I held Heather's soft body in her dark bedroom, rocking her small self back and forth. Her eyes grew heavy from the motion and the sound of my voice whispering lullabies.
Tears streamed down my face.
For me, this story, this day, will always start the same way. We were on our way out the door to go to church when the phone rang.
Any other day I would have just let the phone ring, let the machine take a message, and worry about whatever the caller wanted later. That day a small voice in my heart said that this time, I should turn around and answer it.
I will never forget that conversation with my brother. I will never forget the new tones in his voice, the way he tried to comfort me when I broke down.
It was obvious I could not go to church, and I managed to tell Devin that I needed him to take me somewhere beautiful, the most beautiful place he could think of.
We got in the car and drove.
I have gone back to that same park every year, and I have sat in the same bench every year.
The girls know that when we get there, Mommy will become a little slower, a little softer, a little sadder. They know that this change will come over me, but it doesn't slow them down.
I watch my girls running and whooping, delighting in the crisp autumn air. The walkways are open to explore, bursting with flowers on all sides. In their faces you can see the exultation in the near limitless energy of their young legs.
I look at the flowers with their brilliant colors. I look at the towering trees fully crowned in their autumnal, majestic glory.
I think of change and decay, permanence and eternity. I think of beauty and sadness.
Light. Love. Loss. Laughter. Life.
I think of bright eyes with a smile that never ends, but goes on and on. That smile so innocent and sweet that charmed the hearts of all who were lucky enough to hold her, tickle her, snuggle her.
I only got to meet Tabitha twice, but I think of that smile, and how even though we don't get to enjoy it beaming at us beneath those sparkling eyes right here, right now, it is
there still. She is smiling still. This, I know.
We get up to leave the park. Driving away, Hanna says, "Mommy, you were thinking about Tabitha. But, are you done thinking about her now?"
"No, Hanna. I am not done thinking about her."
There is silence in the car, a rare thing.
"Mommy, I miss her." Hallie softly says.
"I do too." Hanna chimes in.
I do too. I do too.
If you want to read Rachel's beautiful words about her sweet Tabitha, go here.