Virginia turned ten almost two weeks ago. It is hard to believe. Ten was a harder birthday for Findley and me than most of the recent ones have been. For some reason, on that night of October 2, we feel like we can go back in time and protect her from harm, but we can't. And then dawn breaks on the third, and we are ok. Ready to press forward because what is done is done. Wow, we've made it ten years! Or, wow, we've been doing this for ten years...
Mom, Ginny, Eliza and I spent the day with Virginia at the Botanic Gardens and then we celebrated with family that night. Most of our other family birthday celebrations revolve around food, and it is tough to figure out how to celebrate with someone who can't safely swallow. We all ate banana pudding with her and watched Herbie the Love Bug.
I'm not usually one for a numbered post, but here are ten things I've been thinking about lately. Call it '10 for Virginia's Tenth.' Be advised, I have a feeling this is going to be all over the place.
1. Eliza and I were at the grocery Labor Day weekend and I ran into an old family friend. She has a daughter named Virginia who is only two months younger than our Virginia. I introduced Eliza to the other Virginia and her mother. Eliza smiled, we all chatted a minute, and then moved on with our shopping. A full ten minutes later, she looked up at me from the cart and I instantly knew what was coming.
"Mommy," her little voice quivered, "why can't my Virginia walk? I want my Sissy to walk."
Somehow she knew that the other Virginia was the same age as Sissy, even though I didn't tell her. And for the first time she realized that it was supposed to be different for Sissy.
It is strange to me that Wills and Eliza will grieve something that happened before they were even born, but they will.
All I did was stand there in the midst of the salad dressing aisle and cry with her. I told her that I wished our Virginia could walk too, but we love her no matter what and she's still the perfect Sissy.
It's sad. I can't take it away. So I don't try to explain it away either.
2. My sister got married and my brother passed the BAR exam. Lots of celebrating for our family.
3. Eliza turned 4 in September. I can't believe that my baby is so big!
4. I got to go to Colorado with my best friends from high school, minus one who was home with her sweet baby who has a dislocated hip. We missed you a ton, Anna, but if you had been on the hike, I don't think we would have made it back. It was a deceptively rigorous hike and we kept laughing hysterically and if you had been there cracking jokes, we seriously would have ended up down a gully somewhere.
Bev and I were a little afraid pregnant Clare was going to fall off a cliff,
Tripp, I think A needs one of these cars,
5. On the aforementioned trip, we talked about regrets. My biggest regret is that I didn't do a good job of figuring out who I was a little earlier in life. Here's a confession. As recently as a year ago, I decided I was going to go to medical school. I started taking classes so I could apply. Even seeing those words in writing seems ridiculous. I hired extra help, and decided to go for it. Six weeks into my classes, Virginia got pneumonia. I could have worked it out, but I remember sitting there, holding my coughing, feverish daughter, as the babysitter assured me she could take care of Virginia while I went to three hours of classes. And I realized. This is stupid, Abby. Are you really going to miss these moments in pursuit of your own dreams? Because having a family with Findley was one of your dreams, too. Actually it was your biggest dream.
Over the last year, I can finally say that I am at peace being a stay-at-home mom. I wish I had realized that in college (or shortly thereafter) and saved myself the burden and angst of feeling like something was missing or that I wasn't measuring up. I would love being a doctor. But when I think about my personality, there is no way (even if Virginia were healthy) that I could do both. Lots of my friends are great doctors and lots of Virginia's best doctors are women. There are women who can do both and do both well. But I would not have been one of them. I could never leave a child with a nanny or leave a patient in the hospital to go home to my family. Either would rip my heart out. So it is a good thing that I am right where I am.
Of course there are other things I would like to pursue- like writing a book or helping Memphis get a pediatric neuromuscular rehab center off the ground- and hopefully those things will happen in time. But if they don't, I will be fine.
6. I realize more every year that you only get to live each moment once. You get one chance and then that ship has sailed. I am trying to do a better job of being present for each one. Which leads me to my next point...
7. This is old news, but I think social media is doing terrible things for our society. I got off facebook over two years ago. I have not missed it at all. (Now when we were in Colorado, and friends posted pics on their FB page and people starting saying how young we looked, I definitely missed that...) For the past 3 months, I have hardly used my computer. I do not take my iPhone to bed or look at it first thing in the morning. Guess what? I have read 15 books. And I am happier and more peaceful. I swear these iPhones are going to be the death of us and our children. No one can concentrate. There is no work ethic or drive because everything is instantaneous. I am cutting back on my interaction with the outer circle so I can be completely present for my inner circle.
8. I will never be thankful for what happened to Virginia. I am, however, thankful for her life and for many things that have happened since.
9. In the last ten years, I have become a lot less judgmental and I follow a lot less rules. Findley and I believe much different doctrine than we did ten years ago, and, no pun intended, thank you, Jesus!
10. Like everything else in life, the grieving process is not black and white. You don't ever truly move past a tremendous loss. You learn to manage it, you learn not to think about it all the time, and you learn to focus on the things you do have control over. If you hand your suffering to God, it will not be wasted, but knowing that doesn't necessarily make certain situations easier or less painful. Suffering is a necessary and beautiful part of life, but nobody wants it, especially not for their child.
and a late-breaking number 11: Disney called and we are all set to go for our trip. They listened to our concerns, and then they waved their magic wand and made some special things happen for Miss Virginia and the rest of us who are lucky enough to be her escorts. They are the best!
So....there you go. Anybody hang in there for that whole thing? :)