Friday, September 1, 2017

For Madeline

Three years ago today is burned into my brain.

I try to keep this blog more professional than personal, so I've never written about this before.

However, the library profession is dedicated to promoting knowledge in all forms. Anything that can help anyone understand, or feel understood, is worth writing and reading.

I spent that afternoon with a friend, helping her clear out her grandparents' home. The house had an amazing assortment of items that had not been claimed by the family, the antique brokers, estate sale shoppers, and yard sale pickers, so she invited us to come over and pick out things that we might like for our newly purchased home. It was a great time, and after we all went for pizza. That night, I was looking for something in the garage, when Eric shouted to me that my dad was on the phone. That's when I found out.

Just earlier that day, I had been scrolling through my Facebook feed, and I clicked on the photos you were uploading. You were celebrating a friend's birthday, and you were posting pictures that are not unusual for a 20 year old. I specifically remember thinking how much I liked your lipstick color, and how it made your smile look so bright.

At first I could not believe it. I thought "No, it's just someone that looks like her. Someone with a similar name. Someone with the same kind of car. It must be a mistake."  And then I thought that maybe there was another type of miscommunication; maybe you were in an accident, and you were badly hurt, but still with us.

It just didn't seem possible. You're 20 years old: having fun with friends, posting goofy pics. Just a few months beforehand, I hugged you goodbye as we walked out the bowling alley benefit, for my cousin on the other side of the family.  A couple years before that, you were at my wedding. When you were a little girl, I played Barbie's with you in your basement, and we somehow combined The Little Mermaid with an Austin Powers storyline.

I saw you in the hospital, when you were just a couple hours old.  My brother and I weren't allowed in, so your mom brought you into the hallway so we could see you. I always used to tease you that we listened to "Whoomp, There It Is" on repeat as we drove your sister to meet you.

You were the first newborn baby I'd ever seen before. The second newborn I would see would be my son. I wanted to honor you, so I took your initials M and J, and reversed them. You are Madeline Joan. He is John Matthew.

We planted sunflowers in our front yard. I have visited your headstone, but I much prefer to think of you while I look at those flowers. They are so vibrant, and full of life right now, and that's how I like to think of you.

I do not know the person that made this short film, but he did a wonderful job. If you ever met her, you should watch it so that you can see her face again. If you've never met her, or heard of her until now, then you can still watch it. I'm sure the creator would enjoy knowing how far his film has reached. And I know it makes all of us who miss her feel a little closer.