My baby sister; my beloved Shelby,
I am writing to you in this beautiful month of April; a season of renewal. All about me the wildflowers are blooming and everywhere I turn I am reminded that the world is coming to life again. As my children and I spend our days under the sun, the butterflies have emerged to dance in the blue skies overhead. “Look, Mom!” they point out, cheerfully. “Do you think they are a sign from Shelby?”
It is hard to imagine that we would be celebrating your eleventh birthday this month. I wonder about the young lady you would be growing into; if you would still like for me to sit on the bathroom floor and paint your nails, and if you would have grown too cool to have dance parties, twirling about with your stuffed animals in the living room. (I’d like to believe that you wouldn’t have.)
Two years and eight months. It was just enough time for our hearts to grow entirely overcome with love for you, but not nearly enough time to love you here on earth.
I am uncertain if I will ever understand why leukemia had to take you away, but I do know this: The light that you brought to the world shines on, forever.
It radiates throughout the life I am living here now, without you. It encompasses me in the stillness, and I know that you are near.
And while the pain of saying goodbye is greater than any I have ever known, I cannot deny the gift you have given to me: to know that this life is immensely divine. This life is for living.
I discovered those two pink lines on the first anniversary of your passing. Falling to my knees with both grief and elation, I knew it was more than coincidence. I knew you were telling me, “Have heart. Have courage. That from which we were born, we shall return.”
We named him Phoenix; a reminder of the cyclical beauty of our fragile lives. From the sorrow, from the ashes, life rises to be born anew.
The years have passed and I am now a mother to three, and have another babe by your side in heaven. I am certain you are together; I believe that you are near.
For me, heaven is everywhere. You are in every moment.
As we make a wish on a dandelion, I wonder if you are delighted by the delicate seeds rising dreamily into the sky. I wonder if you are dancing amongst them with the fluttering butterflies.
As I am tucking everyone into bed at night and singing Twinkle, Twinkle, I wonder if my voice is reaching you. I can close my eyes and instantly I am there, once more, singing to you in the hospital for the last time, your weight and warmth a comfort against my shoulder. Loving you before I knew the way a mother’s heart loves.
Now I know our mother’s pain. Now I revere her strength.
I will admit that I struggle with living a life without fear, because now I know that chance does not discriminate; even children can be called away far too soon.
Sometimes I sneak into my babies’ rooms at night just to watch them dream. Tears roll down my cheeks as I imagine what life might be without them…
But then I will myself to stop, because I don’t think that was your message. You did not come to show us fear; you came to teach us love.
If there is anything I can give to you — something that bridges the space between this life and the next — it is the promise that you will always be remembered. That you will always be celebrated. That you will forever be honored.
When I choose to walk up the stairs for the fifteenth bedtime hug, I am honoring you.
When I choose to slow down and acknowledge the ladybug my child is holding, I am honoring you.
When I choose a deep breath when the glass of water is spilled all over the table, I am honoring you.
When I choose connection over the to-do list;
patience over exasperation;
forgiveness over bitterness;
gentleness over quick-temperedness;
gratitude over despair;
In everything I do, when I choose love, I am honoring you.
And while I know one day we will meet again, for now I will hold fast to the grace of the honoring to get me through.
Eternally your big sister,