My earliest memories of childhood are of my sister’s funeral. Debbie died of Leukemia at age seven; I was only five. We were born two years and one day apart, and each year I celebrate her birthday in my heart the day before mine.
My world fell apart when she died. Grief counseling was virtually unheard of when I was a child. The adults in my life grappled with their own angst, as my grief slipped by unnoticed.
I learned from an early age to guard my heart. I wandered through life, detached and lonely. Self-preservation meant tucking the hurt I experienced deep inside, so deep that many of my memories are forever lost to me.
I did not feel love, perhaps because my heart was closed off, frozen in time. Hurt could not penetrate the walls of ice, but neither could love. I married as a young woman, still questioning the meaning of love. It was not until my daughter had taken root in the depths of my body, safe and sound from the world, did my heart slowly open; and, the vestiges of emotion began to emerge, like a bud opening up to the sun.
As each month passed, and her little body grew, I enjoyed talking to her. I would rub the hump where she lay nestled inside my body. It was the two of us against the world. I couldn’t wait to meet this little being and at the same time, I wanted to keep her safe inside of me forever.
She was such a tiny little angel when she was born, only five pounds twelve ounces. I loved my little baby and wanted to protect her. As I watched this wonderful little girl grow, I realized I could not protect her from love or from the hurt that accompanies love. It is what life is all about.
She was the nourishment for which my heart had been starving. It is times like these that I look back on, and think of when I held my daughter in my arms for the first time, the bud that was once my heart spread its petals as though it were a rose in bloom, opening to the morning sun. My baby daughter, Ashley, just a newborn, taught me about love.