I’ve been trying to think of a clever way to make this post a little less obvious, to make it subtle in its reference to the anniversary of my daughter’s birth/death.
Can’t think of anything. Today would have been Ruthanne’s seventh birthday.
It’s weird, but it doesn’t hurt today. I don’t feel like I have for the past six years: there’s no open or hidden sadness pulling on my heart, there’s no depressive episode threatening to overwhelm me, there’s not even been any tears. It’s just been a day, almost like any other, and part of me is relieved.
When you grieve for someone long gone, there’s a part of you that never truly lives. You kill off a little piece of yourself in honor of that person because you feel guilty for being able to continue on without them. I’ve seen it in my grandmother, who still grieves the loss of my grandfather, and I’ve seen it in myself with regard to Ruthie.
Only today, there is no grief. There are no tears. There is no mournful graveside vigil or teary-eyed blog posting – just the clear light of day and thoughts about Jonathan and Ella being off at the pool with Rachel. Today, my heart belongs solely to the living, and I feel like a weight has been lifted.
I think part of the reason is because yesterday, after a busy morning at the pool, Rachel and I brought Jonathan and Ella to Ruthie’s grave with us to change out the flowers on her headstone. Ella and Jon stood quietly by as we pulled out the old flowers, cleaned the urn, and put the new flowers in, and then Ella, after asking for permission in the car, sang “Happy Birthday” to her sister. Jonathan joined in.
When they were finished, Ella looked up at the sky and said, “Happy birthday, Ruthanne.”
Jonathan danced in place and said, “Ha-pee bur-day, Roo-fee.”
A year ago, I would’ve ruptured. A year ago, my heart would’ve gone into a dark place, a grief born not just of sadness for Ruthanne’s death but also of the knowledge of my own heart – that while I love Jonathan and Ella, part of me still pines for Ruthie. That was a year ago.
Yesterday, I stood there and cried, not because of my grief, but because my two kids, my two beautiful if sometimes consternating children, sang songs of innocence to a sister they’ll never know, and did it because they wanted to have a place in that part of their parents’ lives. Yesterday, my children revived that part of me I had intentionally killed off.
They saved that forlorn piece of my soul.
It’s amazing. You have children and you instinctively know that it’s your job to be their protector, to be the one that watches over their growth and development, to make sure that they turn out to be the kind of people who can not only make their way in this world but make this world a better place. You worry over the tiniest of decisions and stress over futures that may never come, all because you know that that’s why you exist: to be there for your kids. You go through all of this as a parent because you sincerely believe that you are to be a surrogate savior for your kids.
And then, so often, they turn out to be surrogate salvation for you.
There’s a line in the Psalms – You, O Lord, have redeemed me from the pit – sang out by David after a particularly harrowing experience. I feel like that’s my song today. I have been redeemed from a pit unlike any I’ve ever known, the one experience in life that has indelibly left it’s mark on me, and not necessarily for the best.
Like David, I can say that God has redeemed me.
Unlike David I can say God redeemed me through my kids.
And today is just another day because of it. Another day with my kids. Another day with Rachel. Another day, period. It is one of the greatest miracles I’ve ever known.