Yesterday I watched a friend of mine experience what every parent’s nightmares are made of: the wake of his young daughter.
It was an hour of waiting outside of the funeral home in the sunshine, and then an hour winding around the rooms inside, to get to the family. Once you were inside, there were posters full of pictures, like at any wake, except these pictures were full of baby girls and little girls, adolescent girls and teenaged girls.
In the deceased girl’s face, in every picture, I saw my daughter. Baby. Little girl with braids in princess gown and crown. Chubby little fingers. Chubby little cheeks. Hugs with mommy and daddy. Sesame Place. Disney world. Beach. Hours of video playing while we crept toward our turn to greet the family. As a mother, you kn ow what it feels like to hold that little baby on your hip. You know how it feels to bring her to these places, and how precious those memories are. You know how it feels to watch them grow into their own person.
The casket was closed, and I am so thankful for that. For the family more than anything. I don’t think they could have handled it.
I went home, after hours and hours of sadness. I held my little girl to my chest, stroked her chubby cheeks, grasped her chubby little fingers, both of which have thinned out almost unrecognizably in recent months, and I said a little prayer of thanks. I felt her warmth against me, knowing my friend couldn’t do this with his daughter, but I could. And I didn’t want to waste another moment of loving her.
You hear it, all the time. Each day is a gift. In the doldrums of the day to day routines and fights and battles to mold this small person, you lose that perspective so easily. It’s a burden, sometimes, to wipe that little nose, or hold her close as she has yet another dramafest for her 6th insignificant boo boo of the afternoon. As she mocks you or tells you no, or loses your ring, or any number of the things that these small people do. It’s so easy to forget that these people are gifts to us. And these times, even though they can be the toughest, are still such a blessing. Because they are who they are. And they are there, and you can hear their voice and hold their bodies close, and tell them how much you love them. What if you couldn’t?
By the grace of God or this universe, or by pure luck, I pray I will get to see my daughter grow up. Keep shooting up taller every month and watch her body grow and change and experience her as she learns more and more about this life and the world around her. The good, bad, ugly. I want to be with her as she gets ready for prom, and her wedding (if she has one). I want to be by her side and watch her live her life. To be an adult and find her happiness. To have guided her all along.
So selfishly, I think. I want to never suffer as my friend is suffering today. I don’t ever want to know another day without my daughter.