My aunt, Felicia, had a baby (Rayna) in September of 2010. She is the cutest kid I have ever met. She literally lights up my life like nobody else can. When spending time with her my family members and I can all see ourselves in her in the way she acts and in the way she talks. Granted, Rayna does have a BIG vocabulary, she can't talk in sentences or in very many phrases yet, but we know what we've taught her and shown her.
For example: My mom can see herself in her niece when she gives us Eskimo kisses or when she calls her toes "pigs" or "piggies" (This little piggy went to the market...This little piggy stayed home...). My dad can see himself in her when she says, "Rawr!!" when asked, "What does Uncle Jim say??" Grandma sees herself in her granddaughter when she says the words to "Jack and Jill". I can see myself in my cousin when she gives me a high five (she learned this at 7 or 8 months!), says George (Curious George), "London", or "Jamba Juice". We can all see what we've taught her this far in her life.
Tonight mom, grandpa, and I watched Rayna as my aunt took my grandma out to eat for her upcoming birthday. My baby cousin is currently 14 months old. She is as smart as can be. She knows all her colors, she can count up to about 10, knows some of the words to "Jack and Jill", knows what an oval is, all her animals and the noises that they make, and the list goes on! This kid can even spell "baby" and her own name without any help. She is super smart. If they had college scholarships for super smart babies she would make the list of receivers!
Not only is she very smart, but she is also very silly. Tonight we danced together. We sang songs (A repeated song of the night: The Wheels on the Bus go round and round...round and round...round and round...By the end of the night she had some of it memorized!). We read books. I built her towers that she knocked down. She gave me lots of high fives. We shared my cookie together. (Okay, she ate most of my cookie...) Tonight I was even able to put her to sleep with her bottle, switching in her binkie at the perfect moment before she woke up.
As we danced and sang together, a thought hit me. During our fun time I smiled and thought, "I would have been an awesome and fun aunt." It was a moment when I missed Ashley very deeply. I missed the moments I desired and had once planned to have with her. My heart ached, knowing she should be about a week old this last Saturday.
I often feel like I am carrying along with me lots of extra love...Love that I know belongs to Ashley (while she isn't with us physically, I still have love that consumes my heart for her), but don't know what to do with it or how to spend it. Had she lived I know how my love would of been expressed. It would have been expressed in kisses, "fighting" for my chance to hold her next, giving her a bottle, changing her diaper (you know it's love when you change a kid's diaper!)...and even in later years it would have been expressed by hugs, sending her a text, calling her, having fun crazy photo shoots, inviting her over to spend the night, etc.
While I miss her like crazy and my heart aches daily when her name comes to mind...I am thankful. I am thankful for my baby cousin. I am thankful to be in Rayna's "village". I am thankful that there is a child in my life that I can share my extra "aunt love" with that I carry around with me everywhere I go.
God knew what He was doing when He placed Rayna in our lives when He did. He knew how much joy and happiness she would bring to our family even in times of hardship. Rayna is a physical example of God's perfect timing. She is a blessing to us all in more ways than one. It's a joy and honor to watch her grow up over time. In our lives she creates laughter...She has created laughter in my life when no one else was able. She daily creates smiles that are almost too big for our faces...Even making me smile in moments when all I've wanted to do is cry. With her, fun and unique memories are created. Rayna turns our moods up-side-down. While I can't completely speak for everyone in my family, I know of at least a few who will agree with me when I say: She has brought light into my own life when all I've seen is darkness. She creates healing in areas only a child can help heal. In just 14 months Rayna has affected my life for the good in more ways then she will ever know.
Rayna is only 14 months old. She has no way of understanding what happened to Ashley, or the fact that there should even currently be another baby in our family. At the same time, she has no idea how many broken hearts she has helped glue back together piece by piece each times she laughs or each time she gives us Eskimo kisses. My heart is extremely fragile and breakable. It often breaks many times throughout a day or week...While it's going to take a while for my broken heart to heal as much as it can (as I've heard hearts never stop breaking after a loss like this...instead they just get easier in time), Rayna has a way of fixing some of the breakage. Rayna has no idea about Ashley, but she does know that she is loved. She knows she is special. She knows she is the center of our world.
Not to sound big headed, but yes, I know I would have been a great aunt. There is no doubt in my mind about this fact. Until that chance arises again, I do my best to be a great cousin. A cousin Rayna can look up to as a role model...A cousin Rayna can come to for advice or help...A cousin that can make Rayna laugh and goof off with...A cousin that loves Rayna with all my heart - with an extra dose of "aunt love".
The Travelin' Chick,