13! A teenager. From watching your friends grow, I can imagine your eye rolls as you tolerate my jokes and the sweet inevitable awkwardness of adolescence. I can wonder about your interests, and I have some ideas, but they are only guesses now.

Five years after your death and life is very different. When you were with us, your birthday was like a holiday in our house. The excitement leading up to it. The emotion and the holding onto the memory making. You adored your birthday, which is what made it so fun… but there was also the weight of the gift of time we were being given with each year. People from all over the world celebrated with you, sending messages and cheering you on as you defied the odds of your diagnosis. Family came into town and the fanfare lasted for days.

Now, it is much quieter – no balloons or gifts to be opened apart from those that I buy to help your sisters know you. Not everyone remembers anymore.

But I do. And I know that even when I am 90 and October 4th arrives, I will still recall all the details of the days you began to make your arrival. The wild windstorm that roared in the night, the bright full moon urging so many babies on that I had to recover in the supply closet. How my water broke at home with a movie-like gush and Daddy went into a panic but I insisted on eating macaroni. I had been so scared I wouldn’t know how to mother you but as you began your decent I felt a sudden calm knowing I was going to meet you soon. The first time I held you, the nurses had swaddled you tightly and you were red-faced from crying, I said your name and you immediately stopped, searching for me, your eyes blinking thick with the antibiotic they applied right at birth. I stroked your tiny cheek with my index finger and we locked eyes, all the worries trickled down and I could feel our souls had been connected all along. I knew we would guide each other and learn together. And we did, my love. We did.

These are the things one never forgets, body memories. The lights of the room, the scent, the trembling of Daddy’s hand as he cut your umbilical chord… All of it is embedded deeply into our cells, helping my body hold my broken heart in place.