Is it weird that I feel a sense of relief that her birthday has passed?
It makes me feel kind of guilty even to type that, but the weight of day was so heavy, and the anticipation of it so tense, that I swear I felt lighter when I woke up this morning.
Last night we attended the candlelight vigil at the Angel of Hope statue. It was a nice ceremony, and it was 50 degrees out, which is so unusual but was really nice. There were probably around 1,000 people there. We got there just as it was starting and as we parked the car, we could see the glow of candles over the hill. It's lovely but heartbreaking to see an event like this so well-attended.
One of the women who spoke lost her daughter at the age of 16 in a car accident. The focus of her speech was about love, and the way the amount of love a person brings into the world has no relation to the length of her life. And even when that life ends, the love remains. Which is, of course, what makes the grief so intense, but also what makes the life meaningful.
I'm working hard to remember that today, and to feel grateful for the love Eliza brought into our lives. I felt surrounded by that love yesterday, in the form of e-mails and texts and cards and phone calls and instagram photos, and I felt it, too, in the love we have for her little sister.
The woman who spoke last night talked about how she learned to integrate the loss of her daughter into her life, and she said that she purposely didn't use the word accept because she would never accept what happened. It would never be okay. But she did learn to live with it, and to eventually see the ways it could deepen her connections with others. She said that even if she knew her daughter's life would end prematurely, she would still choose to be her mom because she would still want to experience that kind of love.
To be honest, I struggled with that for a long time. If I didn't get to bring Eliza home with me, I wondered why I'd ever had to get pregnant and fall in love with her at all. I didn't need to learn a lesson--or if I did, I certainly didn't need to learn it that way. I already felt lucky and grateful and ready to be a parent. Was the love I felt for her, and those brief months of happiness worth the agony of losing her? Sometimes I still don't trust myself to answer that question.
I've lived for two years now with the painful divide between Plan A (the plan I loved) and Plan B (the life I have) and it has been a challenge not to continually compare them and see all the ways that Plan A would have been superior and happier and better in every way.
Now, of course, there's a little Plan B addition that complicates that good/bad comparison. And I know, deep down, that life is more complicated than that. If every decision we make has an alternative outcome, then I've lived Plan A's and Plan B's in exponential numbers--so much that I could never cleanly divide my life into two paths that diverged at a moment in time. It still feels like I could--like that moment was December 6, 2010--but more and more I'm starting to integrate Eliza's life and her loss into the only life I have--one that is still worth living, even though it will never be quite what I had hoped it would.
I had prepared myself for Year 2 to be really difficult. I know it was for many of my friends. And, as is now typical for me, it was the week leading up to it that was really the lowest point for me. But yesterday, what I found myself thinking about a lot was how far we had come in the span of a year. How different December 6, 2012 felt from December 6, 2011.
One year out from Eliza's death was agony, ongoing. I was newly pregnant and taking progesterone supplements which were making me nauseated, constipated, tired, and depressed. I was dreading the day because I was convinced that if/when I lost this pregnancy, it would also happen on the 6th. I couldn't stand the thought of the approaching holidays, and I was stressed out beyond belief at the way some of my in-laws did not appear to be supporting David and me. I didn't know what I wanted people to do for us--I didn't know what I wanted us to do. I didn't feel capable of organizing something, I couldn't bear to just do nothing. I was in a really bad place. And it had been an entire year! I had thought I'd be feeling so much better by then! It seemed like if there wasn't much improvement after a year, that things would never get easier.
This year was just... easier. I didn't feel like I was drowning. I missed Eliza, but I was also grateful for her. And so, so grateful for her little sister. I can't say that Zuzu has cured our grief. She certainly hasn't replaced her sister or made our family whole--there's nothing that could do that. But last night I cried not just for Eliza, but for friends who have had multiple losses and for friends who have struggled to get pregnant after loss. I cried because life is not fair, and David and I have had the worst of it and now the best of it.
The truth is that last night was easier because I was carrying Eliza's little sister in the Ergo. There is no doubt about that.
It was also easier because of all the ways I felt connected to people who were remembering my little girl. I know that happened last year as well, but last year I was so anxious about it--I sent out memorial cards, I demanded acknowledgement. This year, I let myself wait and see and didn't worry about it so much. And no one who matters disappointed me. Do you know how freaking lucky we are to be able to say that? Of course, I may have edited my list of people who matter in the last two years, but still.
Thank you for remembering Eliza, for speaking her name and writing it down, for lighting candles and whispering prayers. You're all part of the love she brought to us and I'm grateful for you.