One of my kids runs around the living room making mischief in her underwear, her heart beating miraculously, while the remains of my other kid rest softly in a little brown and gold box from Budapest, which sits on a shelf in our living room, next to the rocks from her river, next to the photograph of water, next to the necklace with her name on it. I'm as used to this reality as I am shocked by it.
This was 2011.
We spent the majority of our evenings on the couch, heads on either end, feet tangled in the middle, talking about our new reality. After long days with Stella, with work, the evenings were our time to sit openly with our grief, to face the sadness and heartache without worrying about how it affected Stella or how it affected our friends. We wept and cried. We lit candles. We counseled one another through anger and jealousy and guilt. We stared at the ceiling in disbelief. We held each other fervently, allowing a decade of flourishing and perpetual love to wash over our brokenness. Evening by evening, we faced the darkness, hoping enough evenings would accumulate to slowly heal our aching hearts.
Our days were spent with our Stella, who turned two in February and never looked back. She potty trained the week before her second birthday and marveled us with her words. Hearing her talk is like a dream coming true, slowly and steadily, always inevitable but still surprising. By summer she was screaming out little sentences and by December she was successfully negotiating with us. Our little firecracker of a girl, so full of life, of jokes, of independence. The burden of 2011 was surely eased by the joy of watching her live so fiercely.
We made two new friends that I think will be around for the rest of our lives, a rare gift in the complicated scheme of life.
We lived in community as we have always imagined, with our housemates who rock the floors above us, with our friends who live ten houses down, with our gang that gets together for wine and vegetarian food.
Everything else about the year seems trivial, forgettable, barely worth a mention.
Perhaps the most stunning thing I can think of, on this warm January morning, is that we made it this far. We haven't completely lost our minds. We haven't lost our substance. And in the ocean of sorrow we find ourselves in, we are facing the waves and undertow and storms with as much courage and tenacity as we can muster. We are still here, clawing forward, somewhat intact, and this feels like something to cautiously smile about.