Almost exactly this time last year, I woke up in a quiet hospital room and looked out the window with brand new eyes. I remember everything like it was yesterday, the whole sequence of events from the news, to the delivery, to the exact emotions I felt as I looked out at the crashing waves, and pink and blue sky. The splitting ache in my soul has yet to subside a year later. Greeting me the morning of Ella’s birth was silence, and pain, and unmentionable solitude. There was no infant beside me, or inside of me anymore…just an aloneness that truly haunts and shakes me to my very marrow even now.
A year later and I am still looking out that very same window, asking God “How could you let this happen?” A year later and I’m still questioning, still struggling, still broken, still wanting the ending we never had. I honestly believe that there is no redemption this side of heaven for me.
This whole week has been dedicated to Ella–more specifically I’ve given myself permission to mourn for her in any way I feel fit. The magnitude of the actual date of her birth was really overwhelming for me–so this whole week has been about unpacking, reliving, relishing, loving, creating, dreaming, crying, talking and thinking about her and her life. Lately I’ve given myself permission to revisit as many memories as I can, and to let myself cry, and break again. Jason and I have talked a lot this week–even mentioning some things that we’ve never been able to speak to each other. He told me this week that he remembers how she smelled. This prompted me to revisit the short time I had to hold her, look at her, and touch her. I realized that these memories are very rarely visited for me–because of the shock of labor and the trauma of her birth. Facing these truths has been very monumental for me. Allowing myself to remember these things that have felt too fresh and painful have brought me closer to her, and Jason. I wish I could’ve studied her longer. I wish I would have held her longer–although I realize that when your child has died, there will never be an amount of time to say goodbye that’s long enough. I wish I wasn’t in shock. I wish maybe I could’ve sang to her..or said something profound.
At the same time I realize I sang to her all of her life. She heard my voice, and my love for her everyday. I believe that I was just holding her shell, and that her spirit was gone. Reconciling this faith, and knowledge with this temporary and fading world that we live in is astounding. My heart knows that there is more to life than this…and she is on the other side. Regardless of this knowledge, the amount of faith it takes to believe the truth at all times is staggering.
This week has been such a special journey for Jason and I as parents. One night we laid in bed and just looked at her pictures. We haven’t looked at her pictures in months…at least I haven’t been able to. We looked, and marveled at her again, and I couldn’t help but wonder who she would’ve been. We also talked about what and when we thought her final moments were…and even wondered aloud if she felt any pain. These thoughts are ones that have been unspoken and thought in solitude and maybe even guilt–but speaking them to one another has brought tremendous support and oneness.
I’ve done a lot of hard things this week. My mom and sister came over and helped me go through her closet. We packed up things to give away, and saved the truly special items. This is something I haven’t been able to do until now. We also made a special tribute wall to her in our bedroom. We used quilts, fabrics, sweaters, and dresses that we bought for Ella and displayed them in looms on our wall. This is the first thing I see now when I wake up, and it brings me a sense of peace. The wall project is so special to me–because it’s just as tangible as she is. I can touch her dresses, and see the reminder of her light and love–and the joy she brought us. There is something powerful about having something as a reminder…so she’s not just in my heart, or my memories–everyone can see and be reminded. We also put a pair of moccasins in a shadow box and displayed it on my mantel. Looking at these little remaining pieces of her is still heartbreaking–but somehow your heart can break and find peace and joy at the same time. It’s so bizarre. My project today was framing her hand and footprints. I literally debated in the frame aisle for twenty minutes, no frame was good enough. The framing was the last little project I really wanted to do–and they are also a beautiful reminder of the miracle of Ella. My sentiment towards these projects can be summed up in the lyrics I wrote “Sometimes I just want to hold something your body has touched, I don’t have much, I don’t have much…like the little pink ribbon that we put in your hair, while you were lying there, you were lying there…” My mothers instinct is still desperately yearning to be close to my baby girl, and these little tokens allow me to be that much more.
I still have a million more things to say and process, but this day is about honoring Ella and that’s all I really want to do.
Dear Ella Rae,
Thank you for bringing me so much joy. When I found out I was pregnant with you I was completely overwhelmed with a heavenly love. I didn’t know a mother’s heart until You gave it to me. You brought me so much joy–especially when it was just you and I in the silence, or you and I in the car, or you and I on stage singing. Knowing you were there, and knowing your light made everyday such an adventure. You gave me brand new eyes to see the world. Everything was brighter, and better, and more hopeful. You put into perspective life for me. You helped me realize that the only success worth striving for is love. You helped me realize that my music, my career, money, things, and status are garbage in comparison to love. I know I should’ve learned these things before, but I was waiting for my little teacher and gift to give me lessons only you could give. I can remember when we told both of your grandparents and aunts and uncles about you–and the joy and elation and pure happiness we all felt. The world was brighter for everyone because of you. You are and were so precious to us. I remember most fondly how your dad cried, and sprinted out of the house and ran laps, and did jumping jacks…and finally fell on his knees in gratitude and awe. You made your dad melt…and I’d never seen him exhibit such wreck less abandon and joy before. There are countless memories that we have with you, at Niagara falls with your Aunt Beamer (who made you go on the splash deck :)), and festivals, and memorials, and roadtrips, and beach days and boat rides. Every day spent with you was special. I know people say that you wouldn’t want us to be sad for you…and I’m not sad for you. I know I’m sad for myself. Maybe you can ask God for more angels, or signs, or love for me…or just strength to keep going.
I remember right after you were born, seeing your dads face for the first time was like seeing a stranger. Your dad was smiling with such pride, and love…that I’d never witnessed before. You had changed him, and I saw it. He loves you so much, and he has an easier time than I do imagining you playing. He often remarks, “I wonder what Ella is doing right now?”
The gifts you gave after you left are just as important and valuable to me as the ones you gave while you were here. Ella, you have given me a changed perspective on suffering and pain. Your short life has made me care so much more than I ever used to about people around me. You gave me more compassion. You gave me understanding. You gave me a perspective that is so precious to me. Never again will I be so oblivious and callous as I once was. Thank you for life and light…and I know that the ultimate thanks will be to God our creator and Father. He chose you for us, and these gifts are ultimately from Him…I am sure you know that much better than I do. I don’t believe you are watching over me, or that we can even communicate..but if by some design you can hear my heart…I just want you to know that I love you, and I miss you. And I really can’t wait to see you again.