We left early and ate McDonald's in the car while she slept, tracing the familiar back roads through Maryland and Delaware to Bethany Beach, where I've vacationed nearly every summer of my life. We spent the day in the sun, digging and splashing and eating our favorite French fries, and it felt good to be a family and to enjoy life even while our hearts were full with the missing of you.
Last year, we repeated our journey near the one-year anniversary of your death. We decided to make it a yearly pilgrimage, a way to remember you, to keep your life part of the rhythms of our family.
Then, your little sister was growing in my belly, and our grief had softened, mellowed. Still fighting pregnancy-related fatigue and nausea, I spent most of the day in my beach chair, watching your Daddy and sister run in and out of the surf. At night, after dinner, we stood with our feet in the lapping waves. Your Daddy thanked God for you and your life and asked Him to take good care of you for us. His voice broke, and my eyes welled with tears.
We went again two weeks ago, both of your sisters in tow. It was a colder day than the previous years, the air misty with cool rain when we arrived. We ate the lunch I'd packed indoors, at your great-grandparents' beach house table, and we talked about you to Ellie. She'd been too small to understand the previous years, but we wanted her to know about you, to grow up understanding that you are a part of our family.
She wanted to know why you died. She wanted there to be a way to make your heart start beating again. And then, finally accepting that this could not be, she wanted to die too and go to Heaven to see you. Your Daddy and I hugged her and cried with our arms wrapped tight around her, and then we all went to the beach where she ran and played like her normal water-loving self. We stuck Celia's toes in the water for the first time, and we all reveled in her shock and then delight.
Ellie talks about you every few days now. She knows she has another little sister. She's learned how to say your name. She still wants all of us to come see you in Heaven.
I'm glad she is learning to know the little bit of you that she can, glad that your life is teaching her and all of us something of eternity.