Twenty three months ago, I put you to bed here. In your sweet robin’s egg blue bedroom with the owl and butterfly sheets. You were in your red & black dinosaur jammies and I read you a story. I don’t remember what we read.
Twenty three months ago tonight, I gave you your last bath. I washed your hair and I blew it dry. You asked to sit down on the floor. You never did that before.
You asked me that night “mommy is my cancer back?” I didn’t know you knew that word. I told you we were going to go to the clinic tomorrow to get everything checked and we would find out. I told you we needed to find out why you were feeling so crummy. I reminded you how much your doctors and nurses loved you. You replied “Yeah. So much.”
I tucked you in and for the life of me cannot remember what I did after. Locked away are memories I may never recover. My next recollection was waking to you crying out for me. You never did that before.
I ran to get you. You asked to sleep with me. I brought turtle in while I carried you. I think I held you more carefully. I think I knew something was fragile. We climbed into our bed. The blue sheets were on and I turned on a show. I don’t remember what we watched. I looked at you for a long, long time that night. I don’t know if I slept.
I knew that tomorrow was big. I knew something wasn’t right. I packed more than just a clinic bag. I don’t remember anything else. Did I text someone? Did I say anything on Facebook? Did anyone know what was happening in our home that night?
If I had known. Katie, I would have climbed in bed with you and never taken my eyes off of you. Your beautiful cheeks. Your button nose. I would’ve wrapped myself around you like a blanket of comfort. I would have smoothed your soft, freshly washed hair and I would’ve inhaled its sweet peachy aroma. Over and over and over. I would have laminated the pages of that book. I would have pressed record on that show. I would have frozen those moments in time. They were your last at home. Your last with me.
Time does not change this pain. I don’t know whether to thank God for the distance from those early days, thankful to be one day closer to you? Or curse the heavens for having the nerve to allow twenty-three months to pass since I last heard your voice in our home. No, time does not change this. Time can merely allow a smile to cross my lips upon the thought of you before the tears begin to fall. Time hasn’t brought those locked away memories to surface. Time has not healed my wounds. Time has not replaced my wild longing to be beside you, wherever you may be. Time is neither my friend nor my enemy. Time is my penance. My cross to bear. Time is all of the pain I swore I would take from you. Now I have, love. I have.
Oh take me back. Spare me this pounding in my chest, this gasping for air through tears. Soothe these nerves that rip through my skin like a fire. Quench this insatiable thirst for just one more moment. Of anything.
Let me have one more moment to take care of you. Let me be yours. And you mine. Let me lay down next to you for one more moment and tell you at bed time “Kate, you are my happy.” Let me hear your squeals coming from two floors below me. Let me hear your voice call my name. Let me know what it feels like to be loved like that. Let me have my family back. Let me have my life back. Let me have YOUR life back.
Let me have just one more moment. And then, time. Then you can take what you will. I would give it all for that one moment.