Because they never walked this earth,
I have little from Before.
I have a photo I took of my positive pregnancy tests, taken in joy.
An outfit never worn.
The glossy black-and-white ultrasound images, distinguishable only by the printed dates.
And that’s it.
Everything else is from After.
Entire lives gathered into a box.
Printed copies of their obituaries.
A “Recognition of Life” certificate, rather than a birth certificate, listing birth stats. Five and a half inches long. 2.3 ounces.
Two death certificates.
My hospital bracelets.
A beaded bracelet the labor and delivery nurse made for me.
Rubber bracelets for my boys that say “I’m a big brother!” They never wore them.
A tiny, pink, knit hat and tiny cloth diaper that can fit in the palm of my hand.
A necklace that a friend gave me after I learned I was pregnant after my first loss, with the words engraved “She believed she could, so she did.” I can’t wear it now.
The heavy metal disc used to clamp shut the bag of cremains.
A copy of the program from the Walk to Remember in October of this year, where both of their names are printed and were read aloud.
The poem “Beannacht (Blessing)” by John O’Donohue.
I moved through the items in the box, remembering the significance of each. I have not taken everything out in months. Maybe ever – I don’t know that I have ever looked at the pieces of their lives in their entirety. I just kept adding to the box as new items were received. Yet here I am, at 3:00 am with the contents strewn around me.
I carefully placed everything back in the box, back in the substitution for memories. The box was placed back in its place, on the tray that it a tribute to my daughters, displaying their footprints, candles, and a drawing of the tree where their ashes are scattered.
Everything was tucked away, except the poem. The Blessing, sent to me right after we lost Nelle, seemed too significant to be put back in the box. Instead, I found a frame, and added it to the display. I had to print it three times to get the exact right size, and the ink was running low in my printer. The faded effect seemed appropriate. While none of this journey seems a Blessing, it is a reminder that the surrounding world contains blessings. I can acknowledge that.
“In those days, we finally chose to walk like giants and
hold the world in arms grown strong with love
And there may be many things we forget in the days to come,
But this will not be one of them.”
― Brian Andreas, Traveling Light: Stories & Drawings for a Quiet Mind