The anniversary of Perry's death, both days (time change day and actual date) were brutal as to be expected. I really didn't want to celebrate it, but you can't forget. So we acknowledged it by buying a larger lantern for the hideout and burning some larger candles in it. I will save the good imagery and celebration for his birthday, the bittersweet celebration of his arrival and short time with us. I've already decided that I am going to buy a classroom kit for butterflies (ordered around Emily's birthday) and release them on his birthday.
So after this grueling week of crying on the way home and Big Sister becoming generally sadder/ demanding her brother more, we splurged.
We had been talking about Walt Disney World since before Perry died and had every intention of taking everyone that fall or following spring. But we know life, or rather death, has a way of robbing people of the should have beens, and instead we stayed home. Relatives tried to get us to go anyway (after all what better way to instantly recover than going to something you were supposed to do WITH your child, SARC). Well meaning people also suggested it when we were astounded with generosity and before realizing that other than the funeral home, plots had to be bought, a small vault with a 'lifetime' guarantee acquired, and a stone selected. We were oddly protected in that the amounts came out to just about cover everything except the stone, but the money and most importantly the will wasn't there to go.
The reality is that I am glad we waited. Nothing can make everything all right once you have lost a child and I think we needed to know that before we went. 90% of it was happiness, but the other 10% was an incredible sense of loss and incompleteness. We knew to expect it, so the shadow of the pain didn't totally eclipse the happy moments.
Before we left, Emily told me she was sad that Perry couldn't go with us. I told her that perhaps God would let Perry check in on us.
On the way there, a brief rainbow appeared. "Look, God sends a rainbow to tell you that a baby is safe with him". This moment seemed to settle the matter for her, and she continued the trip without hesitation. When it disappeared a moment later, she simply said "God has to tell other parents that their kids are ok."
I remember the first time Emily got to meet Cinderella and Aurora, a radiant smile spread across her face. It was that same rare uninhibited smile that I saw when Perry was born. I teared up- it was not fair that Emily did not smile as much as other children, that she was more aware of life and death than many adults are (Have you ever had your child ask if fish bleed when they die or where you will bury a pet that they just received and love desperately? Or have you heard a child ask how many years does Luke Katherine the Beta have before he dies? I have. She feeds this fish three pellets a day religiously, and stares lovingly into his bowl chatting with him. She shouldn't be thinking about this fish dying- in some ways I wish I would have got her a bird that had a chance of living until she left the house and life had given her other more important things in it.) or that we were without Perry now. He should have been in many of the pictures with his Sister, but he wasn't.
I saw his ghost in the face of an 18 month old child with his plaid shirt and similar dark lashes. The same shirt that is still rumpled in the sleeves from the last time Perry wore it. The same one I sit crying, trying to find his scent when little remains now beyond the smell of dust. I watched him as he stared at the moving figures on the Small Worls ride. His parents stared ahead oblivious and I wanted to tell him to stop and look at their son, how the important thing wasn't the ride.
I saw things with different eyes. The rainbow bands weren't just line skippers, perhaps that little girl's beautiful hair was a wig cleverly held down by the Mickey ears. The elderly couple with the disabled daughter that looked like they couldn't normally afford this, were they trying to capture memories while they could? I heard one family say they didn't really care about lines 'you won't see these people again anyway', and I thought "How clueless, they are missing it. They don't see the make a wish children, or the ones that you would gladly let skip ahead. They don't really see us- we are a family with a little girl to them to rush in front of, not a family that is missing a very real part of them." They are about the adrenaline rush I suppose, the momentary pleasures that fades like cotton candy into nothingness. They will miss their own families in this rush- sad, but the oblivious to others will rarely think that time is also limited for them with people they care about. Perhaps the Leukemia diagnosis isn't there yet or the car hasn't jumped the line, but we all go don't we? Perhaps their time with loved ones will never be as short as the time we were blessed with, but does it matter if you don't really value that time?
But I laughed on cheesey rides (except for the jungle cruise for some reason), ate pretzels and huge ice cream sandwiches, and most of all, I got to watch my daughter smiling with her daddy, cheeks pink with excitement from her first log ride down splash mountain. Yes, I wished I could have gone with them, but this after glow was reward enough.
I did find my new normal creeping in at times. I had to stop myself from waking every sleeping baby in a stroller or checking their pulses (parents rarely understand that I can stand children laughing, it is the sleeping that looks like death that makes me freeze inside). I found myself crying at night from the longing. The desperate need to see a child smile that wasn't there.
The days were largely Emily's, but the nights were Perry's. And only God really knows how much I miss him.