Tomorrow will be hard. I planned on that. It will be the 4th year of Avery's death. I took the day off of work. It's hard to sit there and pretend to be normal when you're not. It's hard to commiserate with someone bemoaning the fact they can't remodel their guest house when your thoughts focus on an appropriate headstone. (I just can't seem to let go of her wooden cross. I think after her graduating year. The other moms will be shopping for dorm room decor and I'll pick out a rock with her name etched in it.)
Anyway, I planned for tomorrow to be utterly difficult so today threw me for a loop.
It started last night, really.
Matt had left to watch horror movies with his buddies. I tucked Brody into bed then made myself comfortable on the couch to watch another documentary, a lovely gardenia candle burning and a prayer shawl given to me after Avery passed away on my lap. Thirty minutes into the documentary, Brody stumbles into the room with a look on his face I can't decipher. Earlier in the day he had complained that his stomach hurt, and his tooth. I thought maybe he had gotten ill.
He threw his long lanky body into me, arms trying to get tight around me, and just started sobbing.
"Buddy! Buddy, hey! Hey, what's wrong? Talk to me?"
Tears streamed down his cheeks in spite of the fact his eyes were squeezed shut. He was trying everything in his power to stop them from forming. His shoulders started shaking. There was nothing to do except hold him until he could speak.
"I just want a brother or a sister! I don't know why God gave me a sister and then made it so I can't ever see her."
I am tired.
My soul exhausted.
I do not have the answers for this child.
I do not have the healing balm for his broken heart.
And that breaks mine even more.
He cried and I listened. He spoke and I held his hands. He looked up at me and I placed my hand on his cheek and told him the truth: I wish I knew why it was this way, too. And then we prayed.
We thanked God for the new brother or sister God would bring into Brody's life and we asked for patience while we waited and we prayed for acceptance for what that new brother or sister would look like. Maybe it would be a baby that would be placed in our arms tomorrow - a friend of a friend who knows of someone's neighbor's niece - but maybe it would look much different. A new friend met on the playground in 4th grade that would do life like a brother. Maybe it would be college, we said, or as a grown up dad himself, when he would meet the person who would feel like they were meant to do life together. Please, Lord, we pleaded, help us see joy and feel happiness while we wait, no matter how long it takes.
And that seemed to help. So we both took deep breaths and decided maybe it was a special night, what with daddy being gone, that we could cuddle up in the big bed and watch a movie together!
That seemed like a lovely idea.
I watched his little boy body with the life-tired eyes scroll through Netflix movies and settle on The Little Prince.
Friends, as a warning, that is such a hard, hard movie for children who know what death tastes like. Who knows the depth of hurt death causes.
The movie was paused and more tears fell and I tried to comfort him but I thought what do I know of comfort? I am so lost myself?
And then his questions came: how did you know Avery died? Where was I? Did you tell me Avery died? Did I cry? Did you cry?
It soon dawned on me.... he was three when Avery died. He spent weeks asking when she was going to come home from gymnastics. He couldn't grasp the concept of death... he couldn't feel the weight of what that meant because he was too young. But he would grow older. Understand things. Understand how life is meant to be and how cruelly it can turn out for some.
He was grieving hard... just like I was four years ago.
It was my time then. It was his time now.
I spent a long time holding him. It was as if he had just been told for the first time that his sister had died.
Eventually, the movie started to play again and we made it through to the end.
"Mom," he asked quietly. "Can we just forget about earlier in the movie? It turned out good in the end. It's still a good movie even though it's really sad in the middle."
"Yeah," I answered. "We can do that. That's kind of how life is, you know. There are parts in the middle that might really make us sad, but it always ends up turning out good."
"Hey!" I sat up, remembering. "I have that book downstairs!"
We ran through the house and down the stairs straight to the never ending titles. "Look for a skinny book!" I told him. "It'll be blue, right?" he asked.
Book after book we went through and I had just about gotten to the point where I was seriously considering how to save this moment when we found it! The Little Prince.
And next to it was another book - one about dragons, actually, but it had both Jadrian and Avery's name written in their childish script on the inside cover. "Mom? Can I have this one? Just for me? And do you think I could have a pen and write my name next to my sisters?"
Absolutely, buddy. You can have the world if I can get it for you.
We climbed the stairs which felt like mountains. My legs heavy, my soul parched.
It is so hard to do this sometimes; be the Mama to the child in heaven while also being the Mama to child who is living.
We crawled into bed together, this lanky 1st grader and his Mama who aged overnight and never was able to get back to where she once was, turning through the pages of a book that reminded him of loved ones dying.
"Mom?" he whispered. "Can we do a celebration for Avery on the day she died? I want to give her flowers and a scarf."
“What makes the desert beautiful,' said the little prince,
'is that somewhere it hides a well...”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
I meant to get out of bed this morning. I had every intention. But I couldn't. My head was so heavy. I don't know if I'm answering the hard questions correctly. I don't know if I'm doing the right thing or doing the wrong thing.
Matt believes that one ought to simply focus on the positive and stop dwelling on the negative. If something causes you pain or discomfort, simply avoid it.
But tomorrow, after school, right or wrong, I'll pick Brody up and we'll buy flowers and a scarf for his sister and we'll have a celebration.
Because maybe the positive is a brother being able to at least leave a gift for his sister at her grave... and maybe the negative is pretending there is no reason to hurt.