My first daughter’s third birthday is coming next month. One day before that is what many of us in the infant loss community call her “heaven day,” the day she met Christ. This third heaven day and birthday are the first when I will have another child in my arms. My arms are so full of my second child, but simultaneously so empty for my first that my heart pulls to try to close the gap between my first and me. If human love were as formidable as gravity unrelenting, I would pull them equally to myself.
Closing the gap is something that I do all day long with my second. She wakes up from a nap. I reach down to collect her little, but growing, frame to wonder at how big she has become over these past nine months but also to feel relief that, for now, she is still a baby. It is going quickly, but not so quickly that I do not see her—recalling my first, not so quickly that it is gone in an instant. Later, she signals that she is done playing with her toys, so I reach out to bring her near, to sing to her, to tell her the ABCs for the next—certainly not the last—time, or to show her how to blow kisses. Kiss your hand and reach, reach, reach. I always get to close the gap with her.
But the more I reach for my first daughter, the more powerless I know I am to lift myself to her. I have plenty of kisses, but not enough reach. She is there, though, just around the corner. I know the truth that she is in heaven, very much alive, so real that I can almost see her and touch her, but no. She is not around the corner of the hall in her room, like my nine-month-old. She is around the corner of this world. Gravity keeps me here.
Three years ago, I stared at the features of my first for hours in the hospital before I gave her to the nurse and watched her dear frame leave. Goodbye for now, dear one. Three years later, after tears and grief, I can convey definitively that her present reality is far more real to me than dreams of who she would have been or what she would have done here. Predominantly, I think about her as she is now in heaven: what she is doing, what she talks about, or what she thinks about. I imagine what is around the corner of the world and wonder both at who she is and at what I am missing by not being with her.
No relationship fills the relational gap I have for her; no person has come or could come to fill it. Now, understand, Jesus fulfills me completely and entirely. He has closed the gap I never could. His reach from heaven to me, his child, is infinite. Because he fulfills me, an emptiness for my daughter can be maintained. I can learn to wait for her because I am already complete in him. Birthdays and heaven days—how many will I wait? My birthday is only days before my first’s. But soon enough, I have that heaven day coming too. There in heaven, I want to collect both daughters to me in one sweeping grasp.
My arms are stretched heavenward, though I know it is vain. In my longing, I cannot seem to help it; only three years have passed and I am still growing used to this. Reaching for her, I fail to grasp her. Yet, my first is not crying in her crib when I do. She is not raising her arms to be lifted. My inability to grasp her is not failing her. My love’s inadequate gravitational pull and the literal gravitational pull that keep me here do not keep her from being oh-so-fully satisfied where she is. My view around the corner of this world tells me that much. And that is so very much.
My first daughter’s third birthday is coming next month. Her heaven day is one day before that. As it comes, I wait with this gap. One day—because Jesus does what I cannot, because he lifts me—I will reach to finally close that gap. Kisses, dear one. Yet, his reach will not only put my first in my arms; it has put me forever in his. It means that even while I have this longing, I am satisfied and complete; he has called me his dear one.
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