As I picked up AC from class at church this morning, she showed me the picture she had drawn.
The Bible verse at the bottom said, "You made the world and everything in it. Genesis 89:11."
There were three stick figures and I knelt down and asked her who they were.
"Well," she explained, "that's God. That's Lily Baker and that's Melissa. See I drew an 'M' next to her."
I was completely overwhelmed.
My eyes filled with tears and I put my arms around her and hugged her. She got up and jumped to hug Lily Baker, but I knelt there for a moment trying to keep my composure. I finally got up and we left.
I just felt so overwhelmed with emotion the entire way to the car. Once we got in, I asked her to tell me more about what she had learned at church. She told me they had learned "light and dark" and I figured it was about how God created the light and the dark.
"Why did you draw Melissa?" I asked.
"Because she's very special to me," she answered so matter-of-factly.
"Yes, she is," I said and began to cry again. As I drove, I wondered: when am I going to be able to handle these things without crying?
I don't always cry when I talk about Melissa. Some days I can think about her and talk about her without shedding a tear. Other days are harder.
But where Ann Catherine is concerned, I just feel so vulnerable.
Lately, AC is talking a lot more about Melissa. She is acknowledging her more and saying her name.
Don't get me wrong. I love that. In fact, my prayer has always been that our girls will never see Melissa as this person who was part of our family but is now gone. I want them to see her as someone who is part of our family, but who just isn't with us physically. I feel, to some extent, we are accomplishing that.
Melissa's name is spoken in our home. We talk about her and we answer Ann Catherine's questions about her.
But sometimes I am just so caught off guard. When I asked Ann Catherine who was in that picture today, I never expected her to say Melissa. So when she did, I just broke down.
But strange as it may sound, I didn't just cry tears of sadness. Yes, I cried at that moment because I miss Melissa so much and it just seems so unfair that she was drawn on that piece of paper, when she should have been running out of that room holding Ann Catherine's hand. Yes, I cried because it just plain stinks that Ann Catherine has to deal with such a devestating loss at such a young age.
But I also cried because of a simple reason: Ann Catherine thinks of Melissa.
When she sat down and started drawing, she drew Melissa. I didn't encourage her or lead her to do it. Something in the Bible lesson triggered her to think about Melissa. In turn, she put those feelings on paper.
By the way, the picture of Melissa was right in the middle of the paper - and it was the biggest thing she drew. That told me everything I need to know.
Melissa isn't here. But she is an undeniable part of Ann Catherine's life. That sweet little 4-year-old is too young to understand everything that has happened, but she knows that Melissa is someone who is special to her. In the midst of my tears, I can't tell you how happy that makes me.