I remember the first Valentine’s day without her, it as the day after her funeral. It felt like a blow to the heart… to be here without her while she should have been delivering her homemade Valentine’s. All of the sudden Madeline was gone and the world not only kept on moving, it kept on delivering Valentine’s. I was overwhelmed- Madeline was gone but my garage was filled with boxes of Valentine’s and gifts. There were bags the hospital sent home with us and gifts from her First Communion. It was so overwhelming…
I started to go through all of those kind gifts- a process which took weeks of sorting and donating. All the while trying to restore order in a world now piled with chaos and pain. There is little I remember about those weeks. I do remember searching and searching. I know now I was searching for a ‘new normal’. I was searching all of the time for the elusive and nonexistent normal… the ‘once was’… the life before.
Madeline was in the hospital for only one day. That day as we met with Doctors so they could remind us over and over of the terminal tumor our daughter had. We spoke of palliative care, living now so we could be sad later… we were in shock. While we met with Doctors and cried in tiny closed in offices, Madeline was cared for by an amazing staff of nurses and child life specialists. They kept her company, let her be a kid while we absorbed information and pain. I remember the child life specialist decorating a little doll with Madeline, with an IV she got to use a syringe to put water into. The doll has a little mask and hospital gown. It was a way to help children understand procedures and explain pains. I remember sitting with her as she ‘doctored’ her doll. Later that day we packed up our things and drove to Target to pick up her meds. I didn’t really think of the things we packed up until the day I set time to look though and sort. I found a book on grief, hearts cut out to be a garland, a few books and her doll in her hospital gown with her marker drawn smile.
That was February 14, 2012. I thought about how stupid it was that everyone else was enjoying and celebrating love and togetherness. I was trying to pretend for Amelia and Lucy that it was a fun day of candy and smiles. They might have believed me, I don’t remember. I was feeling overwhelmed with the chaos and the missing… and then I read the decorated hospital gown. I hadn’t even really looked at it before that moment. Right there, next to the fake IV Madeline placed and the bandages she wrapped was “I ❤ you Happy Valintiens day you”. She left me a Valentine.
I always know Madeline loved me, she loved big and well. I always know she is with me. There are times though that it is different- it is a little message from her. I do believe she and others communicate messages in many ways. I also know that we have to be open to see them, and to love them for what they are. I could have chalked that doll up to coincidence, but as you probably know I do not for one second believe in coincidence. I am constantly in awe of the tapestry God weaves that is my life… I always imagine it to be very colorful and perfectly woven for me. I don’t often understand the pattern or colors of a time- but I imagine that when I stand at the end of my time here on Earth I will see the most unique and beautiful tapestry- just as Madeline did. The amazing part is seeing how her tapestry keeps weaving… how she brings herself along.
Madeline is my most unique and priceless Valentine… she always will be. I am forever in awe of how she was preparing us for this world without her… and I am grateful for the little gifts she sends.
Happy Valentine’s Day may you be full of togetherness with the ones that matter.
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