After I returned home from the hospital the night of the accident all I wanted to do was find that bracelet. I needed that bracelet. Except Jadrian needed comforting and we laid together, side by side, in Avery's twin bed. Crying.
I couldn't sleep. I tried to sneak out of the bed, but Jadrian wasn't sleeping either. I offered some paltry excuse, but I just couldn't tell her what I really needed: the bracelet.
In between visitors on Thursday I searched. I opened drawers, emptied pockets, ran my hands along the top of shelves. I feared the bracelet wouldn't be at home. I feared Avery would have had that bracelet on the day of her death and it would now be gone forever.
The police had returned my daughter's school backpack and I obsessively rummaged through its contents: a math book, a sweatshirt, a folder with odds and ends. I emptied everything, shook the bag, put everything back in. Did it all again. I remember leaning back against the wall on Friday night, trying to stifle a sob. It was just a bracelet. It wasn't who she was. I was trying to quiet my emotional side with logic. It wasn't working. My biggest fear was that she had tossed the bracelet into her gymnastics bag. The gymnastics bag that couldn't be returned due to the damage it received.
Lord, I know it sounds silly, but I just want her bracelet. Please, let me find her bracelet.
I took a deep breath and slipped my hand once again into the empty front pocket. Only this time my fingers touched her bracelet. I laughed and cried, so many tears I couldn't fasten it around my wrist. Thank you! Thank you!
I wore that bracelet the next morning and into most of the afternoon. I loved the way the charms clinked against each other; it was like Avery was with me. I swore I would never take it off! Thirty seconds later, Jadrian noticed the bracelet and asked if she could wear it. I smiled, took off the bracelet and put it around her wrist.
It would be just one of a thousand times where I would have to choose between Grieving for the Loss of My Child and Supporting My Daughter Grieve Over the Loss of Her Sister. It's just a bracelet. It wasn't who she was.
Twenty minutes later she came to me in tears. Frantic and wild, not making sense. It took me forever to understand that a couple charms had fallen off the bracelet. She was absolutely inconsolable.
I did what any mother would do: I promised her it would all be okay while offering up angry words to God. Really? The bracelet had to break?! Don't you see what I'm dealing with here? I am not that strong! I do not know what I'm doing! I can't do this! I am barely functioning on the most basic level and now I have to figure out how to fix this damn bracelet?!
I was raging on the inside. Mad at myself. If I hadn't let Jadrian wear the bracelet she wouldn't be freaking out. If I hadn't worn the bracelet in the first place Jadrian wouldn't have even seen it. It was all my fault just like the accident was all my fault.
The truth was, I had asked off early from work that Wednesday for the purpose of driving Avery to gymnastics. It should have been me driving, not Jadrian. Avery had just moved up a level and her class day changed. I knew as her mom I should be there to watch her. I wanted to watch her because it was a 2-hour class and I could have some "me time" disguised as "look at what a great Mom I am time." I had every intention of picking Avery up... but I never told Jadrian that. When Jadrian sent me the text to confirm that Avery's class was from 4 to 6 that day my initial thought was but I was going to bring her... and that quickly changed to but if Jadrian takes her I won't have to take off work and I can save my vacation time; 80 hours rolls over, you know.
I sat at my desk when I should have been protecting the future and hearts of three innocent girls. Their lives are forever changed because I wanted to save my vacation time.
I felt so heavy. So responsible. And now the bracelet....
I called my friend, L, jewelry maker extraordinaire, and left her a long, rambling message about a broken bracelet and it's not a big deal, but if she could, would she come over and fix it, but she shouldn't feel obligated, but Jadrian wanted to wear it, but it was okay if she couldn't....
I noted it was the first time I was "alone." For the past three days countless people had descended upon my home, surrounding me, supporting me, passing me tissues, and suddenly here I was, alone in my kitchen. Alone except for Jadrian who was taking a shower.
15 minutes later L was at my house, jewelry pliers in hand, two kids and some lady I never met before in tow. I welcomed them in. Pointed out the broken bracelet. Talked incoherently about whatever game to mind. I must admit, I wasn't a good hostess. I never thought to ask the other lady's name... in fact, it never occurred to me that it was impolite to not even acknowledge who she was. I was in my own world: one foot in front of the other, clean up the mess of the house, remember to find nylons for tomorrow's visitation.
I moved around the house, placing dishes in the sink, setting papers on the dining room table, fretting about what words I would speak at Avery's funeral. I hung something up in the sun room. Went back to the kitchen...
... and all the while there was this little girl...
How old was she? Seven? Eight? The shyest smile. The purest eyes. She had offered me a timid hug when she arrived. I tried to talk to her, let her know it was okay to talk to me; it had to be awkward for kids this young... Avery knew this little girl. Played with her even though she was several years older than this child. I remember they played "Conjoined Twins." Wrapped ace bandages around their waist and legs; it was a favorite game of Avery's.
Now, here stood this young girl in front of me, eyes searching all over my stomach - back and forth, back and forth, before stopping to an invisible spot just to the left of my body. She smiled shyly. Walked over to my side and offered a whisper of a hug. I put my arm around her and she looked up, almost surprised to see me standing there. I smiled down at her.
Over and over this happened. I'd walk into the next room and she'd follow me, find her way in front of me again and commence searching my stomach with her eyes. Sure enough, she'd stop at a spot just to the left of my body and offer up that smile; almost like a child playing peek-a-boo in church, quiet and respectful, yet full of silly recognition. She'd take a few steps towards me and offer that whisper of a hug again; as if she were trying to hug the air beside me.
After the sixth or seventh time I was starting to get a little uncomfortable. She wasn't looking at me or trying to talk to me, yet she wasn't leaving my side, either. I chalked it up to being too young to know how to handle the topic of someone dying.
Eventually the bracelet was fixed and we found ourselves in the sun room saying my thank you's and good bye's. The little girl stared at me then started whispering to L. "What do you see?" L gently asked.
The little girl looked at me, tilted her head from left to right, then raised her arm, and pointed at my stomach. "I see lines like this ---" she moved her hand from right to left, invisibly cutting my body in half across my torso. Then she pointed to a spot just to my left side of my body, tilted her head to the right and smiled the sweetest smile I'd ever seen. "And I see the light, blue and purple, right there." She smiled at that spot with the kind of smile reserved for friends.
Awkwardly I stood there. "Uhh... I have no idea what that means," I joked.
L looked up at me, then down at her daughter. "She's telling you that she sees Avery's spirit with you. Avery is very happy."
Say what you will, but I am now nothing less than a 100% believer. In my heart of hearts I know that this little girl has a gift I cannot explain. A gift that brought this Mama some comfort. That calmed my heart and soothed my weeping soul.
And in my heart of hearts I knew that God used the bracelet to give me that gift. The bracelet I searched for, the bracelet I wore, that Jadrian saw, that Jadrian asked for, that the charms fell off...
Thank you, God, for the broken bracelet...
Avery's beautiful bracelet was made with much love by: