Sunday, May 23, 2010
"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine," they sang as they marched into the room wearing their blue gowns, blue hats and gold tassels bearing the year "2010."
It was one of the sweetest things I've ever seen.
Ann Catherine graduated from preschool Thursday. These almost-five years have flown by. And nothing makes you realize that like seeing your child walk across the stage in her graduation gown.
There was a time, as Chris and I sat by her bed in NICU, that we wondered if she would ever walk. Or talk. Or run. Or play.
Yet here she is. Leaving behind this first stage of childhood and getting ready to enter a new one.
Yes, most of the parents - and grandparents - at graduation shed a tear. But Chris and I carried a certain heaviness in our hearts on this day.
This milestone in Ann Catherine's life also brings a realization that Melissa isn't here.
In our mind's calendar, this day has been circled for a long time. We've known it was coming. And for all the happiness and joy that would accompany it, we've known it would also be bittersweet.
You see, when you lose a twin, you don't just grieve the loss of that child. You grieve what you had imagined, what you had hoped for, what you had envisioned for your family. I remember shortly after Melissa died, Chris told me, "I can't get this picture out of my mind of the two of us sitting at our dinner table, both of us holding a baby and trying to eat." You grieve the realization that the things you had dreamed of will never happen.
Instead of your two children standing side by side at graduation, there's only one. And that's why I knew this day would be tough.
And while I knew I would carry some sadness with me, I so badly wanted this day to be full of joy. To be about Ann Catherine. To be a day where we celebrated the miracle of her life.
As I drove to graduation, my heart started beating heavily. I was praying the whole way, but at one point, I felt my heart was going to leap out of my chest. So I called my friend Brooke, and she prayed with me. Among other things, she asked God that this would be a day of joy for me and Chris. That had been my same prayer all week. I wanted this to be a happy, wonderful occasion.
God is so faithful. Because after we prayed, I felt a calmness - a peace that it was going to be okay.
And it was.
As Ann Catherine marched out, I was beaming with so much love, pride, joy and happiness that I could barely stand it. There was absolutely no sadness.
She sang her heart out. She walked across the stage like a big kid, shook hands with Mrs. Amy and accepted her diploma. It was absolutely precious. And I enjoyed every minute of it.
As she marched out, I did begin to cry. And I had this overwhelming feeling that I had to get to her. I needed so badly to put my arms around her, hug her and let her know how much I loved her. We filed out into the lobby and we found her. After Chris, Lily Baker and Mimi and Poppy hugged her, it was my turn. I grabbed her, hugged her, and through my tears, I told her that I was so proud of her and that I loved her more than she would ever know.
The best part of all? I did enjoy Ann Catherine's graduation. It wasn't a time of sadness. It was a time of joy. I didn't dwell on Melissa's death. I celebrated Ann Catherine's life.
I learned something else on this day. During tough times like these, I realize how badly I need Lily Baker. She's like a life preserver to me, keeping me afloat when the storm waters rise. After we dropped Ann Catherine off at school that morning, she came home with me and we got ready together. I can't tell you how much it helped me, just to have her with me. On this emotional morning, I wasn't alone. I had her.
As God has shown me so many times over the last four years, I am so blessed. Yes, I have experienced great loss. But I have also experienced tremendous joy.
Thanks to God's love and mercy, Ann Catherine's graduation was one of those days.
Accepting her diploma
Marching down the aisle
AC and her teacher, Ms. Sharon
Lily Baker with Mimi and Poppy
Class of 2010
After graduation, we went to AC's favorite place in town - Peggy Ann Bakery - for some thumbprint cookies and petits fours.
Once we arrived home from Red Robin, the girls wanted to send their balloons to Melissa.
Here's LB watching hers float to the Heavens.
And let me tell you, as we watched them float into the clear, blue sky it did look like they were going to Heaven. We watched them until they were no longer in sight. And you know what?
I'm not so sure Melissa didn't get them.