She would be 14 today. It's hard to imagine having a teenager. We would have passed that threshold last year, though, and this year would be one of those less-eventful celebrations as birthday parties go.
But we haven't celebrated birthdays. In fact, most years, this is just a quiet, lightly mentioned day between Jason and I. We talk about going and feeding ducks, as we'd vowed to do that in remembrance each year. A lake sat outside the hospital while she lay inside, and we convinced ourselves while in one of those moments of forcing yourself to have hope that we would "one day, bring her out here to feed the ducks."
That day didn't come. When I think about going and doing it now, it just makes me sad. Maybe because it feels like a broken promise. Ironically, like in the days following her death, going about some ritual that she 'should have' been a part of feels like a betrayal. But those, indeed, are words of sadness, not words of reality.
I've got a long way to go in the way of learning to be flexible, but I am at least learning that the "should haves" can be so overbearing in our lives that they can shut out completely the beauty of "what is" if we let them. If we let the "should haves" consume us, they will oblige.
So what "is" our reality?
God is faithful.
Beautifully, amazingly faithful.
The NICU nurses, who became like family, gave us a book at Jessica's death called "Big George". It is a precious little novel, about the life of a little boy who never leaves the NICU.
It was signed by the author. And filled with messages from the nurses. And the doctors. And the RTs. And Jessica. Her sweet, tiny little footprints mark the bottom right hand corner inside the front cover. How I love the nurses who gave us this gift!
And at the end of the story, as the Beep! Beep! Beep! of the alarms around George alert those tending to him of his little life slipping away, he thinks:
My human suffering is gone. The Light is my life, my greater happiness, the salvation of me and all souls, and I am of the Spirit. Michael's hand takes mine.
"Am I a full-fledged angel now, my brother?"
Michael smiles and lights Earth's morning clouds with golden rays, then releases my hand but does not speak. No matter. Entering Heaven... I am fully aware of who I am.'
That's our reality. She is now, more fully aware of who she is, than I probably am of myself.
And I embrace wholly the reality that our God is faithful.
He takes away.
Blessed be His name in all of it.
He brings beauty, from ashes.
Life, from death.
Hope where there shouldn't be.
Hope where there once wasn't.
This is a reality that far, far surpasses any "should have" I would have wished for myself.
Thank you, Holy One, for your faithfulness.