Yesterday we dropped off our Japanese exchange student at the airport. We had a great time taking in a baseball game, visiting Milwaukee, trying new foods together, and getting to know each other. Madeline found a best friend in him, delighted that he lived with us too, and was heartbroken when she realized he wouldn’t be staying with us forever.
That sense of loss was hard on her and its hard on us too. Our student will return home safely to his family, but we may never see him again. Oliver and I have played that role time and time again with our students and friends in Swaziland and Haiti, even our high school and college friends who are now dispersed across the globe. There’s nothing worse than missing someone and we miss a lot of someones and one amazing little girl.
The morning of my first day as a US Peace Corps trainee in Swaziland, I woke up and my first coherent thought was, I can’t do this for two years. It was freezing. June is winter in Southern Africa and there was no indoor heating. Just as much as I was experiencing physical discomfort, my brain was thrown for a loop when it realized how very far away from home I was.
I tried talking myself into a calm state. I thought I might have packed a sweater somewhere; one I had been planning to use only a few times during my two-year stay in Africa. As for the distance from my home and family, I just saw them four days ago in Wisconsin. I decided I would focus on the fact that yesterday I had 2 years and 2 months until I saw them again. Today it was 2 years, 1 month, and 29 days. Looking at it from that perspective, I would always be closer to seeing my family again than I was the day before.
It wasn’t much, but it was something to focus on—a pseudo meditation I did often during my two years in Africa.
Today, August 9, 2017, marks the second anniversary of Lydia’s death. If you can use the word anniversary for something so sad and final. There are days that I could use a meditation, pseudo or otherwise, to get through things. Instead of getting closer and closer to seeing my eldest daughter, I get further from our goodbye.
Our family is doing what we can to survive this tragedy. We talk about Lydia often and Oliver and I share stories of her life with our other two children, so that they will hear her name spoken lovingly throughout their childhood. Still, we feel like we can only mitigate some of the challenges. Our lives have been irrevocably shaped by the loss of our daughter.
Last year this time, I was just a few weeks pregnant with Pierce. The prospect of facing another difficult pregnancy was terrifying. My first pregnancy had fallen out of my control and I was scared something similar would happen. There was a lot to reassure myself with: it wasn’t a twin pregnancy, it wasn’t high risk, I was healthy. I was still frightened.
We had a few false scares. Doctor calls for follow ups accompanied by tears and more worries. Thankfully, things turned out to be alright. Pierce is healthy save one dilated kidney that brings risk of frequent UTIs. He had an infection at 3 weeks old that warranted a hospital stay and, Monday night, I was in the ER with him again, getting antibiotics. As he gets bigger (and he is getting big), Pierce will outgrow this.
A UTI is small compared to Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (an abnormal dissemination of resources between twins via the placenta) but these moments still scare me stiff. The back of my mind runs itself tired wondering if it’s an indication of a bigger problem.
On Oliver’s birthday last June, we had a similar moment with Madeline. Some of you reading this might remember the hastily extinguished birthday party. Madeline was at one of her grandmother’s house and came down with a fever and suddenly we were getting a call that she was having a fever-induced seizure. Again, it was something contained. Madeline had a high fever from a virus, and there were no lasting impacts. I’m grateful for that and for Madeline’s health, but since Lydia passed, I can’t shake the ongoing worry and paranoia. I try to tell myself there are things to worry about and things to WORRY about and we have none of the later at the moment.
It’s hard reaching this landmark of two years since we’ve seen our daughter. It’s just as hard finding some piece of light, but I’ll try. It’s “better to have loved and lost: Than never to have loved at all.” We’re so grateful we met and spent time with our little girl.
This year in honor of Lydia’s memory, our family will be putting together supply kits for the Birth to 3 program which Madeline is a part of and which helps children under 3 through physical and speech therapy. Because of Madeline’s early birth, she was an automatic qualifier and has benefited greatly from the program. Lydia would have been a part of the same program.
Rest in peace, Lydia.