One year. It is hard to fathom that an entire year has passed since Maddie was taken from us, but it has. It has been a year of intense pain and misery, and at times I didn’t know if I would even make it this far. But I did. One of the benefits of making it to this day is that I now know the answers to some of the questions I had in the immediate aftermath of Maddie’s death. Questions like: “Would it get better?” “Would I be happy again?” “Would I ever forget the way life felt with Maddie in it?”
The answer to the first question, sadly, is no. It doesn’t get any better. Even after a year I miss Maddie so much I can’t stop the tears from running down my face at the most inopportune times. The only thing that did get better, is the ability to hide my pain. I’ve gotten so good at it that I even recently had someone who doesn’t know about Maddie tell me she thought I was an incredibly happy person. I just smiled when she said this. All she was seeing was the facade. It’s like the Smokey Robinson song: “People say I’m the life of the party because I tell a joke or two…”
As for the question of whether I could ever be happy again, the answer is yes – but only to a degree. The best analogy I can think of is to compare my life to a day at the ballpark to see my favorite baseball team play. I settle into my seat, and for the first couple innings my team is tied with its opponent. Things are good. I enjoy myself. There is hope my team will win. But then, suddenly and without warning, the other team scores eleven runs in the third inning. Now the chances of my team winning are all but infinitesimal. What can I do? The day is all but ruined. If I don’t choose to leave, can enjoyment still be had over the next six innings? I could have a hot dog, I suppose. That might be okay. And I could hope the guys score a run or two, or that someone makes a great play, but that’s it. The bar for what enjoyment can be had now is set way, way lower than it was before that awful inning.
One thing that has shown me happiness is Annabel. She is a beautiful, wonderful baby, but if I am being totally truthful I must admit that I haven’t been able to enjoy her the way I would if her sister was here. Everything is muted. I hope that isn’t always the case, but it is for now.
Where Heather and I are right now is a really weird place. Being at home with a newborn baby, just as we were at this time in 2008, is hard. It makes it feel like the preceding two years were erased. Like they never happened, or don’t count. And when I feel that way, I can’t help but crash. Especially when, after a year without my little girl, I am heartbroken to say I can’t remember things about our life together as clearly as I did on April 8th of last year. The feeling of her in my arms, the softness of her cheeks, these things I can summon, but not as brightly as before. Little memories from our day to day life have slipped away. I look at videos of us together and it almost feels like another life, like watching some other father and daughter deeply in love with each other.
Thankfully, there is one thing I can take solace in on the first anniversary of Maddie’s death. It’s that the feeling of love I have for Maddie, the feeling I felt when I was with her, when I kissed and comforted her, when she looked into my eyes and smiled. That feeling is just as strong as it ever was. Many years in the future, when every memory of our daily life together is finally washed from my memory, I know that I will still be able to close my eyes and bask in the warmth of the love we had. That is the one thing that keeps me going, and I will lean on it today more than ever.
Wherever you are little girl, your daddy loves you so, so, so very much.