I awoke to my alarm at 6am. My husband touched my leg and said, "Don't get up early today. It's Mother's Day." Grateful for the support, I turned off my alarm and rolled over into my pillow.
A short time later, my daughter brought a small plate of breakfast, a mug of my favorite tea, and a sweet smile.
Sigh. She is much like her older sister. Her older sister who was the exact same age when her diagnosis came, when her hair fell out, when her easy life became incredibly hard. Her older sister who is almost not "older" any longer.
Katie. Sweet Katie. I think about you every day. But today... Mother's Day... oh my. I miss you so deeply. It seems like it should be easier after 5 years but it isn't. It seems like the pain shouldn't be as sharp this year, but it is. It seems like the hole shouldn't feel as significant, but sometimes it feels bigger.
I have learned to make space around this day just in case. I have learned that some days I just need to be gentle with myself. Today is one of those days. I make no plans. I move slowly. I expect less. I feel all the emotions. And the day is as good as it is hard. And as hard as it is good. I don't want to miss the grief or the love I feel in these moments.
I look around my room and see the reminders. The notecards she wrote by hand with the encouraging mom quotes. The pillow she bought displaying all their birthdays. The puppy made from the dress she wore just a couple weeks before she left me. Oh sweet girl.
I look at my kids and see the gap. Katie often said, "We are a pattern: boy-girl-boy-girl-boy." Now a space exists between the two older boys. It may go unnoticed by many, but I see it in every picture, at every meal, around every corner in my house. When I set out plates for dinner, I have only recently learned to count to six without counting to seven first. When someone asks about my family, the answer is still, "I have five children." How could I ever not include her? The truth is three of my children are currently living at home, and two have gone on to do really incredible things. Aaron is studying economics. Katie is studying Jesus. And both are exactly where they should be and doing what they truly enjoy. And they are happy. We are all happy. Even when we remember the gap.
I look again at today's breakfast and see Annie. Katie would be so proud of this girl. This younger, "annoying" sister, who is becoming a picture of encouragement and joy. A young woman who stands up to face her fears with courage and strength. A growing woman who loves deeply and gives generously. Annie is much like Katie.
I look at my life and see deep love.
And deep grief.
A lot of work.
And a lot of joy.
It's Mother's Day, but it's every day.
My Katie, I am never not thinking of you.
I love my boys. I do. But, as the tears fall today, I really love my girls.