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From the Rearview Mirror

With all this talk about Kiddo lately, you might be wondering where Charlotte has been in all this.  Of course, we needed to tell Kiddo about Charlotte even before her first visit to our home. I think the plethora of pictures might have been a quick giveaway. 


Part of my card, complete with the "butterfly life cycle".
The little egg on the leaf turns into a CJ butterfly.
Kiddo handled Charlotte's story really well. She asked a lot of questions at first. We share stories about her but definitely follow Kiddo's lead in how much we talk about her. Kiddo has also sweetly mentioned Charlotte in her "prayers" and even drew a "CJ" butterfly on my Mother's Day card.  

When Charlotte first died, I had a difficult time understanding how anyone with kids could function while grieving another child.  I was completely self-absorbed and was sometimes actually grateful that I could get lost in my grief without having to worry about tying someone's shoes or sending a little one off to bed.  When I brought this up in counseling, I was told, "Parents who have other children often say just the opposite.  They can't imagine moving forward without someone to divert their attention and to whom they can provide love."

Now I think I get it.  

The busy-ness of child rearing can sometimes be just enough to pull you out of the black hole of grief.  The reminders are all around me and the sadness never goes away but it's...different.  It also helps, I suppose, that I am in my 5th year of grieving her loss. I've become much better at riding the waves.

One night recently, though, my thoughts wandered as I was drifting off to sleep. I had this memory of Charlotte that I couldn't get out of my mind. It was a memory of the day we received final verification that Charlotte's tumor was, in fact, terminal. As I left the hospital that day, overcome with emotion to the point that I was virtually numb, I remember that all I could do was look at her. I didn't know what to say but as we drove from the MCV parking garage to our home in Ashland, I looked in the back seat and stared at that beautiful girl with the bald head and brown eyes thinking, "This is it. There's nothing more we can do. I just want to stare at her forever. I want to soak up her essence."

I was stuck in that feeling for about 8 hours, after which we were jolted back to reality via a seizure that sent us right back to the ER that evening.  I remember, though, that in the weeks to come, I watched Charlotte a great deal. I watched her play. I watched her sleep. I watched her drift away.

The first time I got into the car after she died, I looked in that rearview mirror.  There was that car seat, sitting empty. The harsh truth that she would never sit in that seat again filled me with such pain. 

Fast forward to today. So much has happened in our lives. The view from the rearview mirror is different, and yet it's amazingly comfortable. As we fall back into our parenting roles, it feels good to find the balance with past memories and new experiences, always looking forward to the road ahead but always glancing back to remember where we've been.  

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