I did it! I survived what I felt would be a devastating ordeal. I went through my daughter’s clothes and by myself.
Last Wednesday I felt the time was right. Not sure why, I just did. I went and opened her closet – probably for the first time in almost a year. What memories this small closet has held onto for years now. This closet had become the keeper of my treasures. On the right hung all her dresses. Such beautiful dresses, some still with tags attached because she never got to wear them. I grabbed a handful that I instantly knew needed to be kept in some way. And then, as I moved one dress past me on its hanger, My tears began to flow. There hung her gray dress with the embroidered flowers at the bottom. My heart skipped a beat. This dress is what she wore for our family pictures. Our first and only set. It was the top thing on mine/Parker’s bucket list. Parker was already in hospice when we took these photos. She was already puffy. She honestly didn’t look like herself anymore – well to me anyway. She didn’t smile for any picture. She just laid there. That wasn’t ‘her’. That wasn’t her personality. But these pictures were so important to me. I knew she would be gone soon. Too soon. Way too soon. I clutched the dress in my hands and felt my body get weaker. My knees shook. I cried uncontrollably into this dress for what seemed like eternity as I gently sat myself down on the ground.
How could this be all that I have left? My life, my everything has become a room of clothes, shoes, toys, therapy equipment, and dust. That has never seemed fair – but it never is, is it?
I got myself together and continued – I needed to, I had already begun the process by just opening the closet – why stop now? I gathered her first birthday dress, her second birthday dress, her last Easter dress and a few others – tears still flowing. And then I really had to prepare myself…..her ‘real’ clothes, the clothes that she wore on more than just one special day, the pajamas I dressed her in every night, her cute matching sets from her grandparents, Doug and Lihn. I knew this would be the really hard part.
I knew that every shirt, skirt, pajama set would hold a memory, an image, a new yearning for my daughter and the life I once had. Every drawer I opened brought new tears, new emotions. I was mad. Mad that this was my life. That her life was over. And I was left to package up what she left behind. And then I was hurt that I got mad in the first place. Someone even called me in the midst of this challenge and said, ‘her clothes should make you laugh’. I quickly replied, ‘no’. To which she said, ‘but you can remember her personality and how silly and funny she was in them.’ And then the tears burst out, ‘I am. That’s what hurts so bad.’ The whole time I shuffled through more Hello Kitty clothes than I ever remembered buying all I could do was think of the good times. The outfits I always chose for dr appointments – you know, the ones that actually matched. The shirt that had formula stained all over it because her button came open and spilled her feed all over someone. The pajamas I always felt were the most comfortable and I’m sure she would agree if she could’ve talked. And all the things I wouldn’t have bought her but her nurses did, like her leopard print faux fur coat.
Every thing in her closet and in her drawers held a great memory, in one way or another, and that’s why this was such a challenge for me. The good times, pleasant memories are what bring me the most pain. The most tears. The most sleepless of nights. It’s the thought of no longer having new memories being made, no new pictures to share, no new clothes being bought, no new ‘inch’stones to rejoice in, no birthday parties being planned. Those facts are what break my heart over and over. Because I do know how lucky I am. I know I’m beyond blessed that I was chosen to be her mother. Me. Out of millions of women, it was me. And that fact has never left me. But it’s also because of that that I cry. Because I wasn’t done being her mom. I wasn’t done with every beautiful moment she brought to my life. I just wasn’t done. There’s that meme that says, ‘If I had to chose between loving you and breathing… I would use my last breath to tell you I love you.’ And that’s true. I would have chosen it to be that way but it wasn’t meant to be. God had other plans. And it’s because of Him and His plans that I also rejoice – for the time I did get, the memories we did make, the pictures I did take, the life I was thrown into and learned to navigate, and the desire to help other children like my daughter and other parents like myself through The Parker Lee Project. I also rejoice in the fact that I survived. Survived something that for the last two plus years I thought would bring me to my knees harder and longer than it did. I thought I would crawl into a hole from the ache in my heart. I thought the pain from missing her would have me postponing this necessary step even longer. But I didn’t. I survived.