The split. The deafening crack between before and after, between what was and what will never be. Change erupts, violently scorching all things within its reach and life is suddenly and irrevocably severed. Two distinct parts. Before. And After.
We come to, in the After, weary and broken. We sift through the charred remains of a life we once knew, memories of which become increasingly distant. This newness is painful and we grasp desperately at what has been ripped away. We return empty handed.
The After is dark. Intimidating in its strength and haunting in its silence. We prefer the Before. It was safe. It was ordinary. It was good enough.
Life was good enough before she died. Happy marriage, one healthy kiddo, two cute dogs and a mean house cat. Check. Time for baby two. And had she lived, like she should have in the happy world of Before hypotheticals – life would still be good enough. It would be full. And it would be beautiful. But it would be different.
After all, life was on a good path. A path with direction. And plans. And patterns. And then, she came.
And she changed everything. She broke me. She broke my husband. She reset the course for our entire lives. It got dark. And it got cold. It got bitter and it got mean.
And then, something new. A light in the After. A little bit of healing warmth. Just a touch, but enough to get my attention and demand pause. New life. Change. Resilience.
And it is strange. We get good at dealing with strange things in the After.
We learn how to answer the tricky questions of strangers and quiet the intruding voice of our own. We come to know the intense contradictions of sadness and joy and we’ve mastered the art of morbid humor. We bury our children. We experience strange things.
But perhaps nothing has felt more odd, more unfamiliar, more challenging than this recent realization:
Life is better today, because she lived…and died.
That’s a tough one. But I’ve been living it. I’ve been trying to process it and I’ve been trying to articulate it. And it is STRANGE. To know that I am better, we are better, our life is more full and more authentic as a direct result of her death – it’s strange.
To recognize her death as the initial catalyst for all kinds of good things. Things that we have experienced over the last three years and things that we continue to experience today – It’s just…strange.
How do we reconcile that? What happens when your dead baby is a mover and a shaker and radically changes everything she touches? When she disrupts your life and rocks your world?
What do I do with the knowledge that I wouldn’t be who I am or do what I do, had she lived?
I don’t know. I can’t even begin to think that I might be getting close to knowing. But I do know that my Before is long gone. And as I continue to invest in my After, I come to appreciate what other amazing things her life and death have to offer.
What’s more? I’d give it all to have her back. All the good and growth and change and newness. I’d trade it all to go back to an ordinary, happy life with two kids and a white picket fence. But most days – I’m grateful that I don’t have that option. That it was never my call. That perhaps nothing is.
I’m not entirely sure if it was she or I, born three years ago today. But there was a deafening split. And I’m eternally grateful for it.
Happy Birthday, sweet girl. Here’s to so much more than death.