Nearly three months after we lost her, that Beauty who keeps on living with all of our pennies of love and nickels of wellness we deposited in her being bank, I was awakened around 5 by the early bedside presence of the now-once-again-youngest member of the family—our two-year-old son.
My mind drug itself out of sleepy oblivion barely connecting the words at first, “Baby [name], she not here…Where is she?…[Name.]…Baby [name] gone…I miss [name]….Where she go?” They were innocent, sweet and like it had happened yesterday.
It was a torrent that eventually pounded me awake. Calmly, aching inside, still lying down, I tried to answer.
“Yes, she’s gone. Yes, she left.”
“She’s with another family, Sweetie. She’s okay.”
“I miss her too. I don’t know where she is, Honey, but she’s not here. It’s okay, sweet boy.”
These things are actually not okay, and I could think of better ways to wake up. For both of us.
But here he was, in his own way, with his own freshly hatched words, asking those deep, deep questions, showing the hole he still feels. Three months later, it was so pressing he was up before dawn to ask, ask and ask.
A week later, her bedroom door was closed as it was hot with the afternoon sun. And maybe there were other reasons. As I prepared the boys for bed that night, he suddenly ran to that door and started pounding on it, yelling “OPEN IT! OPEN IT!” He was not angry or sad…just urgent. I did. And I watched as he ran, ran to the side of the still-up, still-pink crib. Up on his toes, he grabbed the bars and looked in.
“Nope, she not here.”
Yes, it is still the case, son. I know it is hard. I know it is still hard. She is not here.
Eleven months prior, he accepted her without hesitation. He held her, fed her, talked to her and checked on her. Throughout the earlier months of adjusting to going back down to a family of four, he had already talked about her some. He has said he missed her, and pointed to items she used to use and say they were hers. We repeatedly tried to make it a safe subject to talk about—things she would do, babies in the store that sounded like her, questions about what happened. Our oldest one day suddenly shouted, “It smells like [Name]! I don’t like that smell!” We repeatedly tried to reassure them and watch out for signs of fear that one day they would wake up and another person would be gone, or that they would leave.
Before the wake-up call, we had had a goodbye and blessing service, in which about thirty of us saw pictures of her, recalled the collective memories our community held treasured in her absence, and prayed for her family, the truth-tellers in the system and, of course, Sweet Girl. Together, we also let balloons fly into the night …filled with our silenced questions and our written blessings, a microcell of the love and loss of the sending crowd. A bright scene against a dark sky.
Perhaps that service stirred up his words. Perhaps he had dreams that night of her. Perhaps, like me, the pain just hit him at different times.
Ever since the farewell service, I have wished for helium balloons on hand for those moments. For the times when the choky cries came again, the injustice weighted our heads anew, and the questions hung heavy and humid. I wished we had helium balloons on hand just to watch something light and floaty and going upwards. To send again our prayers and blessings—the only things we could still offer—the only things left after the grieving and sending.
I wished I had helium balloons in my back pocket to offer the other weighted I saw…the broken relationships, the oldest prayers and the defeated outcasts. The unanswerable questions of a two-year-old at 5 in the morning. Little reminders to heaven, little wonders for our clouded eyes.
We all—all the Lovers—have pain that wakes us up at times. They are close on the palette. And we all need to rest our eyes, and catch a ride, on something with a better view. If we are lucky, we can float on another’s non-chalance.
The same two-year-old who started one day off so poignantly and ended one night with such disappointment, also afforded me that helium distraction in the midst of mourning. An easy laugh, with jokes more than he had words, and a blur of activity, hugging and hurry, he had a floaty personality. Lightly, unpredictably, he moved and lifted the spirits of us all and, even with those questions inside, gifted a different, upward view.