Daily that I feel the sting, the pain, the separation that only death can bring. Its a never ending, permanent feeling, that is caused by the distance of having one of your children on the other side of eternity. I can't explain, or describe, or help anyone to understand just how much it hurts, unless of course you too have been forced to live on that other side as we are.
I stare into the photographs that I have of Ashley Kate scattered around our home. I look deeply into her eyes and long to touch her, feel her, or hold her again. I can see the twinkle that came from inside of her soul and made its way through the image of her eyes in almost everyone of them. If only I could have another day to stare at her. To memorize every little detail of her face. I tried so hard to capture it all in my memory. On her good days and her bad I would find myself looking intently at her features never wanting to forget who she was, how beautifully she was created...her eyes, her lashes, her brow...I loved her so very much.
The days continue to pile one onto the other since we last saw her. Time is a cruel, cruel element of this all. I woke this morning longing to know who she would have been at 9 years old. I used to lye in the early morning hours listening to her laughter spill down the hall and try to envision our Ashley at 10, 12, 14. She is now forever 8 years old. She will never be more than 8 years and 25 days old.
Oh how much that hurts. Forever 8.
A few weeks ago the doorbell rang. Allie answered to find a bouquet of pink flowers lying there. Someone thought of Ashley Kate that day. They wanted me to know.
Last week the mailbox held a hand written reminder that she was thought of again. That her memory brought happiness and encouragement to someone that day. They wanted me to know.
A single birthday card arrived for Ashley Kate. It was from my cousin. Inside it held a description of how a little girl she had gotten to know changed her life. She remembered her special day and wanted me to know.
A couple of her nurses from years back have taken the time to write, remember, and share with us the difference she made in their lives. Not because they had to, but because they wanted us to know. I miss you girls so very much. Forever grateful to have had you in our lives. Thank you for your kindness toward her. Toward me.
These are just a few of the acts of kindness bestowed upon us a year after the loss of our Ashley that will forever make me grateful. One of the biggest lessons I learned in this life from my daughter and the meeting of her birth mother was that everyone deserves kindness. Simple, little, acts of loving on one another. Never expecting anything in return. Just being kind because they are human and because they are human they may very well be in need of receiving kindness from another. I hope to never forget that lesson.
I struggle to figure out what we are meant to do since the day of Ashley Kate's departure. I knew who we were and what we were meant for while she was here. Its the days since she left that we feel lost, and confused. What is my purpose? Who am I supposed to be? Never have I wondered until this time. I'm not an advocate. Not a speaker. Not a writer. Not a life changer. To many peoples disappointment I am none of these things. I'm just a mom. A mom who is lost and broken and left confused.
I share the pain, the grief, and the ugly emotion here in this place because it is what is left. It is where we are in this journey. This story of our beautiful Ashley and now the story of the loss of our beautiful Ashley. So many people mistake this journal for something it is not. Something it was never intended to be. This is our experience. Not written to reflect everyone's experience. Just a recording of ours. Just the experience of one family in the state of Texas who were blessed to have loved the most beautiful little girl we've ever known. Some people read my journal and assume I am speaking for all the grieving families in this world. I am not. Have no intention of doing so. Many read and conclude that we think we are the only family to have ever lost. I assure you that we don't, but I will remind you that I'm not writing their story. I'm writing ours. I'll say again that I am not a spokes person for grieving families. I'm just Ash's mom. Thats it. They read my words and thoughts and grief and assume I am curled into a ball in the corner absent from the lives of our other children. They make the leap from the cries of my heart spilled out onto these pages and have judged that I am no longer engaged or loving or participating in Blake or Allison's lives. Never have you been more wrong.
How easy it is for us all to pass judgement on one another. I hate that part of human nature. Feeling as if we have the right to advise everyone else on how they should be living or in our case grieving. Instead of maybe just reading, listening, and praying for one another.
Our family still hurts and I imagine that we will always hurt from the loss of our sweet Ashley Kate. Each one of us struggle on different days, shed tears in private and sometimes a few when we are together. We remember, talk about, and mention Ashley Kate in our every day conversations. She is just as much a part of us as she ever was. We learned to be who we are because we had her with us. To try not to talk about her would be so unnatural. It wouldn't be who we are.
I wrote this today to those of you who continue to bestow kindness toward us. I wanted you to know how much your acts of kindness mean to me. I wanted to say Thank you. Thank you for remembering. Thank you for loving her. Thank you for letting us know.