To my daughters on their fifth birthday

My precious girls,

I’ve been agonizing over what to write to you on this milestone birthday. I wanted to write something deep and profound, and I spent all day Sunday with it in the back of my mind – searching for just the right turn of phrase to express all that I was feeling and thinking.

But I don’t know what to say. Or maybe I just don’t know how to say it. I spent Sunday with your five siblings, who made it such a special day for me that I was happy. I knew it was your birthday. I wished so much that you were here with us to celebrate. But I also felt at peace with our reality.

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The fact is, your existence, however brief, completely changed me. Loving you, holding you, fighting for you, praying for you, not being able to help you, watching you die – all of these things were the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I was undone. I imagined being stuck under the heavy weight of grief and the feeling of just barely clinging to my own sanity forever. It was hard to think that I could be truly happy again in those early days.

Five years later it is clear to me that the experience of loving you and losing you has propelled me forward in ways I never dreamed possible. It left me with a deeper understanding of life and love and a desire to be the best me that I can be. It gave me courage to make changes that I had needed to make for so long, but was afraid to do. It inspired me to express myself creatively in ways that I didn’t know I could. And all of these things have helped me to heal so very much.

I wish things were different, and I don’t at the same time. I wish I were able to learn all these lessons and still have you here with me somehow. I wish that, in addition to celebrating you with cake as we do each year, we were also having  birthday parties and presents and watching you grow. I wish that I didn’t have to leave your presents at your grave site instead.

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But these things I know: I know that nothing could have changed me like the complete undoing that happened to me when you died. I know that your spirits live on and that I will get to see and hold you again some day. I know that I feel so much love when I think of you and that the love is slowly edging out the sorrow. I know that our family may not have Maeve and Brendan right now if you were here, and now we have the privilege of parenting all of you – just differently, on either side of eternity.

As you celebrate nearly five years in heaven, the biggest thing I want to say to you is thank you. Thank you for the experience of knowing and loving you. Thank you for the gift of being your mommy. Thank you for changing me.

I love you so very much and always will,

Your Mommy

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