One month ago today, just thirty days past, Kat and I held our daughter as she took her last breaths.
I still have trouble accepting this. We both still have trouble.
Kat says that she often feels like none of this is really happening, that she’s stuck in a nightmare about Rebecca, who is alive and fine and never had cancer. Sometimes she thinks that Rebecca’s just spending the day with a friend, and we’ll see her for dinner. She knows this is untrue, but that knowledge doesn’t change the feeling.
I have the opposite problem. Sometimes I feel like she never really existed, that we’ve only ever had two children and I just had an involved dream about a little girl who lived between our daughter and son. As if she were a sprite who let us see what our lives would have been like with three children instead of two, and then vanished with the sunrise. Sometimes I expect to look at the family photos on the living room wall and not see her in them.
But of course she was real. Imprints of her life are built into the very structure of our lives. The expansion of the house itself, undertaken to accommodate the three children we realized we wanted instead of the two we always thought we’d have. Five coat cubbies in the back hallway, instead of four. Five bar stools at the kitchen island. The bedroom adorned with castles and clouds and rainbows and fancy princess dresses, a pink painted sky above purple painted hills, a purple fairy canopy over the bed and a cross-stiched birth announcement on the wall, the bedroom where she died, its door now an unadorned white and almost always closed, at least for a while.
A lot of the grief I have yet to really deal with is bound up in her last day, her sixth birthday. I remember so many things about that day that I wish I could erase, and those are the things I need to deal with. There are three things in particular that are particularly painful, most of all the moments her body gave out and she physically died. Twice. Even though she was gone well before either of those moments, they are still, to me, the moments of her death, and I still can’t shake that impression.
The other two things I’m not ready to allude to, let alone describe, even to myself. I’ll know I’ve made some progress when I’m ready to write a chronicle of that day. I may never show it to anyone but me, but I have to write it, have to create a structure where I can store some of my sorrow and receive some measure of peace.
Some day. Not today.
Today it’s been a month since she died. One month. Measured by the weight of my grief, it feels like it’s been a lifetime or more; but measured by the progress I’ve made in dealing with my grief, it feels like it’s been no time at all.