This year on Ash Wednesday I attended a simple and beautiful service at our church, a time for reflecting on the darkness and emptiness that still ravages our world and our hearts. I wept the whole way home and long after, sitting in our driveway as the windows fogged up and the tears flowed, grieving for the first time in a long time for all that is not right and for the daughter we lost and for the ways I fail the children I have.
I am so thankful for these visceral, tangible expressions of faith, practiced together. For ashes smudged on my forehead. For lit candles and gathering together on a chilly night to sing and lament and remember. These rhythms help make real the things that are quickest to slip away in doubts when fears loom large. The experience of grieving Selah is the realest thing I have of her, the most powerful way to remember her. The emotions and longing and ache in my chest, it reminds me that she was. And that I was changed by her.
Today marks 3 years since I miscarried Selah. You can read more about our journey through grief and towards hope here.
First-born daughter of mine.
I imagine you
maybe towheaded like your brother
with a mess of curls like your sister
wild life in your eyes and mischief on your mind.
I picture you, big sister
helping and giggling and playing and teaching.
Adoring. Doting. Smooching.
I can see you, sweet girl, proudly reaching milestones before your younger siblings.
Dressing yourself. Potty training. Fetching diapers and pj’s and being just a little bit bossy as you tell them where to sit and not to talk while you ‘read’ them their favorite board books.
But of course, that was not – could not be.
You were and then you were not.
And then, before you could have been ready for this world anyway,
there they were.
Here, in our arms.
And you were not.
And so, in your death you made room for new life.
I wonder, was it because you came first that their budding bundles of cells
could burrow deep enough into my womb? Because you slid right through,
helpless babe being washed out, they could live?
I think I will forever carry the weight of that question.
The weight of all that I could not be for you.
Sometimes I think of the mom I would be if I got to mother you first.
Just the two of us, learning to nurse and play and grow together.
Perhaps I would be a bit more patient or calm or creative.
Perhaps I would have found a rhythm sooner. Hosted more. Been a better friend and spouse.
Or, perhaps I would be even more overwhelmed, mothering the miraculous 3 babies conceived 6 months apart.
Perhaps I would feel guilty for all that I could not be for you with two new newborns in my arms.
Selah, you were like water.
Flooding us with greatest joy and then deepest sorrow.
Washing all the way through until we were dry again.
No trace of you save for the carved out hollow space in our hearts.
But see, here is the beauty of it. The beauty of the 3rd year of grief.
Now I see how each hour of grief spent in that space has worn it smooth.
Now I invite others there.
In the space that could not hold you, I can hold others.
When we weep, we widen the walls of this memory-place.
Because in this broken world there is no end to grief, but also no end to love.
The peace I have this year on your birth-and-death day,
it feels like a little arm swung around my shoulders, the way that kids do
when they lean in to tell you a secret or a silly joke
and their breath tickles your ear
and you smell their sweaty hair
and feel something sticky on their fingers
and everything feels safe and whole and true
and there’s nothing else to do but lean in and laugh together.
You, dear daughter, wherever you are in the cosmos:
in infinity, in tomorrow.
I hold you in my heart.
You are to me a voice of wisdom and love, little one.
A reminder of the fragility and intensity of life.
A reminder to slow and savor.
A reminder to lean in and laugh.
A reminder to love fiercely and freely.
A reminder that sorrow and hope are meant to be woven together,
hemming us all in as we live with fuller joy.
But I miss you, my love. Oh how I miss you.