It is no surprise that I have a tendency to gravitate toward numbers. My education and profession are based in calculations, predictions and statistics. I often present a summation of numbers and data points in order to explain a trend or to tell a story. And it is through this minor obsession, particularly with a unique set of numbers, that I realize in just a short span of 9 days, our family will approach a milestone of sorts. This number can easily be considered arbitrary, one that would otherwise come and go without any recognition, perhaps it's only quality being that it is so tidy and divisible. I hesitate on letting my mind wander to this calculation in the first place. What good can come from this? It is a simple formula with only two variables, measuring one unit of distance since I last held my middle child.
My mind takes off cycling through the catalog of memories. And at first, this number seems large, but honestly I struggle to define this period of time. Is it a long time? To be fair, I could just as easily reduce or expand this number using a different measure—perhaps it is really only a few years, or mountain of unbearable minutes? Time has felt anything but consistent, with the only real constant being the anticipation that slowly builds with a looming anniversary, the duality of an approaching holiday or meaningful date. However, I can admit that the days leading up to this marker in time appear to be accelerating, lacking the torturous pace of days gone where hours would stretch out without forgiveness.
As I drift into this new normal, I look back across the yawning timeline and see the knots and entanglements the give weight to my perception. I roll though the checklist of past events: an immersion into activism with fundraising, networking and organization, exploration and growth through rituals, sharing and writing, learning the new language of life after loss and wading through the misplaced ignorance and insensitivity from others, surviving the balancing act between hope and fear intertwined in pregnancy after loss. Stacked one atop the other, these 1,000 days hardly seem adequate to hold so much.
Weighing down the other end of the scales are the events yet to come, or to be painfully accurate, that will never be. The absent first day of school, her first tooth that will never be lost. Scores of missed goals and an empty trophy bookshelf. A complete history of stubborn disagreements and frustrations, of laughter and inside jokes never to be recorded. Sing-alongs that have fallen silent, dances that sit quietly. The long goodbye hug and misty eyes before driving away from her first college dorm. When I allow myself to wander in this place, I quickly realize that I have barely walked down path that stretches out forever. My obsessive count is a mere dot on the timeline of loss.
And then there is Lydia, who seems to transcend time itself. My imagination runs wild with the visions of who she should be—a bright-eyed toddler, exhausting me with her go-go energy and confounding me with her stubborn need to express her independence, all while I marvel at her budding personality. Mixed in are the realizations of who she is, the warm space that she occupies in our family despite her physical absence. And while these thoughts inherently carry yearning and sadness within them, they ultimately bring me peace. These are not bittersweet moments of the past, nor are they daunting hours yet to come. It is in these moments I find I am released from my perpetual time-keeping, and can just be present with my daughter and the space I hold for her in my life.
How do you balance the past, present and future? Do you find comfort in one more than the others?