Our every day life, though different, is evolving. It's strange to say so but we have no choice. Their sister is gone but their life must continue. So many times every day they remind me how difficult it is for them to face. They miss her so badly. And just like for me, when anything at all makes them upset or sad, even if unrelated to the death of their sister, they spiral into an oblivion of emotions that are hard to contain. It becomes harder and harder to crawl out of the pit.
It took us well over a year but we finally convinced Braden to try a sport.
Time and time again we were told by people who were less than involved in our every day life that the kids needed a healthy distraction from their sick sister and the environment in our home. What people didn't realize is that a distraction from her was the exact opposite of what was needed. They were involved with her care, spending every minute they could with her.
The one and only emotion that I have not heard either child speak about experiencing after Mabel's death is that of guilt for the days they spent with her. They cannot look back and regret not spending their time with a sister who is no longer here and I'm so grateful. She was with us, always. They were with her, always. What a gift!
But she is no longer here and we do want to move forward. It is time to rehabilitate their lives in structural ways that make sense for them. We are fousing our energy on learning what the kids enjoy and guiding them toward those activities. Braden is fast, runs nonstop and is light on his feet. Soccer seemed like a good fit.
And we were right; he's loving it.
And though I always said I would 'never be a soccer mom.'
I've truly learned to never say never.
This child made me a boy mom. Chris somehow made me a soccer mom.
And even on cold, early Saturday mornings when it would be easiest to stay in bed and sleep in, I have found the energy [and right amount of coffee] to really enjoy the art of the game.
The kids are also really enjoying school.
Nora has said more than one time how much she loves her teacher. And Braden's teacher is the perfect fit for him. They wake up, get ready without a fight [usually] and head out for the day. We walk from home to school most mornings, giving us extra time together to talk and pray. Some days Nora doesn't make it in the door, as she gets anxious and overwhelmed. We turn around and walk home, arm in arm to spend the morning crying and comforting. My oldest girl misses her baby in such deep ways-ways that are not mine to tell.
It's heartbreaking that this is their life; their story.
Their sister died when they were 8 and 7 years old and they have to live the rest of their lives never seeing her again. I can't even fathom, as a sibling, how awful that must be.
They are both so brave.
Nora's newest hobby and obsession is mastering the art of cartwheeling. She has practiced a trillion times each day until she's gotten it just right. She isn't quite as limber or nimble as her brother and doesn't seem to be as agile as I once was. By her age I was already flip-flopping with Lindsay around the playground and spent most of my evenings practicing in the yard at Nanny & Pawpy's house. But she is determined and has worked so hard and she finally agreed to start in gymnastics. So we are excited at this next chapter for her as well and what it might bring. Her confidence is so cute, though all the flipping through our little house-not so much.
Yesterday we collected leaves for Aunt Jeni's wedding, driving through town and searching for the prettiest autumn trees. Everyone is so quick to clean their yards, bag up the colors, but we found just the right amount to fill the bags for her big day. This time next week I will have a brother-in-law and a new chapter in life will begin for my sister. It is a joyful season, indeed.
But bittersweet, as usual.
This new season is the first we've experienced without our girl. Her breath still met our air at the edge of summer. Yet here we are entering a colder season without her. Sometimes I can't believe it, like when I find myself driving to the place where she is buried and realizing that is what I'm actually doing. How did I get here? Where is she? When did this happen?
I'm actually living out the thing I feared and anticipated for so long. The grieving when she was alive was so intense, so overtaking, so nauseating that sometimes this grief feels like a relief. The absolution of her life and finality in her death have brought a sense of peace, taking away the worry and pain of wondering when and how it would in fact, occur.
But this missing, that is a whole new emotion. Something that words will never fully depict. I run miles and miles every day, trying to outrun the pain. Or outrun my exhaustion. Or exhaust myself. I don't know why, really. It's a good distraction I suppose. A distraction from a life that is mine and no one else's. I was her only mother. This is only my pain.
That is so isolating sometimes.
But then I see these two beautiful kids in front of me, no longer babies, and I refocus. I focus on their pain, their agony, their anxiousness and worry. I refocus on what's important for them and the isolation is lifted. It is not lost on me that the two of them grew up in front of me without me knowing it. I didn't have a choice but to care for their sister and I was determined to always do that in the very best way that I could. But in doing so, I lost many conversations and many moments in their childhood that I could have otherwise shared with them.
But I remind myself that many parents miss those things anyway. We are part of the parenting generation that seems to be the least engaged. We tend to be consumed with our phones, our jobs or our own desires and alot of times we no longer take the time to truly see our children.
I can say, at least for myself, that has never been the case. Even in the midst of caring for Mabel, I still saw them. I was still here with them every single moment of every single day. I have never been distracted by anything that wasn't worth my distraction. I have always been right here with them. Sometimes fully present. Sometimes not. But always here.
I see them now--more clearly than ever.
I am, now, just as I was in the beginning of this mothering journey-raising redheads.
It's terribly repugnant to think that this new phase of our lives is not really a phase after all. It is simply that which will be lasting-life without Mabel.
But we are doing it. We are alive together and living. It doesn't quite feel right just yet. It's a little unnatural. But slowly we're all filling the roles that we were created for within this family and figuring it out together. That's most important.
And I'm really proud of all of us.