It took me awhile to get back to the photos from Easter weekend. As I’ve mentioned before, the holiday itself is a pretty emotional one for us still. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of my niece, but everything is brought into sharper focus when we visit family for the weekend.
We did the regular Easter traditions – each girl decorated a dozen eggs, and then they collectively decorated another dozen for Erin. I love how our family includes these rituals and remembrances of her so naturally into the events of the day; that feels more comfortable to me in the moment – it’s much harder to look at photos after the fact and see how glaring the missing is.
I still take the pictures, but I don’t enjoy it. I’m not sure if I ever will again. It feels a little too much like a dare. Can we get this same photo next year? The year after that?
Maybe it will always feel like a documentation of loss. Still, I look at this photo below and it does make me smile in this way that twists my heart a bit. I want to write something here about the way those girls are holding onto one another, and what I see when I look at their eyes and their smiles, but I can hardly see the keys to type through my tear-filled eyes.
I wish I could just get out of my head for a bit and let the photos just be Easter photos, not something so loaded and missing.
On the Saturday of our trip our family went to visit Erin’s playground. It’s the first time I’ve seen it in person. It’s the first time I’ve been in that hospital, and I hate hospitals as much as I hate funeral homes and cemeteries and churches after funerals. I don’t really want to be in those places where she was because I feel powerless and helpless and overwhelmed with sadness. I have to push that all into the pit of my stomach and get over it. It’s a gorgeous spring day after a long winter, and I want to see this place with the people I love.
When I think back to the piece I wrote in January where I tried to describe the idea of widening the backdrop of this life a bit – well, I feel it here, in this courtyard. When I watch her parents and her sister walk through that hospital and out to the playground, I can hardly believe how strong and courageous they are. Tackling a project of this magnitude forced them to uncurl a tiny bit from their own overwhelming pain, demanded that they repeat their story again and again, even when they still didn’t want to believe that it was true, required them to show up countless times, around great groups of people celebrating the very girl that would have been the life of the party if luck had fallen the way it should have. We know how this should have ended. And when it didn’t, they rewrote their story in the bravest, most selfless way possible.
I see the daily notes they receive from people with loved ones in hospital rooms that overlook this beautiful space. They thank Erin for her gift, and her family for their perseverance. I see the blood drives they organize, the donations they gather for the other cancer patients, the fundraisers they manage and attend, their willingness to sit on advisory boards to make hospital stays easier for future patients, the messages of encouragement and support that they send out daily to the network of other children embroiled in the same battle they were fighting, their dedication and commitment to widening the backdrop of their daughter’s life and smile. It’s a gift to us too, and I’m grateful for that.
We miss you, sweet girl.