It’s been 3 weeks since I last touched your soft, chubby cheeks. I remember sitting next to your bed and stroking your cheek, feeling that beautiful skin. Your skin truly was beautiful. It was the most beautiful color, and you didn’t have any baby acne or other skin problems. You were such a lovely, lovely girl.
Dear Love Bug,
This past week mommy, daddy, grandma, grandpa, and uncle Stephen took a vacation to Boracay, Philippines. Daddy and I just needed to get out of Kaohsiung because everything here reminds us of you. From the moment we moved here, last January, till the day you breathed your last breath, everything we have done in Kaohsiung has been about you. When we moved here I was moving here with the intentions of being a mommy, and raising you. Now that you aren’t here, it’s so hard to have to remember all the hopes and dreams we had for you at every intersection, store sign, and street corner. They all whisper the lost memories of what could have been.
When we left for our trip I was feeling really sad and nervous. It really felt like you were alive and we were leaving you behind. I didn’t want to leave our apartment where I can easily access your picture, your blankets, and all the things that still connect me to you. Even though you aren’t physically on Earth anymore, it still felt like I was a nervous parent leaving behind our baby for the first time.
But baby girl, it really seemed like part of you was with us on our vacation! At the first city we stopped over in, we were walking up and down the main street looking in different stalls. Most of them sold the same thing—swim suits, skirts, plastic toys, and sunglasses. As we were getting to the end of the street your grandma said “Look!” and as I looked up there was a single stocking cap with that familiar looking logo—Superman’s logo.
There you were, in Angeles City.
When we got to Caticlan we boarded a boat that would take us over to Boracay. I was quite nervous because the last time I had been on a boat I was pregnant with you, and I got really sea sick. As we were walking down the precarious stairs that led us to our seats I was feeling extremely sad and missing you a lot. We took our seats and looked up to see a small TV mounted on the wall. Guess what movie was playing? It was a boot-legged version of the new Superman movie.
There you were, in Caticlan.
After our first full day in Boracay we headed down to the beach to catch the sunset and find a place to eat dinner. We stood on the beach and watched the sun slowly sink into the horizon. The reflection of the sun danced on the water and made everything look gold and beautiful. It was low tide so we were able to walk out far into the ocean without getting very wet and I found myself lost in memories of you. I was aimlessly walking around, staring at two little children who were making sand castles and laughing. I couldn’t help but think that that could have been us in the future. You and I could have been sitting there in the sand, laughing and taking in the sunset together. You and I could have been sitting there with your younger brother or sister, if God hadn’t chosen to take mommy’s first baby too. It’s in moments like that when I start to get a little angry at God and feel sorry for myself.
“Why did you have to take both of my babies? WHY ME!? Why me? Why…me…?”
My eyes became swollen with tears, and as they spilled over onto my cheeks I was hit with a wave of extreme sadness. It was one of those moments where the reality of our situation hits me in the face like a wall of cement. It sucks the air out of my lungs and stops me right in my tracks. I have lost a child, and my life will never be the same.
I found a stick and walked closer to the shore where I knew the waves wouldn’t be hitting for several hours. I wanted to make you a part of that moment, to somehow tangibly put you in that place. I slowly dragged the stick back and forth and wrote “Our Super Girl Sophia.” That’s all that I could have of you in that moment—just your name written in the sand.
We walked on and as the sun kissed the horizon, the sky changed colors. The most beautiful reds, blues, and yellows painted the sky. Super Girl’s colors. A Sophia sunset.
And there you were, in Boracay.
We really did have a great vacation, Sophia. We spent our days laying in the sun and splashing in the water. We took an island hopping excursion and got to snorkel with some beautiful fish. We saw one fish—a red, blue, and yellow one—and we named it the Sophia fish. We went shopping and bought you a small, white butterfly and had them write your name on it. Uncle Stephen and I went parasailing, and the logo on the parachute was yours, Super Girl. All of us, mommy, daddy, grandma, grandpa, and uncle Stephen, were looking for ways to have you there with us. I want you to know that this was not a vacation to forget you, my angel.
