Five years ago today Madeline died. I remember driving Mike and me home from the hospital. I remember his boss calling him on his cell phone. I could hear her sobbing over the noise of the cars around us.
The worst things are seared into my memory. The IVs, the sounds, her unnatural weight. The way her eyes looked. The smells can still knock me out. A particular soapy scent hit my senses last week and I almost passed out. The good things fade. I don’t remember certain little details about my other two children, but new memories of them are taking the place of old ones.
I get emails and letters from parents every day, new parents in the bereavement club. I want to tell them that it gets better. That the pain goes away. But sometimes I feel like only the shock goes away. The pain is still there. It still hurts so much. Sometimes I think the only thing that changes is you learn you won’t literally die from the pain. I used to wake up surprised the pain didn’t kill me while I slept.
On April 7th, I want to be thankful for the time I had, for the love we shared, but the last few years have found me angry about everything she’s missed. I still can’t believe this happened to her. It makes me sick when I realize she’s been gone three-and-a-half times longer than she was here.
I just want her to be alive again. I want to look to my left and see a six-year-old with missing teeth. I want to know if she’d have preferred to be called Maddie or Madeline. I want her to think I’m annoying and nosy and strict. I want her to be learning and having amazing experiences in kindergarten. I don’t want her to be in an urn.
I’m so tired of missing her. I’m so tired of the pain. I’m afraid of the day it might not hurt as much – what a betrayal. I want the anger to go away, but I’m afraid of what might replace it.
It’s been five years but sometimes it feels like five minutes. Sometimes I feel as grief-stricken as I did in those early days, but without the gentle buffer of shock. I want to scream but I won’t. Instead I’ll kiss her sleeping siblings and climb into bed. I’ll squeeze my eyes shut and imagine that she’s holding my hand, leading me through. As scary as it will be, I’ll do what I can to let go of some of the anger.
I miss her and love her with every ounce in me, and I know she loved me, too…and I’ll never stop wishing things were different.