“Good night”, she said. “I love you.”
“Good night. I love you too my sweetheart”, I replied. I was reading on my bed when she came in. I watched her walk away and marveled at the amazing young woman she has become. And I questioned how it happened, when.
I blinked and here we are.
We spent the weekend attending various graduation parties. Life is in full bloom for these new young adults. Their wide eyes begging to take on everything in sight. The increasing pace of their beating hearts palpable to anyone near them as they overflow with the anxiousness to take that first step in their new journey. Laughter and joy abounds. Their parents, an incompatible mix of immense pride, yet also the lingering pangs of sadness over that fact that they will soon be leaving, the fact that they are no longer needed the way they once were.
“Five years and we’ll be here ourselves”, I tell my husband. I can hardly believe it. Just stop I plead with Time. Just wait. Just give me a little longer. Where did it go? Was I even present for it? I can’t remember it, I think to myself. Where was I? What was I doing? When had she stopped being a little girl? Have I done enough, taught her enough, instilled in her our values so she adopts them as her own?
I become misty eyed, feeling like every mother must, in losing my little girl to womanhood. I know my time with her is limited. And I know that she, like every other child who grows up, must want the freedom and ability to experience life on her own terms, too.
Then, on the other hand, I’m grateful for every bit of it because she’s growing and flourishing. When I look at her, I see all the same magic and inspiration I see in the eyes of those graduating seniors. And I want her to have every bit of goodness and opportunity the world can offer.
I try my best to prepare her. I’ve never wanted to fill her head with fairytales. I tell her it will be hard, she’ll have to fight for what she wants, push through her trials, and to never take a back seat. I encourage her to purse her dreams, with the understanding that being smart, while she is (astonishingly so), isn’t enough on its own so she knows she has to be willing to go out there and go after what she wants instead of sitting around waiting for it her find its way to her.
As much as it pains me (but of course I’m proud of her and happy for it) to see my child changing before my eyes; becoming her own person, blossoming into a being all her own; not needing me, I know that the alternative is far worse. I know from experience. And there is deep sadness. The hole in my heart reserved for our Miss Elliott, gone more than five years now opens a little wider in these moments. In the undeniable moments that reaffirm each time we live through them that there will never be these milestones and celebrations for her.
I will never know who she would have grown into being. What she would have accomplished. Whose lives she would have changed. She will always be three years old.
As the gap between my girls continues to widen exponentially, I can only hope she will carry her sister’s memory with her as she navigates the roads of life. When she has no siblings at home to share secrets with, fight with, turn to, or champion one another I can only hope that in her heart she feels a connection to her sister and knows she’s not an only child, even if she has to live this life as one.
I hope she will use her loss to propel her to reach new heights in both love and life. I know that she is by far more compassionate and understanding of others and their own plights, at such a younger age than she would have otherwise been. And while I would have never asked to place this burden on her, as a grief counselor once told me:
“We must be good stewards of our grief.”
In that spirit I will not wallow in my sadness, I will not stunt her own growth and development, but I will use it to further advance my daughter’s dreams and aspirations as she grows and matures, to the best of my ability, in honor of a beautiful life cut far to short. In honor of the live I have, and always will for both my beautiful girls.