I still have the battle scars as proof you existed. And three photos. The size of your palm imprinted in mine, the feel of your ashes in my hand—ivory and turquoise—falling in to the gurgling river rushing on.
It's been two years and it is still hard to find the words, even the opportunities to speak about it all. I try to shape my sorrow and my memories of her into poems or photographs, but succumb easily to silence.
With the impending anniversaries of Amalia's birth and death--which fall within eight days of each other--I've been growing increasingly anxious, fearful and distracted. It's almost midnight and we are now on the precipice of our little girl's birthday, February 1.
What am I dreading so much? Is it the fear of fear itself? Is it the flood of emotion that hasn't had a chance to fully express itself, though I have given my grief a voice plenty of times? Is it that I'm afraid of further loss because I don't trust that the people I hold dear will want to hear me out and stick with me because I'll strike them as too needy, too unstable, too much of a "downer"?
As soon as she was born, the paramedics whisked my daughter off to intensive care. And the nightmares started. I didn't think I would survive those first days, those first weeks. I thought I would never be able to sleep again or to carry on living. I was conscious of my breathing, always hearing her raspy gasps like grasps at oxygen in my own breathing, internalizing her struggle to stay alive.
Jonah was my sole motivation to stay committed to this life, although I was very mindful of never placing my burden on him. I wanted to be truthful with him about what is happening in my world, but to shield him from my own misery, which required me to remove myself emotionally from the situation while simultaneously living inside the heart wrenching reality that it was--an impossible task. Granted, he was only two-and-a-half, but perceptive and curious nonetheless. We did our best.
Over the last two years I've worked so much on creating inner peace, and that is why I'm stunned at how much is resurfacing for me two years later.
The only time when thinking about Amalia stands apart from the trauma and hurt I so closely associate with her short life, is when I talk with Jonah about her. When he asks about her, I speak of her with neutrality that helps smooth over the turbulence and, to be completely honest, at times even the dread that thoughts of her trigger like a Pavlovian response.
When I tell Jonah about his sister, I am able--if just for a brief moment--to remain upbeat and tender and glad to remember. That is because I want Jonah to have his own stories, his own associations with his sister, free of my own painful memories. Sometimes, too, when Tim and I speak about her, the good begins to outweigh the bad.
She was and still is such a mysterious presence in our lives. It will take us years to unravel all there is to feel, learn and understand about what Amalia's presence meant and still means.
I once had a girl...
And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown
- The Beatles