scaring him or making him think he should stop. I don’t want him to stop until he moves beyond it naturally.
What that pure moment of love made me realize, to my horror, is that I had stopped saying those things. I had stopped saying I loved her and missed her, because she was gone and there was no point. But there was a point, all along, and I (perhaps understandably) overlooked it in my grief. The point is that I can still hear those words, and in hearing them, feel what they mean and what we have lost.
So every so often, when I have a few moments alone or with Kat, I say the words: I love you, Rebecca. I miss you, Rebecca.
It isn’t enough to think them (or type them, for that matter). I speak them, in a whisper or a normal tone or whatever voice seems right. It becomes a miniature elegy. A way of slowly, slowly, slowly coming to terms with her death. Saying the words brings tears, sometimes just a few, sometimes a few minutes of them. Each tear brings me a tiny step closer to acceptance.
I know it will take a long time, but this small ritual, taught to me by my three-year-old son, keeps me on the path.
I love you, Rebecca. I miss you, Rebecca.