I can hardly believe that today Ellie would be turning 12. It is so hard to imagine sometimes, when in our minds she will be forever 9. But then we look around and see Ellie's friends who are now as tall as I am, and the realization hits that she would be different at this age than what we remember.
Just the other day, John was looking through old documents on his computer and he came across something I wrote about Ellie when she was 5 - long before she was ever sick. The Today Show was doing a contest. They were promoting a Martina McBride song (click on the title of this blog entry to go to the song) and wanted mothers to submit essays on their daughters. I never sent mine in. I guess I figured that in the world of children, no one would find anything terribly remarkable about mine. Everyone thinks that their children are amazing, so I just wrote it up and forgot about it. I never even showed it to John. When John found it all these years later, what struck me was that this was simply my own thoughts on what my sweet Ellie meant to me when there was no cancer looming dark on the horizon... no thoughts of losing her to color my opinions with the rose colored glasses of motherly grief. This is what I wrote:
"As I watched Martina McBride perform 'In My Daughter’s Eyes' on the Today Show, I cried while I thought about my five-year old daughter, Ellie. That was the first time I had heard the song, and I was struck by such a truthful portrayal of a daughter’s love. I have been so blessed by my daughter’s life. I know that I am supposed to be the mom, but Ellie has taught me so much! She is such a loving, imaginative, and articulate little girl. Some days Ellie wants to be a ballerina or a decorator when she grows up, but more often than not, she wants to be a mom just like me. Ellie constantly challenges my view of the world with her perceptiveness and her own unique form of logic. One day she told me that she would help me decorate when I am on TV like all of the decorators that I enjoy watching. (As if it is a foregone conclusion that I will be on TV one day.) When I attempted to explain that the decorators on TV know so much more about decorating than I do, and have much more experience, Ellie’s answer stunned me. She said 'they all had to start somewhere, didn’t they Mom?' Ellie also shows such a depth of love for everyone that she cares about. When I apologize for being grouchy with her, Ellie is quick to say 'It’s o.k., Mom, I love you. You are such a good mommy.' She is also wonderful about coming to me to confess any wrongs on her part. She will show me things that she has done that she could have easily hidden, and she will often come back to me, even a day later and say 'I’m sorry that I didn’t obey you right away when you told me to get ready for bed last night.' Every day I feel so blessed that God gave me the love of such a special little girl, and I realize that while I am trying to teach and guide her, I am actually being taught the most of all."
I found something else that I wrote even longer ago - twelve and a half years, to be exact. I was sorting through boxes of things that had been stored here when we were in Montana, and I came across the baby book that I wrote in when I was pregnant with Ellie. On page after page, I wrote in a way that only an expectant mother can... I poured out my hopes and dreams for the future. One particular page stood out to me above all of the rest...
Thursday, March 19, 1998
"Our fourth anniversary! It's hard to believe that four years have already gone by. On this day, especially, my heart is overflowing. John and I have had the most wonderful four years together and now God has blessed us with a baby. It just seems too good to be true! This evening as I am surrounded by my wonderful family, it seems that God is too good to me. I look around the table and I see loved ones on all sides. I hope that this tiny life growing inside me will inherit wonderful traits from each person - both through genetics and later, through imitation. Surely one heart cannot take so much love. Maybe this new little beating heart will somehow sense it and grow to learn that the more you love, the more love you have to give. If I could have only one wish for this baby, it would be that she would love people with all of her heart!"
As I continued to look through the boxes of things, I started going through pages and pages of Ellie's art work and writings. One of the papers I found in the box was something Ellie wrote. It said "I like to help other pople. I like to rite and to dro. I like to seng songs and make things and deckorate. I love my famillie. The end." The one thing that God chose to bless her with, over and above all of Ellie's special qualities, was an extra big capacity to love. He filled her up to overflowing with the kind of love that I dreamed for her when her own heart was just starting to beat. In the grand scheme of things, Ellie's 9 years were like the blink of an eye, but she spent them wisely. She loved to the fullest.
Today I just miss her. Really I miss her everyday, but today I choose to really focus on all of the quirky, lovable, and crazy things that made her my Ellie girl. She could push my buttons so hard that I wanted to scream, and then turn around in the next breath and love me so sweetly that my heart hurt. She was complicated and lovely and funny and wise. And I REALLY really miss her. Badly. I would give anything to have her here again, rearranging my house and throwing glitter on the floor. Or insisting that we light a candle at the dinner table even when the meal was thrown together on paper plates. Or patiently teaching her little brother how to play a computer game (and then locking him out of her room because he is a pesky little brother, after all). Or snuggling with her daddy on the sofa. Or snuggling with ME on the sofa!
Then I realize that Ellie's reality is not mine. I miss her, but just for me. For Ellie, there is no more pain... no more tears... only joy and love and peace that have no end. So I guess God's birthday present gets to trump mine... again. Drat. I can't compete with that.