I wake early in the morning, grab my coffee and watch out the window as the day begins. I wait for the sun to fill the sky with light and for the caffeine to kick in. Often, I open my computer and try to write again. I wait for the words to come to me, but I sit in silence. The words don’t flow as easy as they did when my muse was here.
The day begins, the screen is blank and here I sit waiting. No words, no thoughts to write, just waiting for another day to start.
Like every morning for the last five years, I think of Julia. It is the constant in my life, my thoughts are always of her.
Today, my mind begins to drift back to that last day, the day Julia was taken from us. My memories are filled with images, almost like snapshots; the color leaving her hands and feet, her beautiful blue eyes turning grey as the life slowly left them, the curling of her tongue as she took in each breath trying to draw more oxygen into her lungs.
I remember my heart breaking, my mind and body going into what seemed like automatic pilot, attempting to get through the unimaginable.
Since that day I have remained suspended in this strange place. I live somewhere in between being a mindless robot-like zombie, just pushing to get through the day, and that “normal” person of yesterday. I wait for something to miraculously happen to change this place I am in, but there are no miracles. I just wait.
I bounce back and forth through the “stages of grief” everyone talks about, from denial to anger to sadness. I have never really gotten to acceptance. Sure, I know Julia has died, but I will never accept what happened to her. Cancer and death shouldn’t happen to any child.
During the year after Julia died, I waited for the “firsts”, carefully planning how to get through each day. I would watch for the big days, the birthdays, the holidays, the first day of school. I carefully scheduled things so there would be no surprises and thought through all the possible pitfalls, so I knew how I manage. I threw myself into the work of setting up Julia’s foundation, all “the firsts” of Julia’s Grace. Our friends and family were attentive, making sure we were okay, knowing how difficult these days were for all of us.
As I entered the second year, I thought I had it together, only to discover I was wrong. The fact is, the second year was worse than the first. Reality set in as everyone began to go back to their lives. I realized that the world would go on without Julia, even though it seemed like I could not. Somehow when I didn’t have “the firsts” to look out for, when the distance of Julia’s passing grew greater, it all changed and my sorrow grew. The second year was spent waiting to wake up from this nightmare.
As the time passed, I was able to look at pictures of Julia or hear her voice without tearing up. The third year was a year of transition for me. Slowly, I could think of Julia and smile. I also truly began to appreciate her list and the good it would do for me, and so many others. But, year three was also spent waiting for laughter. Sure, I could laugh at times, but I waited for that belly laugh - that laughter when all thoughts leave your mind, laughing with abandon, without guilt. I waited for laughter and slowly learning to live again during the third year.
I waited to hear someone tell a story about Julia during the fourth year. I longed to hear others talk about her, not holding back because they worried that it would upset me. Nothing could be more untrue. I wanted to hear something, anything, relishing in other’s memories. And when I was lucky enough to hear a story I hadn’t heard before, it was as if Julia was somehow still here. I thrived on each story, every narrative a gift, a new memory. With it came the realization that Julia would not be forgotten.
When Julia was here I couldn’t imagine being away from her for a few hours and now it has been five years. It doesn’t seem possible. It feels like forever since I held Julia in my arms, yet, at the same time, it seems like only yesterday.
I vividly remember the last night I spent with Julia. We finally were able to get her medications to a place where she was comfortable. Even though Julia was sleepy, she wanted to talk. We cuddled in bed together. I held her in my arms, never wanting to let go.
“You’re the best mom ever”
“That’s because I have the best daughter ever Julia.”
We snuggled a little closer. “You know I love you Julia?”
“Yes, I know.”
“You know that everyone loves you. So many people love you.”
“Yes mom, I know they do.”
“Good, now sweet dreams. Dream of puppies…, of the big, big boat…, of the ocean.”
“Okay, mommy. You dream of me and you.”
“I will Julia”
Year five, just as all the years before, I have spent waiting, waiting for that dream.
I am not the same person I was five years ago. I never will be. A part of me left with Julia, just as she left a part of herself with me.
So I rise early each morning and I wait for the sun to rise and think of “my best girl”. Some mornings, like today, are hard, but most days I think of her and I smile. And then in the evening, as I lay my head on the pillow after another long day, I again think of Julia and hope for that sweet dream.