Can it really be true that you are two years old? On the eve of your second birthday, I was heading out the door to run a few errands and I mentioned to Daddy that I wouldn't be back before you went to bed. As the words came out of my mouth I realized what that meant. It meant that on the last night of your second year, I wouldn't be the one rocking you and singing to you and praying for and with you. I think Daddy saw that realization come to my mind because I made a little "oh" sound and he looked at me knowingly.
And then I cried. The emotion came out of nowhere. It hit me with such force and clarity and I suddenly found myself scrambling, grasping desperately for more time with your one-year-old self. But even as I processed these thoughts another thought hit me: my one year old had faded away months ago without my even noticing. As words became sentences and songs; as toddling became walking and running and galloping and skipping, one-year-old you slipped away. And I didn't even notice.
These realizations came in the span of a few seconds and tears filled my eyes and dripped down onto your dinner tray as I bent to kiss you goodbye. You looked up at me with concern and said, "Mommy sad!" and then you reached your little arm up and wrapped it around my neck, pulling me close to you so that our cheeks touched. Your tender little gesture of comfort just about undid me.
I got in my car and cried all the way to the store, asking Jesus how to manage these strange emotions of loving someone so desperately and wanting to keep time from moving - to somehow absorb each moment more fully. I thought of a line from Gilead (or maybe it's Home?), when Boughton is bemoaning his old age and complains, "Jesus never had to grow old." A part of me wanted to make the same sort of accusation: Jesus never had to feel this strange emotional cocktail of longing, desperation, pride, love and gratitude as he watched his daughter age in a matter of seconds. What must it be like to have eternity in your bones?
And in Heaven, what form will you take, my sweet girl? Will you be my snuggly newborn all sweaty and folded up? Will you be my sweet, wordless toddler - looking up at me with learning eyes? Will you be my precocious two-year-old, caring for me with an arm around my neck? Will you be some version of future you? Or will you somehow, miraculously be all of these? Will love of you even be on my radar in the presence of the Lord? It seems impossible that the perfection of Heaven would be complete without you to love wholly and perfectly. But then again, what do I know of Heaven yet?!
You see?! You see what you do to me! You make me into some sort of philosopher trying to solve the great questions of this world. Lila, there is a part of my heart - a part of my spirit - that was asleep before you. You have woken this part of me, the part that is reserved only for those who call me Mommy. And when that part woke up, the rest of me broke. I will never be put back together. You've ruined me - in the best way possible.
When I got home from the store, I snuck into your room to look at you. And soon, I found myself lifting you out of your bed and carrying you to the rocking chair. You blinked sleepily at me and then snuggled into my chest and we rocked for a long time. I held you and kissed your forehead and brushed your hair out of your face. I prayed for you and whispered your Bible verse to you.
This is what I prayed:
For the time you have given us with this sweet girl.
I know that each year, each minute is a gift and that there are many moms (some dear friends of mine) who have already known the last minutes with their babies.
I do not take that for granted.
Please, please, please, give us many more birthdays with her.
Put in her heart a unique love for you.
May she recognize your voice when you call her by name.
Help us to train her well, to love her well, to know her well.
Thank you. Thank you, Lord.
Happy Birthday, Baby Girl. I love you so much - even if you disobey me and insist on growing up.