If You Could Be Three


“Supper Time!” I call out the back door, “Don’t forget to wash your hands!”

I watch as their little bodies rush to the house, each stamped with the marks of summer. Grass stained knees, mud smeared like war paint, mismatched tan lines, hair bleached blonde, and road rash in various stages of healing.

The noise carries from the back door and I hear them scramble to remove footwear and take their turns at the sink. I visualize the grime of the day literally sliding off them onto the bathroom sink and floor. The stampede finally makes its way to the kitchen table as everyone finds their seat and anxiously looks to see what is for supper.

The shiny hands are folded, and freshly scrubbed faces bowed. Grace is said and mouths then filled. And finally, after spending the entire day trying to keep up with her brothers, it is her turn to lead. Between bites she entertains the table with a tale of today’s exploits. Everyone is raptly attentive because she is a gifted storyteller and because she is greatly adored by her audience. Her eyes glow bright and her facial expressions punctuate each part of the day’s exciting adventures.

Her brothers have to correct her a few times. Though as it is done with such gentleness it is received likewise. The story is slightly embellished; filled with laughter and second helpings. Even in that she must do her best to emulate her big brothers. Were she not the epitome of exquisite feminine charm it would be easy to lump her in with the boys.

Once mealtime is over the table is cleared and the boys take to their neglected chores. She stays to help me load the dishwasher, fill the soap tab, and press the start button. This is one of her favourite jobs. Then she runs off to find her boys. She may be their muse, but they are her idols.

Though it is still quite light out it is getting late and it is time for a bath. She is reluctant to leave her brothers who are on the floor building Lego, a rare treat for her to be included in, but building spaceships and battle stations will have to wait for another day. She attacks the bubbles and water with the same exuberance as the sandbox. Turning the bathtub into a shop of magic potions and elixirs. As I pour the ‘invisible’ mixture over her head to rinse out the shampoo her nose crinkles and she smiles from ear to ear.

Soon she is snuggled in her pink terrycloth towel. With her face, framed by wet hair in ringlets, peeking out the top and ten pink toes wiggling out the bottom. She smells of soap, lavender body lotion and a scent that is all her own. She picks out her bumblebee pyjamas and recounts all the ones she spotted in the yard that day as I brush her hair.

She grabs her blanket and bunny off her bed and runs to jump on my lap. We read a few stories and then I hold her closer as I sing to her. Her eyelids are heavy and her thumb is in her mouth, but when the songs end she says, “Sing Dilly, dilly please Mom?” And I can’t deny her one more song so we sing it together as her head rests over my heart.

When I tuck her in and kiss her goodnight, she giggles as my breath tickles her neck. I kiss her again and again just to hear that sound. Finally there is one last embrace.

Standing at the doorway I gaze at her frame as it slowly succumbs to sleep.

“I love you Madeline.” I quietly tell her.

“I love you too Mommy.” She whispers back.

“Have a good sleep.” I say not out of habit, but to prolong the goodbye.

“Hmmm…” is her reply.

“Tomorrow you will be three.” I offer.

But there is only silence.

She is already gone.

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Paper, Wood, Silk

Today would have marked our fourteenth year of marriage. Fourteen years of upholding legal and spiritual vows that bound us together with an unseen thread. On these special days I am acutely aware of my loss, but this morning my grief is exaggerated as I ponder what could have been. Mourning the fact that I will never be a half of those couples that celebrates forty, fifty or even more decades with one constant love.

My whole life I have had the privilege to witness many milestone anniversaries with family and close friends. Large celebrations where people travel great distances to reminisce about the time a specific pair has been together. To laugh at the comedic, cry at the devotion, and marvel at the path two souls could travel side by side. Even as a young woman I knew the road wasn’t like a parade, full of cheering, marching bands and confetti, but rather an endurance race, with rough terrain, harsh weather and just enough splendour to keep you motivated.

And I anticipated that day when my husband and I would be celebrated by all our family and friends. When it would be my love story that would capture the hearts of the listeners. When my history would be told as though it were the olden days. When my husband would catch my eye across the crowd and wink at me as I would mouth “I love you” back. And that look would communicate thoughts and feelings that words never could.

This all because we had put in the time. Coming back to each other humble and broken, time and time again, committed more to us and the covenant we made than to our own desires.

I always felt assured that I had it in me. It was never a question of if, but rather who with. Not in an arrogant sort of way, but with a tenacious, loyal, stubborn mindset. And the life that Colin and I built together only confirmed for me that I would get there. Knowing that our marriage was held safely in the palm of the Almighty there was never a moment of doubt that one day our children would plan that Golden Anniversary party. There was every confidence that we would survive the trek. And not only cross that finish line, but do it holding hands, leaning on each other, and more committed than when we started.

And it breaks my heart that I will not get to be one of those couples now. As I watch marriages fall apart all around me or limp along in mediocrity it is like salt in the wound. Wishing I still had the chance to fight through all the hurdles relationships bring. Missing the frustration of unmet expectations, or the resentment of unnoticed sacrifice. Hurt, disappointment, the mundane, and all the pain. The things that you only get to feel when you have someone in your world that means more to you than your own life.

And it may seem strange that on a day like today that this is what I am thinking of, what I am longing for. But these are the burdens that walk hand in hand with the poignance of such deep deep bonds. You can’t have one without the other. Which I guess makes both sides a privilege.

Really, the devastation of great loss is a testimony of a greater love.