I didn’t celebrate Easter as a child. I’m the kind of secular Jew that doesn’t know very much about my religion or heritage. Still, we hung onto the Jewish holidays throughout my childhood, resisting the dazzle of Christmas trees and Easter baskets. But oh how I ached for a colorful basket full of candy and tiny toys. I over-compensated for this when I had my own kids.
Each year for the last 15 years, I’ve filled enormous baskets with a ridiculous amount of goodies. I didn’t stop at chocolate bunnies and plastic eggs. I heaped the girls’ baskets with tons of surprises, large and small. Jim thought I was nuts. Even last year, when Ana was clearly outgrowing the indulgence that was my version of the Easter basket, I did it again. About six weeks ago, I asked Ana if she wanted a basket this year and she said no. I pointed out that Emily still wanted one and worried she’d regret not getting one too. She grudgingly agreed to another basket (I was secretly overjoyed).
After Ana died, I asked Emily if she still wanted a basket. She said yes, but she wanted one for Ana too. So, I went out and got two new baskets–the old ones are cavernous and haunted with memories of joyous Easter mornings where two sisters sat side by side comparing treats, laughing, and making fun of my indulgence. I couldn’t bear to use those baskets this year. Here are the sad little baskets I did come up with. Emily’s is fuller. It’s the basket on the left. I forgot to buy a chocolate bunny.
Shopping for Easter gifts for my dead child is one of the worst things I’ve ever done in my life. Walking through Hallmark with it’s bright plush bunnies and wall of pastel candy was pure torture. I did it for Emily, but my poor heart.
There are moments when I want to die. It’s not because I hate life. I don’t. Getting lost in the painful moments would be a poor tribute to Ana. She wanted life SO much. But when I remember how much she struggled to push forward through despair, to find meaning in a life without a future…it fills me with anguish. It makes my heart feel pale and weak. And in those moments the grief is agonizing because she feels so impossibly close. Have you ever dropped a glass and desperately tried to catch it? Your fingers brush up against it as it slides away and all you can do is watch it tumble down, watch it shatter… This grief is like that helpless moment. I’m frozen in it, perpetually reaching out to brush up against the possibility of my child, and feeling the empty space where she used to be.
She was JUST here. She was beside me. I held her hand. I touched her forehead. I brought her a cup of snow. That glass keeps falling. It keeps breaking. The pain is so much bigger than I ever imagined it would be.
This was what the Magnolia tree looked like three weeks ago. Snow surrounded it. Ana gave me this tree for Mother’s Day two years ago. Emily got me a Dogwood. Two little trees that will live much longer than Ana. Maybe.
This is what the Magnolia tree looked like yesterday.
Each day more flowers bloom. Each day Ana moves farther away while spring moves closer and life tugs at me, entreating me to live again. But I don’t know how to move forward. I don’t even know if I want to. I’ve seen a person born. I’ve watched her grow and BECOME and I’ve seen her die. How many people have seen the entire breadth of someone’s life, really seen it, other than their own? Only the parents of a lost child. Everything is different now–the entire world and my place in it.