My nose had been buried in my book. I hadn’t paid much attention to the passengers I was surrounded by. Mostly, I kept to myself on this 2-hour plane ride. Occasionally I would glance over at Chris, watching his eyes as they quickly scanned each page of his book. I momentarily looked up from page 165 only to be struck with the sight of two dangling feet, each covered by strawberries…I followed those feet up and caught eyes with Emma. A beautiful, bouncing baby girl full of smiles and squeals as her daddy walked her up and down the aisle. This strawberry-footed onesie was one of the first outfits that little Audrey wore. Although hers was preemie size and belonged to the hospital. I’ll never forget how her tiny feet didn’t quite take up the whole strawberry. Or how beautiful it was to see her in actual clothes.
My eyes filled with tears, I was determined not to let one drop. I held completely still, refusing to breathe as if that would dry up each tear, one by one.
My valiant efforts failed. A drop escaped. It rolled down my cheek and did an apparent swan dive right in the center of my book and I watched as the salty tear soaked through the page. Then I saw the words where that dreadful tear fell…“I often ached.”
I could not run. I could not hide. I drew in several deep, meaningful breaths and gazed longingly upon her sparkly blue eyes, her milky white skin and her delicate hands. Little Emma, perfect and lovely as could be, was born on Audrey’s original due date. I couldn’t help but smile a little half smirk at the irony.
It occurred to me that even at 39,000 feet, surrounded by 200 strangers, you can’t escape heartache or desolation. It happens whether or not you want it to, it finds you wherever you are. Ready or not. I must accept the things I cannot change.
Tonight, our little family made the familiar drive to Children’s Hospital for a sweet little service honoring those children spending Christmas in Heaven. We were asked to bring an ornament to hang on the Memory Tree. The entire time, I heard Christmas Canon in my head, playing over and over and over. Hearing my favorite Canon in D and the precious voices of the tiny humans singing like angels. This year, the song sounds different. I don’t just hear it…I feel it. I pray that Audrey’s first Christmas in Heaven feels to her just like this song sounds to me.
Cooper’s tender hands held the ornament close until it was time to hang it on the tree. It has been ready and hanging in our home for a couple of weeks, waiting for the time to make it’s debut on the Children’s Hospital Memory Tree. And just when he went to hang it, I felt a slight twinge. Something hurt for a moment. I realized that like her, I wouldn’t see this ornament again. We made it just for this purpose, yet something in me didn’t want to leave it behind.
I didn’t want to leave the hospital. I wanted a reason to stay. I miss the hope of being there. Driving away only reminds me of leaving her behind on August 16th. As dark and twisted as it sounds, I could spend hours or days just “being” at that hospital. It is where I feel closest to her. But we did leave. We returned to our home as a family of three. I looked at the place where the ornament once was. I let myself feel the sting of yet another “empty” spot in our home, but only for a moment. I shook it off and praised God for having a baby to miss. For giving us the gift of knowing her.
This week, a new friend encouraged me to spend less time looking back, wishing for what once was. Instead, she hopes I will hop on that moving walkway, allowing it to move my body in a forward motion, my mind and emotions advancing with it. She challenged me to see how long and how far I can carry Audrey’s story. A challenge to avoid swimming against the current of time, instead to move with it as a vessel for her story just as I was for her wee body. Challenge accepted, my friend. I must get off the treadmill on which I’ve been pretending to move forward, but really I’m going nowhere.
I can’t promise that I won’t look over my shoulder from time to time, but the beauty of that moving walkway is that it keeps going. I may pause. I may sit. I may even fall down, weak and broken. But each time, by the good grace of God, I will reach up in His direction and His loving hands will guide mine to find those handrails, to pull myself up and stand once again. I will move. Forward. I must.
Love & Hugs, R