11 Days into September of 2001, my daughter, just one among thousands, died. All victims of unlucky circumstance – terrorism or Turner’s Syndrome, the end was the same. All beloved. All gone into the space between one breath and the next.
10 Fingers adorned each perfect hand, 10 tiny toes covered with ink from being imprinted on the birth certificate which oddly we received months after we got her death certificate in the mail. But the opposition felt fitting — her death had always overshadowed her life, even when she was alive. “We found a heart beat but there’s something else you should know,” the ultrasound tech had mumbled before handing me the phone with my doctor already weeping on the other end.
9 More ultrasounds we had, each time hoping for a miracle. 9 months to carry a baby, when it works properly. And 9 months to carry a baby, even when it doesn’t. There are many things modern medicine can fix. But many more that it can’t.
8 Months I let her nursery sit, half finished. Half waiting. Half mourning. Until her brother came and filled it with life. Even then I kept the mint green changing table I’d hand painted with pink roses for her. He could make this one concession for her.
7 Items that sit on her memory shelf: A pair of knit booties, a teddy bear with wings (well only one wing now since her brothers got to it), three angel statuettes, a memorial candle and the program from her funeral. I didn’t speak at it. My sister made me laugh during it. It was terribly inappropriate. It was perfect.
6 Innings we sat through in a Seattle Mariner’s game before I couldn’t take it anymore and had to leave. We were sitting with distant friends who did not know about our dying baby, would not know of her death, could not know that when the home run cannon exploded and she jumped inside me was the last time I ever felt her move.
5 Months it took for my breast milk to dry up. My body wouldn’t give up on her long after her own body had given out, a warm reminder of the brutal optimism of life and the elegant wastefulness of death.
4 Times I have dreamed of her and remembered it after I awoke.
3 X chromosomes in a body designed to only have two.
2 Hours (or was it 2 minutes?) we spent with her. 2 Parents left with empty arms.
2 Towers fell taking 2,602 souls to join her.
1 Impossibly small ceramic box filled with 1 tablespoon of ashes – did you know that is all a baby makes?
1 Impossibly huge monument to the worst terrorist attack on American soil – yet still not big enough to contain all the tablespoons of ashes that soared through the air that day.
1 Day a year I have permission to sit here and cry for her.
1 Day a year we have permission to all cry together.
0 Times she’s met her siblings. Eaten ice cream. Looked for fireflies. Grown out of her shoes. Fell asleep on her daddy’s shoulder.
0 The clock stops. We didn’t know we were holding our breath; we all inhale. It’s tomorrow.