She was so small. I think my brain keeps seeing her as what she should be… as an 8 year old girl with weird teeth and long lanky arms… running around starting to be more independent and maybe I might have allowed her to have a sleepover by now (she would be in 3rd grade you see…). I think I see her that way until I see something that was hers in Kindergarten or her handprint next to Amelia’s now hand… it is crazy how little she was.
The other day I went up to the closet to grab Madeline’s First Communion Dress. I hadn’t pulled it out in a long time. Madeline made her First Communion in the days after her diagnosis, way earlier than her friends. Traditionally Catholic children choose to make their First Communion in 2nd grade, after a couple years of church school and prep. We had hours to plan Madeline’s and it was pulled together by some amazing souls. It still blows my mind that they could do it… but I am honored and I get it. Madeline was so little then, partly because she was sick and weak and tired… partly because she was younger than my girls are now. Weirdly, my girls have surpassed their sister in size, school and life. It is one of the hardest and best things for me to see- my girls growing and changing… getting to grow and become themselves. It is bittersweet to know that she isn’t right here getting bigger too, but somehow my brain sees her that way… as an 8 ½ year old, not the 5 ½ year old that headed to heaven.
I looked at her dress and her tiny little sweater with pearls on it. I wished that Amelia and Lucy could wear her dress. I knew they couldn’t, but the other part of me couldn’t believe how little it was. It hurt to see that tiny dress and feel her gone… to remember her tiny weak body. I went downstairs and looked at Meme’s dress… almost twice as big as Madeline’s. Amelia is almost twice as big as Madeline was… craziness. It is only in these moments that my heart and brain understand how little she was and how long it has been.
Life has a funny way of sticking you right where you should be and things that will help you even it freakin’ hurts. My neighbor, Theresa, has babysat the girls for a long time… she is graduating from St Rose and is a grown up. I remember my girls watching her grow from the dining room window… watching her go for walks with friends, eat in her front year, prep for proms… they loved playing with her. They still do. Theresa carries Madeline with her always, she is so young and creative. I love that. I love hearing her memories or when I tell her a story she didn’t know. I love that she shares my Mads with so many. She is part of this legacy and life of different and changed. Back to topic… Theresa asked if she could do her Senior Project around and about Madeline. She wasn’t sure where to start or what to do to share her and stories… Madeline isn’t here to photograph.
So it was a challenge and emotional journey for her. I was honored and proud. I also sat and went through Madeline’s things to find items to photograph and stories to tell. I pulled out outfits, photos, drawings, writing pieces, old toys, books, a doll from the hospital, a piece of her hair from the night she passed and handprints that the amazing nurses did. I couldn’t imagine how she would pull it together. I was very impressed and honored by her show, her display. It was warm and real. I loved her imagination and the truth in it. It wasn’t just about Madeline, but loss and grief and memories. It was creative and balanced. I loved going through items for her. I entrusted her with several priceless things, not replaceable anymore. I trusted her to share her moments of Madeline and mine… and just what it is like to lose someone so young and close and special. It was perfect. These past few months I had opportunities to see and feel those little clothes, the ones that wouldn’t even fit Lucy anymore. To be reminded of how little my Mads was, how little she got to be. I saw her as SO BIG back then, but there was so much she missed in her little.
I don’t often feel all sad and icky, sometimes I don’t even know this is what is bugging me, but on Amelia’s First Communion I saw it the way I wished it for Madeline… wished it for all of my girls. I saw a bit of my heart that left way to soon… I felt her missing. I sat in a pew with a messy family… not at all what I thought I would have ever in my life. I felt such joy, the real stuff, seeing Amelia shine and beam on her special day. I felt such sad, real painful stuff, at the same time. It is really hard to sort and feel all of those emotions at once, but honestly I think it is my forever and my normal now. I think God works in the pain… He reminded me of the tiny and amazing gift he sent for 5 ½ years to love and raise and influence… He reminded me of the 2 chickens I need to keep raising and influencing and loving. He is good like that, lifting you in those moments. He is good about communicating in those moments. He is freakin’ good.
So… at the end of today I sit. I sit in my backyard with a pile of extra dogs, my 2 crazy chicken’s playing together, my laptop and my feet up … and I know I am blessed. I would be nowhere else right now. I love this spot, this very spot. I even love it with no Mads, because I know she is here, she is okay. I would take her back in a nanosecond but it isn’t part of this big and crazy plan, she was meant to be little and change big. In the blink of an eye she will be with me for a super hug. She is so proud of her sisters. I felt it yesterday, I felt her love for Amelia. I know she loves her sisters living, breathing, growing, laughing, changing, loving, growing, carrying, yelling… being the people they were made to be- just like she was. They are the greatest gift God has ever gifted me, for real. I can’t imagine life being different, or having a different set of kids.
So… I am going to sit and hang with these two nutty ladies and watch them play ‘What time is it Mr Fox?’… and let the sun hit my face. I love my spot, my space, my right.where.I.am.supposed.to.be.
Thank you God. Thank you, thank you, thank you… for it all.