Most days, I'm indistinguishable from any first-time mom winging her way through toddlerhood. I sing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and make my fingers and thumbs dance up before the rain comes down to wassssshhhhh the spider out. I sidestep the food storage containers she's pulled out onto the kitchen floor, and put toys and books back neatly on their shelves at day's end, knowing full well they will be spread out all over the floor in a chaotic tumble again tomorrow. I blow bubbles just to watch her face light up. I clap when she toddles twenty steps. I scrub dishes and fold laundry and wonder what I will make for dinner tonight.
It is these and a thousand other tiny instances of dailyness that keep me focused on what's right in front of me.
I keep tabs on friends who had babies right around the time I had Ewan. In Austen, I have a picture of what might have been 16 months ago, but with these friends, I am able to look and say, "So that's what a two-and-a-half year old boy is like," and imagine Ewan doing those things, too: hula-hooping, scooting trucks across the kitchen counter, making colorful works of art that I would display on the fridge.
Most of the time, the speculation into the Might-Have-Been doesn't ruin me, but sometimes it puts me back at what feels like the beginning of grief. I listened to this song last night, written by a 16-year-old who lost his best friend to a heart defect when she was just 9 years old. I was lying on the couch while the tears slid across my nose, down my cheeks, and splashed onto the cushions.
There, someone else wondered and was singing about what might have been. Someone else got sucker-punched with the knowledge of life's fragility, who knew that he'd never stop wondering. Someone else who holds an impossible ache that serves as a reminder to love deeply and well and now. Someone else who, I'm guessing, understands all too well that grief is a journey without a finish line, a hole with no bottom.
And then I was in bed, curled up around a pillow, begging God for my baby back. Hurting and aching like we put him in the ground yesterday. As long as he's gone, these moments will come. I know this, I know this. And still they surprise me when they come and suck all the air out of my lungs.
As long as he's gone, I can't stop wondering, or wanting him here.
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And speaking of songs ...
Plumb's "I Want You Here" (from the recently released album "Need You Now") was inspired in part by our grief journey after losing Ewan, as well as the journeys of others who were forced to say goodbye to their little ones far too soon. I advise keeping a box of tissue ready.