That’s not possible to do. You are unforgettable.
The last few days in Boracay a typhoon was passing by the island, and the weather was not very good. It rained off and on all day, and the strong winds made the waters very choppy. Lots of people would want to stay out of the water, but our family loves it when the waves are big. Grandpa bought some inflatable inner tubes and we spent hours trying to survive the ferocity of the waves. In fact, if I sit real still, I can still feel the movement of the waves running through my body.
Most of the time the waves were big, but every few minutes there would be a short time of calm. The waves would get smaller, and we could all catch our breathes, clear the salt water from our eyes, and prepare for the next round of waves.
It was during that time that I realized my grief is a lot like those waves.
It comes and goes, but it is always there. Sometimes it comes quickly, in waves that are right on top of each other. I feel consumed by it, like I can’t breathe, and for short moments it seems like I am drowning. The memories of you play in my head like a never-ending slide show. I can’t stop thinking about those last days and wondering if you were in pain. I can’t stop wondering if in your last second here on Earth you were scared or if you heard mommy and daddy tell you that we loved you. I can’t stop dreading that all those days when we could only see you for 2 1/2 hours that the rest of the time you lied in your bed sad, in pain, and alone. I can’t stop believing that you didn’t have a good life, or that somehow I did something wrong to make you so sick. In those moments I’m trying so hard to keep my head above the waters of depression and darkness, and just trying to survive.
Then, there are the breaks in the huge waves. There are short moments of calm when I’m distracted by which restaurant to eat at for dinner, or a movie that’s on TV. Actually, I try to calm the waves on my own all the time. I will watch a lot of TV or read a book that doesn’t remind me of you. Sometimes in my mind’s eye I will see a big wave building, and I will have to force the wave down and turn my thoughts away from you to something else. I have to do that a lot when a big wave hits me while I’m in public. People just don’t understand how in one moment I can be cracking a joke, and in the next I can be turning my head to try and hide tears. If someone hasn’t experienced grief like this, they can’t understand how quickly your emotions can change. But the truth is, your emotions aren’t ever really changing—you’re always feeling grief and sadness—you’re just not always able to cover it up and bury it with another emotion.
Most of the time, my tiny angel, the waves are not huge or calm. They are just rough and ever present. Most of the time I’m in the surf, but able to survive. Most of the time I’m living in a dual universe where half of my brain is able to do normal things like order a hamburger from McDonald’s while the other half of my brain is just thinking about how I ate breakfast at the McDonald’s across the street from the hospital the day before you died. These kinds of thoughts are constant, never ending, and what make up my new reality: physically living in a world where you are not here, and mentally living in a world where you will never go away.
While we were in the water I was also reminded of a blog post I wrote when I was still pregnant with you. I wrote about my favorite story from your Jesus Bible, the one that I read to you more than the others: Jesus Calming the Storm. When I wrote that post I had no idea how long you would live, or how your physical condition would be. I didn’t know that after 47 days of bliss with you my heart then would be shattered into impossibly small pieces. But the truths from His Word that I wrote about then, are still true now. He is still in control of the waves around me, and He is still with me in the midst of the choppy waters.
I know that grief has to happen. I know that tomorrow I won’t wake up with the waves all gone and the water completely smooth. I know that I need to go through this process, and that it is good and healthy for me to do so. In fact, if God gave me the choice to live through this grief that is tangled up in memories of you, or to allow me to instantly forget it all and have no grief, I would choose to stay in the waves. Because although sometimes I’m afraid the slideshow of you will never stop playing in my head, I’m more afraid that it will. The fear of losing all those precious memories of you is far, far greater than the fear that the pain of them will never stop.
So now, Sophia, after you’ve been gone for 3 weeks and 3 days, mommy is still surviving. I’m still keeping my head above the waters, and clinging to the never-failing life raft that is my Savior. I’m trying to live the best I can in the life that now means I can laugh with our family in one room, and then go in the bathroom and silently cry.
I wish you could have been there with us on our vacation and that we could have shown you all the beauties of God’s creation…
…but, in a way, I guess you were.
Love always and forever,