About a month ago, we had a happy day of sunshine and we soaked it in. If you know me well then you know I shun getting too much sun on my skin, but that day, one of the few sunny days we've had recently, I let my bare arms feel the warm glow from the fickle sun above.
We spent most of the day on the playground. Ruby in my arms, cooing and smiling. Hannah Mae running around playing with friends. That day, she followed the boys around. (In her humble opinion, they have the best toys.) One of the boys had brought out a toy toolbox.
She played so happily with them, so excited to be included by these little boys just a bit older than her. I handed Ruby over to Chris, who had just rounded the corner from a busy day of classes and studying, and walked over to Hannah to see what fun she was having. She had a toy screwdriver (or a hammer, I can't quite remember) in her hand. I smiled and asked her where she got it from. She pointed to a little boy and said, "From brother."
My breath sucked in like I had been hit, and tears immediately welled up in my eyes. I knew exactly who she was referring to, and it hurt. A lot.
This little boy's name is Owen. And he is an adorable little five year old.
It took me a minute to gather myself, and thankfully I had on sunglasses so Hannah didn't know how upset I was. I didn't want her to think she was responsible for my tears. I smiled at her, tucked her wispy windblown hair behind her ear and said, "Baby that's not your brother. Do you know where your brother Owen is?" She replied quickly without even looking up from playing with her toy, "In Heaven."
Sometimes grief is as constant and reliable as breathing... in and out, in and out each day. And sometimes grief hits you from out of nowhere. Suddenly pulling you down and forcing you to see how utterly wrong this life is without the one who is supposed to be here. The one who should be five years old, with dark hair like his mommy. Running around the playground with his friends, laughing and running from his sweet little sister who just wants to be with him.
I wrote the story below about six months ago, and I'm seeing more and more what this life of missing Owen looks like for all of us.
"It is a strange feeling to miss someone you never knew." The little girl sat back on her heels and looked up at her mother.
"Hmmm...." her mother murmured quietly while she delicately threaded the tiny needle through the fabric on her lap.
"I mean, how can you miss someone when you don't know what their voice sounded like? Or what kind of cereal they liked to eat in the mornings?" She took a strand of hair from behind her ear and twirled it playfully with her long fingers. The little girl watched her mother carefully sewing a patch of fabric over the knee of her favorite pair of jeans, and felt even more questions bubble up inside her.
"Or what games they liked to play, or if they liked to run through the woods and get their knees dirty and scratched?" Her mother started to hum a quiet song as the little girl stood up and climbed into the rocking chair beside her. She liked how quickly her mother moved the needle in and out, in and out patching up a tear she had gotten while crawling through the bushes in front of the house.
"Or what books they liked to read, or if..." The little girl stopped and nuzzled her head against her mother's arm, rubbing her face against the warmth of her mother's cotton shirt. A single tear slipped down her face wetting the fabric underneath it.
"Did you know that you and your brother have the same dimple in your chins?" She peeked down at her daughter's face, and smiled gently. "The very same."
"We do?" asked the little girl. She smiled widely at her mother and jumped down out of the chair. "I bet he would of liked playing in the woods and getting dirty, and he probably would have gotten holes in his knees too." The little girl laughed at the thought.
"Yes, my sweet little girl. I'm sure he would have." The little girl's mother finished the patch, made a knot in the thread and snipped the loose ends away. The little girl squealed with delight as her mother handed her back her favorite pair of jeans. She ran quickly back to her room to change while her mother quietly picked up the scraps of fabric around her. Tears escaped down her cheeks but with no one there to see, she did not dare wipe them away.