On Friday evening my husband and I went to his sister’s house to get together for her 40th birthday. How much life has changed in just two years. My sister-in-law lost her husband in 2010 – he died unexpectedly from a heart attack aged 38 and our family was devastated by the loss. Today, though, there is a new normal which excludes his physical presence but which embraces his spirit. Of course, we still miss him dearly, but those dark days have passed. Last year she met a wonderful man and they have been dating ever since. He makes her happy and we have created space for him amongst us.
My father-in-law has also met a lovely woman who we met for the first time on Friday. My husband had been dreading this first meeting. His mom has been gone less than a year (it will be a year in April – another unexpected heart attack), and he has had to negotiate not only his grief over her death but also the anticipation of the life of our daughter and now her death without his mom's support. I am extremely proud of him for holding it together – he has had so much to contend with over the past few months.
My brother and mother in-law’s presence continues to be felt because we keep their spirit alive and hold them close by re-living and re-telling stories which capture their essence. But with Grace, we have so few of those moments, and barely any which include our family and friends. Her birth was supposed to be the starting point for the creation of vibrant memories of her life and growth, not the end of the opportunity for them.
Yet again the gaping hole resulting from Gracie’s absence took my breath away when I saw my sister-in-law showing off family photographs displayed on her dining room wall. No-one has even asked to see the pictures of Grace, let alone requested copies for display. Attempts to engage in conversations about our daughter are met with a saddening of expression, an uncomfortable response and quick change of topic. It makes me so sad because Grace, however short her life, is deserving of way more than that.