I found a crumpled note in the closet; its manila edges peeked from beneath a pile of mismatched socks. The worm paper smells like bubblegum and sweet pea perfume. — My daughter loved that slender bottle of sweet pea purple perfume, she sprayed it around the house until our eyes watered and our nose hairs were singed! My hands smoothed over the crumpled page, instinctively seeking the warmth of the small hands that once held this very paper…that of my daughter. There is a special kind of grief that follows the loss of a child living but forcibly separated from you, it is a constant tearing of the heart by reminders or memories…a painful yearning that reaches across a distance that is never brought closer…it is also a painful exclusion for all the special days you miss out on. A day like today, my daughter’s birthday.
My daughter had hidden notes like this one around the house for me to find later, and I am constantly surprised by her thoughtfulness. My hands shake as I read the large, boxy letters written in red marker “MOM LOVE”. Beneath the words my daughter drew a picture of us together—smiling with our stick hands clasped together into a joined heart. Both figures wear identical dresses in a tent-like triangle, a perfect depiction of how we used to wear matching outfits or shoes. My daughter was so proud of coordinating our clothing that way, or going into my closet to steal anything that would fit. My halter-tops became her dresses, my strappy heels her play shoes, and my make-up became a portal in which I would view her future, as my daughter applied color that aged her face from a spunky child to a glimpse of the young lady she would one day grow into. When my daughter smeared terra cotta lipstick across her mouth, narrowly missing her teeth, I wondered about high school dances ahead—would she dance alone, crazily skipping across the floor or take interest in a special boy (I know my son would be lurking nearby, ready to pounce at the first sign of trouble!)? When my daughter applied three shades of pink eye shadow to the petal of her lids, I wondered about the world awaiting those gorgeous eyes…and the bright blushed applied to her wide cheeks, made me wonder about the hushed secrets and breathless whispers in our closest talks together. I imagined that I would die of embarrassment a thousand times in my daughter’s awkward teenage moments! Or roll on the floor laughing at her latest practical jokes.
Then a sharp pain zig-zags from the deepest crevices of my heart, the realization that I may never have these moments with my daughter…and already have lost several years of her life due to the injustices we suffered… All I can do is gently hold this letter in my hand, and kiss her round, stick figure face and whisper, “Happy Birthday!” I pray that somewhere, far away she will hear me, and know her Mommy loves her and always has. — Emily Court