The thick snow coats the trees outside our bedroom window as I lie in bed with her, gazing at her perfect face. Two years ago, I was lying in the same bed with Miles, waiting for him to die. The feeling of his body on my chest, our breath rising and falling together until his stopped, is still visceral when I close my eyes. The winter months now carry a host of joyful and excruciating memories. The drive home from the hospital in the snow after he was born, when our hearts were full and we had everything we had dreamed of for so long. The drive home from the hospital in the snow after they told us he had weeks to live, when our hearts were heavy and Kent and I simultaneously, (separately) considered driving the car straight into the river so that we could all go together. My February babe- born and gone the same month a year apart- has forever changed winter.
This week, she turned six months old, and he would have turned three today. She has just discovered her feet, and spends a great deal of time in acrobatic positions, grabbing at them and trying to bring her toes to her mouth. I sometimes find myself trying to imagine him here. What would he be doing and saying? What would his laugh sound like? Would he be gentle or rough with his sister? As hard as I try, I cannot conjure a clear picture of any of it. His physical body is a blurry memory and impossible to assign to a real, moving picture, while hers is so very present and real. The two of them exist separately in my mind, connected only by blood, not time.
When I reflect on the past two years since he died, I am astonished by how much and how little has changed. On the one hand, we’ve had another child, gone back to work, made and lost friendships, celebrated new lives, and mourned the loss of several others. These changes have been necessary and healing, painful and laborious. On the other hand, we’re living in the same house, walking the same road, and missing Miles as much as ever. The constancy of grief has been tedious and draining. I know that I’ve grown and that the ways in which I grieve him and remember him have changed, but if I’m asked to pinpoint exactly how, I’m at a loss. The gaping hole he left is still here, ever-present, yet the element of transformation in my life that is often cited after a major loss is undeniable, albeit incremental and intangible.
Perhaps one concrete aspect of change since he left this earth is that I don’t spend as much energy as I used to wishing that things were different. Of course, I wish he had never gotten sick, never suffered, never died. Certain things were made impossible once he died, with the most obvious being him growing up and us getting to see him do so. This reality is permanent and incredibly painful. But what I can see now that I couldn’t see two years ago is that certain other things were made possible through his death. Not in the “everything happens for a reason” kind of way but in the butterfly effect kind of way. Norah wouldn’t be Norah, for example- she might be another baby, but not her. I wouldn’t have met some really beautiful people through our shared loss who I now call close friends. And I certainly would have never known exactly what I am made of. Or what my marriage is made of. The possibilities that have been unlocked since Miles died are some of the few things that keep me going. They give me hope that the weight of his loss will continue to be made lighter by new aspects of myself and my life that get unearthed through this pain. Slowly, somehow, hope and possibility have crept through the cracks and crevices of my broken heart. Miles should be here with us, blowing out candles, opening gifts, and doing all of the hilarious things that three-year-olds do, and the fact that he is not is irreconcilable. What I have learned, though, is that spending my time and energy wishing him back doesn’t change anything. What I have come to see is that all of the change and people that have come into my life since losing him matter. And while I know that losing him wasn’t a choice, how I move through the rest of my life is. Two years on, I’m still deeply sad. Two years on, I’m still pretty lost. But two years on, I’m also really proud. We’ll blow out your candles tonight, sweet boy. And I’ll continue seeking hope and possibility in my life as a way of remembering yours.