Today I sat in a tiny little chair at a tiny little table listening to my daughter's kindergarten teacher.
It was orientation and my head is still spinning. But let me tell you this: I am thrilled about Ann Catherine's teacher. She is so kind, so sweet and I just feel so good about all of this.
Which is saying something. Because I have had a rough couple of weeks.
Years ago, my dear friend Lesli told me something I have never forgotten. God placed Lesli in my life a couple of years after Melissa passed away. She had given birth to triplets years before. Two little boys and one little girl. Her two sons passed away and her precious daughter, Smith, survived. More than anyone on Earth, Lesli has helped me navigate this hard and confusing road of losing a multiple.
"I'm going to tell you something," she said one day as we were discussing the loss of our children. "Go ahead and prepare yourself because Ann Catherine's first day of kindergarten is going to be one of the hardest days of your life."
She relayed to me the story of taking Smith that day and leaving the school with a broken heart. It's more than the sadness parents feel when they take their child to that first day of kindergarten. It's the realization that someone else should be walking in that school with her. It's that overwhelming loss just slapping you in the face.
I have thought of that often during these last few weeks. I have felt a sadness these past two weeks that I haven't felt in a while. I miss Melissa deeply. I have cried often and so easily. As I explained it to Chris tonight, "I just feel like the hole in my heart has expanded over these past two weeks." Even as I type this, I feel a heaviness and such a profound sense of loss.
I miss Melissa so much.
Just like most kids, Ann Catherine has wavered between being excited about going and scared to death. The other night, I explained to her that Lily Baker wouldn't be at her new school with her, and she began to sob heavily saying, "But Mommy, I can't go without Lily Baker! I need her!"
And I began to cry, too. Because she shouldn't be going alone. Melissa should be holding her hand as they walk in that school together. But she won't be. And that absolutely breaks my heart.
And that's why I knew that first day would be so hard for me. I would never let Ann Catherine see it, because I am so happy and so proud of her. I am in awe of how far she has come in just five years. So I figured as soon as I walked out of her school Monday morning, I would have my big cry. Alone.
You see, I knew there was no way Chris could go with us Monday morning. Mondays are crazy for him. I mean, really crazy. There is no way he could ever miss Monday morning at work. And I would never ask him to because I know how crazy those days are for him.
The other night I was cooking dinner and Ann Catherine grabbed the calendar and asked me to show her when she was starting school. I did, and she quickly showed Lily Baker. When Chris came home that evening, she said, "Daddy, look! This is when I start school!"
"I know," he answered. "I'm going with you."
I just stood there, stunned. I mouthed, "Are you serious?" And he shook his head, "Yes." My eyes filled with tears.
I could not have loved him more than I did at that moment.
I believe Chris needs to be there too that morning. He misses Melissa just as much as I do and he knows what that day means to our family.
But he also knew that I would need him. And I didn't even have to tell him. I love that man.
So I think we'll walk Ann Catherine in, snap a ton of pictures, hug her and tell her how much we love her, and then we'll leave.
And then I figure we'll walk out with tears in our eyes, just like other parents. But our tears will be different. We'll cry because we can't believe our baby is a big girl and we'll cry because our other baby never got that chance.
And then I figure we'll hold each other, cry and talk about how much we miss our daughter.
And I know in my heart, it's going to be okay.