July has been a particulary rough month without our Madeline. She would have been Two Years Old on July 4th. It has been 8 months since her death and as the months and days go by it feels more difficult to cope. There seems to be a panic that overcomes me when I realize how long it has been since I have held her, kissed her, snuggled her and just took in the edible sweetness of our Precious Girl.
I am fortunate to have so many family and friends who care greatly about us and also ache for our loss. Tragically, Madeline was the third baby in our family to die in within 3 years (we lost our precious nephew to cancer when he was just 4 and another beautiful nephew at the tender age of 8 weeks). One would think this would provide me with some tools to help get by, but that is not so. They have been a rock for us to lean on and a shoulder to cry on. When they say they know how I feel, I know they do, and people say that must help me. But no, not really. The ache is so deep I feel it in my bones. However, I find that when I do want to talk they don’t try to change the subject. Talking about Madeline doesn’t make them uncomfortable and neither does my sadness and grief. So, in that way, it is a huge comfort. They understand spending a lot of time picking out just the right thing to put on the grave site because you just want to be able to buy something for them. It feels like a strange “normal.” Like, “I’m like any other mom, buying something cute for my baby girl.” But in the end you still feel empty.
Because of our military life, we were not able to lay Madeline to rest where we live. She is in Chicago, where she is looked after by her loving Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins. For this, we are grateful. At home, we have planted, “Maddie’s Garden”. We have filled it with pink and white flowers. The white is for her pure soul and the pink is because that is perfect for her Princess status. Her garden greats us with a smile everytime we leave and come home!
It is difficult to find your footing in the midst of this grief. Somedays are more difficult than others, of course. Overall it is like walking uphill with a one ton pack on your back and cement in your shoes. And you are trying to find a way to make that pack just a little lighter. Anything to make it lighter. This, while carrying the rest of your family in your arms. Because I also have to help get the rest of our family through this terrible loss. However, I think they help me more than the other way around. They are truly remarkable in finding the ways to Celebrate Madeline. Even this morning at the Donut shop they all picked out what they called “Madeline Donuts” because they had red frosting and blue and white sprinkles. As for me, the Mommy, I lean more towards all the ways I miss her and that can just be unbearable.
Yesterday was her first Little Boyfriend’s Birthday Party. He and Madeline were born within days of each other and us Moms shared a pregnancy. After the rest of my family moved to the next duty station, Madeline and I spent a few weeks of her newborn life with them. I dreamed of being able to share that story of her beginnings with her and how this was her first friend ever! I struggled with going but in the end we did. It was hard to push from my mind that Madeline should be there trying to grab his presents and steal the show. I didn’t have to verbalize this, I know my friend knew. She could tell by the plastic smile permanently set on my face so as not to lose it. We were glad we went. It was a step forward and I tried to focus on the joy we felt in those first weeks when it was a war of crying newborns. That was chaos!
I do need to take some notes from Madeline’s Brothers and maybe we will make it through this forced grief march and maybe with some hope and prayer, the pack will become lighter.