By Michelle Villalobos
The sleep still in our eyes, the early morning sun shining through her golden hair as she twirls in front of me, her giggles dancing through the room. I sit on the couch, and pull the little boy on my lap in closer to me and smell his baby fresh hair. He watches her, mesmerized by his sister. I soak in the moment, breathing it all in, and taking a snapshot of it in my head. These days are ones I want to remember.
And before I know it’s happening, tears are streaming down my face. Because in my life, bitter always accompanies the sweet, all because while there are two lovely children in front of me, I am the mom to three.
One will always and forever be missing from these sacred moments.
Because my middle girl, my Violet, my feisty little firecracker caked in sweetness, the one that was happiest in my arms and nowhere else, left me one cold January night. And since that day, my life and my parenting has involved a coexistence of the deepest happiness and the deepest sorrow, all wrapped up in one complicated heart.
Being their mom is the greatest thing I will ever be, and mothering two children in life and one in death is a complex matter. In order to be the mom they deserve, I make time for all of them.
For my living ones it involves hugs and kisses, lots of tickles, making cookies, curling her hair just because; night time feedings with just him, countless games of peekaboo, rocking him to sleep and kissing that one spot on his nose 1000 times a day.
For the one who lives in my heart, this time involves treks to the cemetery to decorate her grave, lovingly looking through pictures of her, listening to songs that remind me of her, watching the sunset, and talking about her to anyone who will listen.
My biggest fear in parenting, besides the obvious, is that my kids will grow up feeling that their worth is less than their sister’s because she died. I don’t want them to resent me for missing her and I don’t want them to wish she never existed, because all she does is make Mom sad.
I want them to know that being their mom, all three of them, makes me more joyful than anyone else could possibly be. I want them to know that it’s okay to be happy, but it’s also okay to be sad. I want them to know that it’s okay to miss their sister while still being glad to be here, to be alive. I want them to know that even though I miss her, I’m so unbelievably lucky to have them. I want them to be able to talk to me about anything. I want an honest and open home.
She stops her twirling at the sight of my tears, my oldest girl, who is wise so far beyond her years asks me if I’m sad because I miss baby Vi.
“Yes baby, I miss her very much.”
“It’s ok mommy. Baby Vi died, she in the stars, but you still have me and baby Declan!”
“Yes. I do. And that makes me so so happy.”
I don’t want my kids to grow up and tell people that their mother died right alongside their sister. In the beginning I felt dead inside, but that’s not me anymore. I’m alive and breathing.
A piece of my heart will always be missing. I will always miss her. I will forever wonder how life would be if she could have stayed, and I live in terror that it will happen again. I’m acutely aware of just how lucky I am to have two here, but I will always wish I had to make three lunches, three snacks, three cups of milk/water/juice 17 different times everyday.
After I tuck my two here into bed and kiss their sleepy closed eyes, I spend my evenings listening to the soft sound of their breathing, wondering and imagining who Violet would be. How would she fit in with them? Would she be the most outgoing or the most shy? Would she be a leader or would she follow the crowd? I crave these moments of solitude to think about her, to wish and imagine what could have been.
I will always wish I could be the mom to three living kids. I will always wonder who she would have been, while being amazed at who my other two are becoming.
I am a grieving mom, but I am also just a mom. A mom who cherishes all of her kids equally. My life is a juxtaposition of joy and pain. Bitter with the sweet. Happiness and sadness all in the same breath. This is my life now, I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but it’s my life, and I will do the best I can to really live despite it all.
Michelle Villalobos is a wife and mother to three lovely children, two here with her and one in the stars. She’s a believer in coffee, cookies, and leggings as pants. She has put herself back together through the worst loss and come out the other side alive/living/still breathing.
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