This winter has been so cold and bleak. It seems fitting that this is the first winter without Julia. It is hard to believe that it tomorrow is 5 months since she left us. Five months since I heard her giggles, saw that smile, held her in my arms at night as she fell asleep.
The days have been hard, but evenings are so much worse. I can fill my days with work, keeping busy, but when night comes reality sets in again. That was the time we spent together, just Julia and I, cuddling in bed, talking about whatever was on her mind, singing, laughing. Now there is just emptiness.
I often find myself looking at photos in the evening, gazing at Julia’s infectious smile, those beautiful eyes. We have so many photos, but I have come to realize that there are just not enough. I wish I had taken at least one photo every day. 3215 photos, one for each day of her life; but it still would not be enough.
Often, something little reminds me of Julia. This week it was the snow. I began to think of how she loved to play in it, and then I search for a photo. Unfortunately, all too often, the memory isn’t matched with a photograph. John and I spent time with Julia “being in the moment” and did not always have a camera ready to catch those images. But, as more time passes, I worry my memories will become foggy.
I keep playing certain scenes in my mind, trying to avoid the cruelty of time and separation. I think of Julia’s sing-song voice saying, “Whach ya doing?” or “I love you Mommy”. I think of times when she stood in front of strangers, singing proudly or speaking about how she wanted to help other children. I think of how she would laugh out loud when she asked for “a hug, a kiss, and a tickle”. I think of her quick response of “I’m great!” when asked how she was feeling.
I think of Julia and I lying in bed together before she would fall asleep. I can still playback the moments of singing together, teaching her the harmony part of “You are My Sunshine”. But the memory comes to an abrupt stop when I recall the lyrics…”please don’t take my sunshine away”.
The pain is still so raw. I wonder if it will ever get better. I cry and I ask myself for the millionth time why, searching for an understanding that is out of my grasp. And then I hear Julia’s voice, reminding me what to do when I get sad and blue, “I know what you can do to help. I have a list”…”Are you paying attention?” That optimistic little voice comes back to me, fighting its way through all my heartache and reminds me to live, how to push past the pain, past the darkness. There is my star girl, shining down, reminding me of her legacy of love, of living life in the present, of eternal hope and optimism.
I begin to think of Julia and I lying at night again, of our predictable banter, one we said to each other every day.
“You know what, Julia?”
“You’re my best girl.”
“I’m your only girl.”
“But, you’re still the best”.
And in that thought, comes a smile, and a thaw in the coldness of winter.