In two days, you will have been gone from my life for 8 long years. I’m not sure when I became aware that I was counting, was it once I knew summer was almost over and fall would be here? All I know is I began counting each day as I sat at my computer…. 10 days…. 7 days…. 5 days…. 4 days…. and now 2 days. I try to tell myself that it is…. just another day…. don’t think about it…. just let it pass…. get busy doing something else. Why can’t I stop counting?
At this very moment, I remember how I counted the days when I found out I was pregnant with you…. my first -born child. At first, I was obsessed with knowing exactly when you would be here on this earth, as if my answer would make it so. I wanted to know how long I had to wait to hold you in my arms. I waited in anticipation for every moment as I counted…. the months…. the weeks…. the days, and then the hours, until you made your first appearance on this earth. I read everything I could get my hands on about your development. I knew exactly when, how many months and days, it would take before your brain, your heart, your fingers and toes would develop. I knew when to expect that first flutter that told me you really were alive in side of me…. and then I felt it…. a movement that felt like a butterfly in my body. It was miraculous as I realized I/we had created life inside of me.
As I counted the days until you came I would marvel at my body and how I could see your little hand or your foot, press against the boundaries that you were in. I felt you get the hiccups and would watch, feeling helpless knowing I could not make them go away…. yet! I counted the hours before I could hold you…. and then…. you were here! In those days, they kept babies in the nursery for a long time. It was 12 hours after you were born…. yes, I remember exactly how long it was before I held you for the first time. I did what every new mom does….. I uncovered you…. and counted your fingers and your toes, just to make sure. Someone else had helped me with the counting at that point. You were 7lbs 8oz and 22 inches long. We are told that God knows every hair on our head so he must have counted too…. right?
There were numbers that other people had counted…. how many months you should nurse…. how long before you could hold your head up by yourself…. how many months before I should feed you solid food…. how long before you sat up…. the appropriate number of months before you crawled…. and the big ones…. how long before you took your first step or spoke your first word…. everything counted in a neat orderly manner. There was always the awareness that these were the appropriate numbers…. that anything outside of these numbers was cause for worry.
Becoming aware of the intense counting that went on through the years as you celebrated each birthday, progressed through each grade at school…. grew into the women you would become, I am beginning to realize that the counting has a purpose. It is orderly…. it helps us know what to expect…. it prepares us for life in many ways…. there aren’t any big surprises if things progress as they should…. right? Wrong…. the accident happened. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be…. this was not orderly…. this was chaos. This was not normal…. it was devastation at every level of my and my families being. And then, the counting continued. I counted how many hours it would take for me to get to you…. how many hours will my precious grandchild Cody, be alone with nothing but strangers around him…. how many hours will he be terrified or in shock without you…. how many minutes of life did you have left once that tire blew and that car rolled…. counting…. five times. I still don’t know the exact moment of your death and that bothers me. I need that number. I will never have that number…. that moment that you passed from me back to God.
And now…. I am at 1 day. What do I know? I will continue to count…. my beautiful Jennifer…. the days you were with me…. and the days you are not. I will continue to count and to honor all that you were to me and all that you continue to be in my life…. my first born child…. the first one at my breast…. the one who taught me to love all things animal…. the one who tenderly caressed my head when I had a migraine…. the one who was so adventurous, afraid of nothing…. The one who gave me the joy of watching you fall madly in love with your sister, Jessica who came 20 years after your birth…. the one who taught me that our children are our teachers…. The one who accepted a new love in my life and a new father figure for you, one you could love and have fun with…. the one who gave me/us the greatest gift of all…. someone to love when you were gone…. Cody.
Yes….I will continue to count…. because your life and your death will always be a huge part of who we are together…. you and me…. a love all encompassing…. a love that will sustain me through the darkness and into the light.
Always…. Together…. Forever
-written by Elizabeth Stember