It’s mind blowing to me how much grief is ever-changing. The first few weeks after Ava died, my grief tended to focus on my yearning to hold her, feed her, watch her sleep, and hold her little hands. I imagined her solely in her newborn state; completely dependent on mommy and daddy for everything. Tiny and helpless. Initially it was hard to imagine Ava as anything other than a newborn baby. I didn’t envision her as a toddler learning to walk, a kindergartner on her first day of school, a 16 year old with a license, a twenty-something on her wedding day. I pictured her remaining exactly as she was; my one pound, seven ounce teeny tiny baby girl. Because of this, it wasn’t difficult for me to be around other children. Sure, I avoided newborn babies like the plague, and I definitely did not want to see a ton of pregnant women, but a two year old? No problem. A two year old didn’t remind me of my little girl. This has changed recently, and I have no idea why. On a regular basis, I am only around three children, all little girls, all beautiful, all amazing. It didn’t happen all at once, but over time I’ve started imagining Ava doing the things these little girls do. I see my niece wrap her arms around my sister’s neck, kiss her cheek, and say “I love you mamma,” and while it’s the most precious thing, my heart aches knowing that I will never have a moment like that with Ava. I see my neighbor’s little girl reaching her arms way up high signalling for mommy pick her up, and my soul wishes more than anything that Ava could reach out her arms for me. My brother-in-law’s daughter holds her daddy’s hand, looks at photo’s of him and says with so much excitement, “that’s my daddy.” I would give anything to witness Ava giving her daddy love. Even random strangers with little girls cause my imagination to run wild. I realize that I am only seeing and thinking of the glamorous sides of parenting; I see parenthood through rose-colored glasses. Being a parent to a child in heaven is hard work, so I have no doubt that being a parent to a child on earth comes with its challenges too. But what I wouldn’t give to experience those challenges along with all of the love and joy of a child. My mind is always trying to rationalize Ava’s death and produce a justifiable reason why she had to leave us. Sometimes I will tell myself that the pain we experience in this world would have been too much for my baby girl; and that maybe all of the pain she would have endured wouldn’t have outweighed the joy. Maybe God spared her. Maybe something horrific would have happened to her if she lived and so she was taken early. It sounds messed up, me even thinking about these things, but sometimes it’s the only way I can get through the day. Imagining that Ava could have lived a long, perfect and joyful life is too much for my heart. When my head begins to race relentlessly toward what her future here might have looked like, I have to remind myself that the life she had was perfect exactly as it was. I wish more than anything that I could look forward to having all of those precious moments with her over the next several years, but I won’t allow that to overtake the moments I did have with her. Those moments were the most amazing ones of my life.
The other day I read a simple sentence in a book called Three Minus One that truly touched my heart and gave me hope. It read:
In the context of eternity, there really is no difference between a life that spans ninety years and one that lasts five days. The distinction is in the impact that life has on others.
And my goodness, what an impact our little Ava has had on this world. In just two days Ava’s life touched the lives of others. She has forever changed Ryan and I. And through us, she will continue to change lives. We will see to it that Ava’s life and her story offers hope, blessings, encouragement, and support. In a situation like this, which leaves you feeling powerless, the one thing Ryan and I have control over is how Ava impacts our friends, our family, the world. She didn’t have to live a long life in order to live a rich and beautiful life.