By Jessica Watson
Eight years ago our daughter Hadley passed away. She was one of triplets, all three vying to leave my stomach long before they were supposed to arrive. She was the last to come out, the first to curl a tiny hand around my finger and the only one (thank goodness) I begged not to leave us as she took her last breaths in the NICU.
In the beginning it was the minutes, the hours, the months. I cried in the shower and forgot how to sign my name on a check and carry on a conversation. I was consumed with remembering every detail… the weight of her in my arms, the almost-blue of her eyes, the shape of her eyelids as they closed. Repeating over and over in my mind our short moments, our last day, I hated that the edges of my memory were beginning to fade.
I called the hospital once, over a year after her death, convinced they might have one picture of her that we did not. Praying they had some file containing one more piece for me to hold onto, I waited while the staff found a way to tell me what I already knew. There wasn’t anything more. What I had was all there would ever be. What I carried forward needed to be enough.
Over the years I have dug deep to live life fully for my surviving children, for my husband, for myself. On the days my grief has left me pulling the covers over my head, I’ve gotten up. Not because I wanted to but because my life had to go on. And over time that getting up got easier and easier until I didn’t have to think about it anymore, didn’t have to remind myself that one foot must go after the other.
Since Hadley was one of triplets, I have children the same age my daughter would be right now. At eight years of age they need me to be fully present and easy to laugh and genuinely happy to be alive. And I believe their sister needs the same. She’s peaking through the clouds, cheeks pink and clapping with delight when we kitchen-dance and catch a kite on the wind. The child in her needing to be honored by the mother in me and entertained by the family she left behind.
There are still days I comb my brain for memories of her short life, wish for something I might have forgotten, but I’ve made a bit of peace with time and its need to move forward. I don’t remember Hadley’s life as a before and an after anymore. Her memory has grown and changed with us. We all carry her, the weight heavier for some than others. But she is here. She’s woven into yesterday and today and is pulling a ribbon of light through tomorrow.
I will always wish for more time, more memories and the childhood my daughter deserved, but I don’t count the months and years since Hadley passed so much anymore. What I carry of our brief time together has blended into an appreciation for the gift that was and always will be my daughter.
Her life, so much more a part of mine, than her death.
Jessica Watson is the mom to five, four in her arms and one in her heart. She has been blogging with her heart on her sleeve at fourplusanangel.com since the loss of her daughter, Hadley Jane. You can find Jessica on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and look for her first children’s book, “Soon” to be arriving this spring.