Today is exactly 3.5 years since we lost our daughter Hope Marie. Sometimes "anniversaries" make you stop and think about things.
Hope is certainly still—and always will be—part of us. We never want to forget her precious life that was so short this side of eternity. We want the children to know they had a sibling. But, although I suppose it can sound cliché, it does seem true that time really does have the capacity to heal wounds. Memories still surface and when they come, they sting... but life and living goes on... and I think I can say it has for the Wards.
There is a kind of "separation" as Becca grows into a very vibrant and spirited little girl and we remember Hope as a two-day old infant slipping away into God's arms. You can almost forget for a while that she was "supposed" to be here. (I'm sure most outside our family have mostly forgotten about her accept when someone or something reminds them; it's only natural to focus most on those actually physically present with us.) We have our two children and we love them dearly. We live our life together and the family seems "complete". But then we'll be doing something together, maybe I am struggling to handle the two children, and it will hit me -- "There were supposed to be three...", or I will see Becca doing something and think that Hope isn't here to experience it.
To this day, when I see a set of twins, I confess it's difficult—and sometimes it seems like those darn double strollers are everywhere! I want to ask parents of twins: "So what's it like to raise them?" (Once in a play area at the mall I am pretty sure that there were two sets of identical twins present at the same time. I'm like, "Okay God, enough already! Oy veh?!")
The grief I feel the most is the sense of our family being "robbed" of experience—and there's nothing I as dad could do about it. Laurie and I missed out on in knowing Hope in this life, raising our first-born daughter (Hope was born first), and getting to be parents of twins. Likewise, Brady and Becca also suffered loss, even if they didn't know it -- they may feel it more as time goes on. They both lost the opportunity to have another sibling in this earthly life, and Becca lost the unique experience not just of having a sister, but an identical twin sister. I'll always wonder how the two girls personalities would have been similar or different? (I suspect they would have looked the same but had different personalities, but I will never know...) What kind of special bond would the two of them would have had? What kind of bond would I as father have had with Hope? (I know I have a special one with Becca.) What does Becca sense she is "missing"?
The kids know about their sister, "Baby Hope." From time-to-time they ask questions and we pull out a memory box with what few things we have left from her brief life. We visit the cemetery at my parent’s church in Calvert County where she is buried occasionally but we certainly don't go often. (I suppose it helps that she is buried over an hour away.) We know Hope is not there... but it is a place where we can pause to intentionally remember that she was real, mattered very much to us, and we miss her presence with us.
Keep us in prayer on this day. This Sunday they have a memorial service at Franklin Square Hospital (where the girls were born) for those who have lost a child. We go to this every year and it is a good thing. Laurie is actually giving the short “meditation” this year—she felt ready to do it this year. The kids always enjoy going outside and releasing a " balloon to Jesus” for Hope at the end of the service.