And then there are days like today. Days when I am physically ill with the weight of my grief. When I don't even realize I have been crying until I feel the tears drying on my face. When I walk about in a daze, unable to understand the beautiful day around me when it feels like my entire world is gone.
Days like Quinn's first anniversary in heaven.
August 9th, 2013 was not the worst day of my life. For 17 hours and 7 minutes of the 24 that comprised that day, Quinn was here. In my arms. Wrapped to me. Even grabbing my arm with the teeny bit of energy that she had left. For 71% of that day, I heard her breath and felt her heartbeat. I snuggled her body and sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I bathed her and clothed her and medicated her so things were tolerable - for her and for me.
It was the remaining 6 hours and 53 minutes of August 9th, 2013, and every succeeding day that now comprise 'the worst day(s) of my life'.
August 10th, when I broke down in a random jewelry store after learning they may not be able to fix my mommy necklace immediately. (They did.)
August 11th, when Brett and I left the boys with my mom and my sister so we could go to the funeral home and make the absolute final arrangements for Quinn's life.
August 12th, when we hosted our daughter's final fete - an unbelievably well-attended wake.
August 13th, when we saw her face for the last time, and laid her to rest.
November 11th, when I had to turn 35 going backwards to two children, from three on my 34th birthday.
December 25th, when Santa Claus only left four piles under our tree instead of five.
May 16th, when we 'celebrated' Quinn's birthday - at her cemetery plot instead of at a bounce house.
July 23rd, when 17 of us went on a family vacation built for 18 of us two years prior.
Every Wednesday, when I could run the boys to swim lessons without worrying about Quinn's feeding or napping schedule;
Every Saturday when soccer practice and art class was not further complicated by dragging an almost 2 year old out in the snow, sleet and rain;
Every.Damn.Day that she is no longer here.
When Quinn died, I waited to hear from the other parents who had gone before us to this unholy land - waited for the sage advice, the tips and tricks on how to manage what was left of our life. And I received what was simultaneously the most sound and most heartbreaking piece of advice:
There is no secret. It doesn't get better, it just gets different.
One year later, I can confirm the truthfulness. It does not get better. And actually sometimes, like today, it does not even get different.
Life simply goes on, and it takes you with it.
That is not to say that there are not happy moments. I am not in deep dark despair 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
It is to say, though, that there are no more purely happy moments. Everything is tinged with sadness. With the bittersweet notion of "Oh, this is fun!... But we shouldn't be able to do this right now. I would never do [x,y,z] with a two year old."
I long for her - mentally, emotionally and yes, even physically. I have found myself, on more than one occasion, standing and swaying for a moment, lost in thought - until I remember that she is no longer on my hip, I no longer have a baby to soothe with the motion.
The boys have been sweet and allowed me to pick them up and hold them far more often than a 5 and 6 year old really want to be held by mom. And I take any opportunity I can to pick up someone else's baby or toddler and swoop them right into the same position I held Quinn - legs wrapped around my right hip, facing out to the world.
I'm still not sure what I believe about what's after this world. But if I can put in my order for one single thing whenever I do get there, it's to have her back in her rightful place - on my hip, and in my arms.