Today I went to a baby shower. The baby shower was for a childhood friend and his wife. They're having a little girl - and I am excited for their upcoming arrival.
This, however, is the first baby shower I have been to in a long time...And the first since my niece's death.
Many of you who have followed my blog consistently in the last couple of
years have probably noticed that I haven't really blogged about this topic in a while. It has been over a year since I've brought it up.
Although I haven't written about this chapter of my life story in recent months, it is still a deeply tender area for my heart. My heart still aches for the loss my family has experienced. There still hasn't been a day where I haven't thought of my niece, Ashley. In fact, it took me over a year and a half to visit her grave since the day of her burial. Even then, I wasn't really sure if I was ready to visit...especially since my first time returning was with family at near Christmas time - and a visit to decorate her grave with jolly, colorful Christmas decorations in a place that holds one of my darkest and most painful memories. No one wants to visit their niece at Christmas time at their grave. Holiday decorating is suppose to take place in a warm home, scented with delicious traditions baking in an oven...not at a cold, scentless, gravesite. (And although I have been back once, I'm not sure if I can handle a second visit anytime soon. I still struggle just by driving down a street, outside the cemetery borders, where she is buried.)
The ache isn't as fresh as it once was, as time has passed, and I have been healing. But although I've been healing and continue to do so - I'm not sure if the ache will ever go completely away. I guess only time will tell.
Maybe the death of my niece has slipped your mind - and that's okay. Unless you're a close good friend of mine, or family, I don't expect you to remember every big life changing moment I have experienced. With email, texting, Facebook, Twitter - it can be overwhelming to remember who has done what, who lives where, and who has experienced this or that.
For those of you who may be new to my blog - you can read the story of my niece's passing if you click here. (Just as a warning: I've been told by a few people that it's best to have a tissue box nearby if you choose to click on the link.)
I wasn't really sure how I would emotionally react to attending the first baby shower since the death - especially when it's been nearly two years.
The first portion of the shower was spent with games. I was fine with that and had a good time. Then, the beautiful mother-to-be started to open the gifts that would bless her and her upcoming family of three...And that's when it happened.
My mind went to my sister and to Ashley. My mind went to the pain of, "We never got to experience the joy of throwing them a baby shower."
Then, I remembered the gifts that I bought for Ashley. Once we found out she was a girl, I started to slowly buy things in excitement of my niece's arrival. I bought a couple of outfits, a child's Jamba Juice cup, a soft rattle, a rubber ducky, and other items a child could enjoy - or look adorable wearing.
Those items now sit in my hope chest in our guest/craft room...Locked away in a small space, still in the logo-marked bags from the stores they came from, as the receipt's ink fading away as time moves forward.
There are only two items that I no longer have - the rattle and a bib that said, "My heart belongs to my aunt." My sister and brother-in-law asked me to add the rattle to the casket, and I was honored that they asked. The bib? That was my choice of item to leave with her.
Like I mentioned, I still have the receipts for the items I bought. Although there was no longer a need for the items after her premature passing, I never could return the items. Two years later - I still don't think I'd be able to make the returns.
My mom and I didn't stay long once the gifts were being opened. Noticing a look in my mom's eyes and my urge to leave, I knew it was time to silently signal my mom, asking if she was ready to leave...Even though I knew I didn't need to ask.
Again, we're happy that the young couple will soon be having special memories of their own with their baby girl. Naturally, it's an exciting time for their life!!...And it should be! I'm glad that we were able to join the shower, even if we had to cut our time there short. However, the death of my niece, my mom's first grandchild, is still hard for us in certain situations. We want to celebrate with our and with others when a baby enters our world - but with moderations that our hearts can handle. (Overtime I am sure we'll be able to handle things better and with more ease...One day at a time, one baby shower at a time.)
For each family member, I know that different things will trigger our emotions differently and at different times. There will be many times when we'll think, "We never got to..." Or moments of thinking, "Ashley would have been ______ by now."
My mom's moments (as Ashley's grandma) will be different than my moments (as an aunt), and as Ashley's mom, my sister's moments will definitely be different, more intense, and more frequent. Certain things will trigger emotions in all of us, and our emotions will vary in type and level, as will our trains of thought. Some events will bring up the ache, while others go unfazed. For example, sometimes people slip up and call my little cousin, Rayna, my niece. Or they'll call me her aunt. As many times as this has happened, I still can't figure out a way to avoid the heart-breaking pain that comes with innocent mistake. While I am more like an aunt figure to the sweet 2-year-old little girl than a cousin figure, I have a hard time hearing people call me by this title or her under the title as my niece. For my sister? I think she likes it when she's called "Aunt Amanda" and doesn't mind if people mix Rayna up as her niece - and that's okay if she does.
Two years later, and I am still amazed to learn that mourning and healing is an ongoing process.
For those of you with grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or children - hug them tight and cherish every moment and memory. You are blessed to have them in your life as you watch them learn and grow.
The Travelin' Chick,