Dear Maddie,

So here I am…three years after I last held you. Three years. It’s mind-blowing. You’ve been gone for more than twice as long as you were here.

Georgie and Meghan, your two buddies, are both fun, wonderful four year olds now. When I see them, I like to pretend I know what you’d be like. But really…I don’t know. Kids change so quickly, likes and dislikes are picked up and dropped daily. You’re never going to get a chance to form opinions, or have favorite things. Every day I realize new things you were robbed of.

The other day I wrote about my fear of forgetting you. I didn’t do a great job of articulating myself – I know I will never forget you. But I am forgetting the things that made you uniquely you. The way your breath felt on my skin, the weight of your body in my arms, your scent, the way your legs clung to my hip. These are things I can’t hold onto forever, no matter how hard I am trying. A picture or video can’t ever duplicate you in my arms. I’m never going to have that again, and my memory is failing me.

Your little sister is really obsessed with you right now. She asks to see your pictures and watch your videos constantly. It’s as if somehow she sensed that this week was significant, and she wanted to feel you. She wants to know you, in her special two-year-old way. She is endlessly entertained by you, and even imitates you in her favorite videos.

I have to tell you something, something I’ve carried with me since April 6th of 2009, something I’ve only told a few people.  The day you arrived in the ER, there was someone wailing behind a curtain. I don’t know if the person he/she was there to see had passed away or what. But her wailing struck me in a way it never had before – I’d heard wailing like this in our NICU days, and it always left me sad. But this made me uneasy, and I was never able to shake the feeling. That was the first time EVER that I even considered something bad might happen to you. I’d always been afraid something bad might happen, but I naively assumed you’d always pull through. And then that night in the PICU I was so scared. I feel like part of me sort of knew, the whole time, that this was different. Even when I thought you were getting better, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling. And I have so much doubt, and guilt, because what if it was my instincts telling me something, and I didn’t tell the doctors? I am so scared I failed you, Maddie. What if I did? Please, please forgive me.

Here I am, on the eve of another April 7th. Three years ago was the last night I held you close, sang you to sleep, kissed your warm lips. If I had known it would be the last night, I would have stayed awake all night, breathing you in. I feel like I should be better at this grief thing by now, but it seems to hurt more every year. I wish I knew what to write to make it different. I wish I knew what to say to bring you back. I know my love and tears would bring you back, if only they could.

I love you forever, Madeline Alice, my sweet girl. Please come see me in my dreams.

Love, Mommy

Maddie Ballerina and Mommy