Dear Joanna (4.4.17)

Dear Joanna,

It’s me. Your mom. It’s been a while since I have written. I’m sitting here in our Virginia house, snuggling your little brother on the kitchen floor while we have our carpets cleaned. 

I’m not really sure what to say right now, but I know there is something in here to tell you. First off, we are moving. We are moving home to PA, close to family. We miss them and want Leo to know them, like we know our grandparents. I wonder, if your arrival had been different, would we have moved back to PA sooner? Would we still be here, listening to the whir of the carpet cleaner, you playing next to me while Leo sleeps?  

I needed to tell you we are moving because somehow I feel like leaving this home is like leaving you. Somehow leaving here, though you are not here, feels like leaving you behind. All of my memories of you are here. Finding out you were on your way just as we bought this house. Immediately planning the nursery once we moved in, but having it come to an abrupt and heartbreaking stop. A birthday with you in this house. A Thanksgiving with you in this house. An annual tree decorating party with you in this house. You were here.

And after you died, this was still your home. We planted your winterberry out back and we celebrated what should have been your due date. I slept on the floor in the nursery because it made me feel closer to you. We celebrated two of your birthdays here and created Joanna’s Gifts boxes in your memory for other loss families. We ate cupcakes and released sky lanterns. We sent you a balloon on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day last October. 

Then, we found out Leo was coming. This baby promised to us, our rainbow, was on his way. And we began working on the nursery again. The one that was gender neutral, the one that was for you. And now for him. Together. A place you share, a place you both physically exist. And now we are leaving–you will never physically share a space with your brother again. We will move into a new home and he will get a new room, maybe dinosaurs or superheroes. And you will not share it, or get your own new room. 

We will take all the pieces of the nursery and create a similar space, continuing the elephant theme. We will still hang your footprint and handprint with Leo’s and any other baby who comes along. And though pieces of you will be in the room, you won’t have had a physical presence. 

We will take your winterberry. Your memory boxes and ashes are already awaiting us in PA at Gramma and Grampa’s house. That’s where to find us. 

I guess just as you are physically gone, so we will be gone from this place as well. But we do know you are in our hearts. You are ours forever. You are our firstborn and we will see you again someday. 

Last night I rocked your brother for the last time in the nursery. It was hard, but also I was thankful knowing I would rock him and put him to bed for many, many more nights. I so miss that I couldn’t do that with you. Today I looked into the empty nursery and all I saw were walls painted with so much love, but I also saw the dreams that were dashed when you left. I feel blessed to have your brother to dream with. Tomorrow we will leave. Our first house. Your first house. But your new home is the best of homes…the home where Jesus holds you until we can wrap our arms around you again. We just wish you could be with us now. 

Sweet girl. Until we see you again, sending so much love heavenward. 




Learned in a Week

In a week or less you can learn to knit or crochet or use a sewing machine.

You can learn to throw a baseball, catch a fish, paddle a kayak, pitch a tent.

There are many things that don’t take long to learn at all.

This week, I learned that you will never get tired of eating those hot dogs you can only get in Erie, PA. I learned that just because it costs more, does not mean you’ll get a better mani-pedi than the last place you went. I learned that it’s easy to assume you know about people by their emails, their Facebook pages — but that most people have hidden stories that are begging to be uncovered.

I learned that the pursuit of happiness can wear you out. And that happiness can slip away in a week. Although, let’s be honest, I learned 6.5 months ago that happiness can slip away in the blink of an eye, the last beat of a heart.

Last night was one of the worst in a while. I was laying in bed crying “over nothing” which is what I say when I don’t know exactly what has made me break down. Every time I thought I was reigning it in, the floodgates would open right back up. I made Bill late for work because, bless his heart, he hates to leave me alone, especially when he knows I’m so upset. If I were to try to put my finger on it, I might say it’s our upcoming trip to Pennsylvania that has put a damper on my happiness. Perhaps, I am scared about being with all the people who haven’t seen us since we lost J. Will they ask questions (I would prefer this), or will they just look at us with sad, pitiful eyes (to this). Or were the tears shed for that which is missing, seeing my nephew and knowing that he and Joanna would have had so much fun together…or seeing how happy he makes my parents and not getting to see that joy in their eyes holding J.
If you think about that for a second, it would probably make your heart break too.
But I’m also (re)learning that even in my weakest moments, my saddest moments, I’m not alone.

This is my comfort in my affliction,

that Your promise gives me life.
Psalm 119:50