"Are they twins?" the cashier in the checkout line asked me.
The reality of that question hit me hard. She was talking about Lily and Ann Catherine. They were sitting side by side and they had their hair pulled back in a barette on the same side.
It took me a minute to answer.
"No," I answered, "but they are only 17 months apart, so they are pretty close in age."
We talked a little more, and then we left the store. As I walked out, my heart began to ache. Are they twins? How could that sweet lady have known the enormity of that question for me. Yes, the older one is a twin, but her twin isn't here, I thought. It just seems so complicated sometimes.
There was a time when the thought of twins made me cry. When I saw twins together, I would just ache on the inside. Sometimes I would look at the parents, and just get so upset. 'Why does your daughter get to know her twin and mine doesn't?', I wanted to scream.
I'll be honest. It still hurts sometimes. I'll see twins and I'll hurt for what could have been for Ann Catherine. And for me and Chris.
It just seems so unfair sometimes.
Why should Ann Catherine have to grow up without Melissa? Even though I have accepted God's will for our lives, and am so grateful that Melissa is safe with him, it still hurts. I'm human. The loss of your child is devestating. You never "get over it."
Then I see Lily Baker. And I am reminded of what He has given to us, what He has given to Ann Catherine. No, Lily is not her twin. But, Lily has filled a deep void in Ann Catherine's life. In all of our lives. She completed all of us. Man, I love that little girl. She single-handedly healed my broken heart.
That innocent question from the cashier also made me realize something. I can prepare for birthdays, Easters, Christmases, Thanksgivings and other special occasions. You know, those "obvious" days that I will know will be hard because Melissa isn't here. At least I know those days are coming.
What's tough are those ordinary days where you just feel blindsided. When the cashier asks if your daughters are twins, or you see twin girls in pigtails at the mall and you just ache on the inside.
The only way I know to "prepare" for those days is to stay grounded in my faith and put my complete trust in God. Just as He has carried me on the days like Christmas and Melissa's birthday, He also carries me on those ordinary days. He knows before I leave the house who I will encounter and how it will shape me. And He comforts me when I encounter the unexpected.
He does that for all of us who have experienced loss. I am so grateful for that.