This past Monday, I was sitting at my desk at school during my planning period when this adorable little 3rd grader came walking into my room with a big tray of cupcakes. She smiled and said, "Hey Mrs. Tomes, do you want a cupcake? My birthday was yesterday!! I'm already 9...I'm almost to double digits!!" I smiled and told her Happy Birthday and that I couldn't believe she was already 9!! I picked the cupcake with the most icing (because that's the best part) and gave her a hug as she left my room! She walked out, I shut my door, and I began to weep.
She was born exactly one week before London. As I listened to her excitement for her 9th birthday, my heart ached as I imagined hearing London's voice with the same excitement. I would love nothing more than to bring cupcakes to London's class for her birthday...to listen to her Daddy tease her about getting too old, and to plan her birthday party. Gosh, when I was 9, I had sleepovers and loved make-up and my mom's high heels. I loved jumping on my Papaw's hay bales in the field and playing in my tree house and eating apples from the apple tree in the back yard. Life was so good when I was 9! Oh, and I had a mullet when I was 9! I promise London would NOT have a mullet if she were here! :) Anyway, as these thoughts filled my mind, I just couldn't hold back the tears.
This is the 9th year that we have celebrated the life and death of our daughter. It never gets easy. With every year that passes, it's another 365 days that I miss. I have lived nearly 3,300 days without my daughter, and it isn't easy. There are always triggers in daily life that remind me that I have lost a child. I see or hear things on a daily basis that tug at my heart & my emotions. With time, I've learned to bite my lip on most occasions and move forward. However, there are still times when the hurt is too deep and when "being strong" isn't enough. There's times when kind, but oblivious, people will say, "You all need a girl with these boys!" I usually spare them the embarrassment of me replying with, "We do have a girl, and she would be 9 right now. She died when she was 2 days old because of a major heart defect. Believe me, I would give my life to have my girl with me right now." However, instead of that, I usually just reply with a silent nod and move on.
Moving on... it sounds like that's just what we should do, right? I mean, it's been 9 years already! Get it together, Ashlee! Sometimes I feel that way, too. I feel like I should have this grief thing figured out and under control. However, time & time again, I am harshly reminded that grief cannot be controlled or figured out. It comes in waves...even 9 years later. And sometimes those waves are strong enough to knock me down and keep me under, fighting for air.
This week is one of those weeks. The waves of grief are strong. Memories are so fresh, and all of the "what ifs" flood my mind and my soul. It's so easy to focus on what we didn't have...what we've never experienced or seen or heard from our daughter. I would love to just hear her voice...just to hear her say "Mommy" or "I love you". I would just love to feel her little body curl up in my lap just because she wants to. I imagine that she would be a hot mess and super funny like her brothers. What I would give to just witness her sarcasm and hear her laughter.
Yes...it's so easy to focus on all of the things I have never and will never experience with my daughter. However, it wouldn't be right of me to ignore all of the things that I did experience with her. Let's be honest...I got to feel her little body inside of me for 9 months. I learned in those 9 months that she was a night owl, that she loved music, and that she was a busy body! :) I know that in those 9 months that she knew my voice and she heard my heartbeat every second.
I know that from the moment she came into this world at 3:02 PM on September 11, 2007, she knew nothing but unconditional love. She was showered with so much love and kisses. She heard her daddy sing to her and listened to us whisper sweet messages in her little bitty ears.
For two days, we couldn't have loved her more. Although my heart will ache for an entire lifetime, I would never ever trade those two days with London. I would experience these 3,300 days of grief all over again just to hear her cry, rub her cheeks, and kiss her little head. Nothing in this life could ever take the place of the memories I have of London.
So, today, we will celebrate her life and praise the One who gave her to us...trusting and believing that His plan is perfect. Lord knows it's not the way I would have it, but I have learned to be able to say "it is well with my soul". We will go to her precious grave and send 9 balloons to heaven. We will put pink roses on her grave and pray as a family. We will thank God for her and find strength in His promises.
I always imagine the moment when I get to heaven and see Jesus face-to-face, I think London will be the first person I see. I imagine us running full speed to each other and holding her in my arms and twirling around and around and around as we rejoice!! And the best part of that is that I will never ever have to let her go again!