Today was incredibly hard for me. Much harder than the last couple have been. And, I fear-not nearly as difficult as next year will be. I can't fathom marking a decade without my babies. It just doesn't seem .....real/fair/natural/normal. How can it be? How can it be nine years now? How can it be that nine years have passed since I touched them? Since I got to kiss those tiny, beautiful and oh so perfect faces? Has it really been nine years since I tenderly wiped the blood dripping from Zoe's nose with hands that would not stop shaking? Was it really nine years ago that I clung to their tiny bodies as the chaplain baptised them and formally "gave them to God"? Gave them to God.....ironic, don't you think? Because He already had them. They were already gone.
Today was dark although no one else noticed. It was 90 degrees. The sky was a brilliant blue. The sun was wickedly and brutally intense. And I didn't notice any of it. Not really.
I didn't fall asleep until well after 3am. And I slept until almost 10am. I had purposefully finished all the laundry and other household chores on Thursday and Friday because I knew......I didn't want to feel obligated to do anything if I wasn't able to. And I wasn't. I wasn't able. I couldn't.
I woke at a couple minutes before ten....and my face was already wet from tears. I had apparently begun silently crying at some point in my sleep. It's funny how the body, the spirit, the mind, the soul all KNOW without you even needing to be conscious. No reminders necessary. That's because the loss is there. Always. It never leaves. It doesn't fade. It is there. Every moment. Of every day. Of every year. Forever.
I tried several times to stop the tears. I of course failed. They came off and on and without real provocation for hours. At some point I left the house and decided to drive around to try and pull myself together so I could at least appear somewhat normal. Another failure. Not only did I fail to get it together, I have very few clear memories of even leaving the house, driving, where I went or returning home. I was absent.
But I did come back home. I sat and had lunch with Cidney and Georgie. Lily had spent the night at a friend's and Ceara was already at work. I ate and then sat on the couch. In a fog. Oblivious to - everything. The tears were still coming and going. I was just so unaware of ...... life.....and so unable to function that I didn't even recognize my own child when he walked into the room and leaned down to hug me. I heard the front door open. I watched him walk up the entry stairs. I heard his voice calling me mom and saying he had come to surprise me. Telling me that he and his brother wanted to be with me and since they couldn't both be here they had decided together that he would come. That they both wanted me to know they love me. That they both wanted me to have flowers.......bright, sunny, beautiful flowers which he held out for me. But I didn't recognize him for several moments. It didn't register. My mind was so incredibly...I don't know....empty of rational thought or filled with painful memories or both? And once the recognition clicked-the tears came. Again.
Ricky and I released the two pink balloons he brought with him. We stood there, holding on to each other, watching them float up in that brilliant blue sky until we could no longer see them. And they made the entire trip together. Never parting by more than a foot. As it should be- since Chloe and Zoe took every single step of their journey on this Earth, in this life and in their departure from it together. Never separating for more than a moment when Chloe took her very last breath, followed by Zoe just seconds later. Hand in hand. Heart to heart. Every step. Together.
Time elapsed today. But I didn't feel it or notice it passing. Not really. Time, for me- stood still today. Again. Just like it did nine years ago. Time for me-today-was nothing more than a cruel reminder that there are two little girls missing. Two voices that don't call out to me. Two sets of feet that aren't climbing trees. Two sets of arms that aren't reaching for me or squeezing me until breathing becomes a problem. Two faces that aren't being washed after ice cream. Two lives that....aren't.
For most of the year, each year....I function. I carry on. I live. I love. I laugh. I experience great joy. I watch six of my children and now two precious grandbabies grow and thrive and love life. I celebrate every single blessing that is each one of them....their successes, their failures, their hopes, their dreams and am thankful for all of it. Good. Bad. Ugly. For most of the year I am "normal". Or at least....as normal as any woman who has ever had to sit in a funeral home for her child or children can be. I miss them. I think of them. I carry them with me. I have my moments. But all in all, I am ok.
And then.....there is the month of August. The pain. The sadness. The sorrow.....they are all there. In August. August 7th....the last time I saw my daughters alive, bouncing and kicking on the ultrasound. Pushing each other and competing for what little space was left. August 15th.....the day my daughters took their last breaths. The day my daughters died. The day I had to pretend everything was ok-nothing was wrong so my oldest daughters would be able to focus and do well on their placement tests for their new school. They had only been home, in Maryland for 15 days. They had had just two weeks to be told I was pregnant, to get used to the news and to become incredibly excited that they would soon be big sisters, again......and this time to twins. And now...they were never going to meet them. August 20th. The day my daughters, silent and still, perfect and beautiful entered this world and every single thing I had ever known, felt, thought, believed was forever altered. August 21st. The day my daughters were baptised in my arms. The day I kissed them for the very last time and sent them away with a funeral director while every fiber of my being was screaming to please just let me keep them a little while longer. Knowing that a little while longer was never going to be long enough. Nothing would be. August 22nd. The day I left the hospital- empty. Empty handed. Arms empty. Heart shattered. Soul broken. Empty. August 31st. The day I walked into a funeral home and walked out with two tiny porcelain urns that now held my daughters inside. Two jars. Small containers that sit on a shelf as a reminder that nine years ago there were two little girls who.....were. I hate August. And I love it. IT is a battle. It will always be a battle.
This August was no different. But it was at the same time. I made it through almost every one of those dates without the anxiety and tears that typically ensue. And then...I didn't. Then I fell apart. The control was no more. Then- August 20th happened. Again. Nine years. And I wondered the same thing I wonder every August 20th. Will this ever get any easier? Will the pain ever lessen? Will there ever be an August 20th that doesn't send me right back to that hospital room? To the all encompassing and excruciating rawness? I know the answer. My heart knows. My head knows. My soul knows.....it has always known. No. Simply. There will never be a time without the pain. There will never be a birthday celebrated without the tears and longing. The ache will never dull.
And so- I will continue to function as normally as a mother who has said goodbye to her children can. On most days. For most of the year. And I won't for the rest.