When I was cleaning out Kathleen's closet, I found a card. Part of the handwritten note said, "I believe Henry is an angel sent from above to teach us to live and love." It was a card for his baptism from his godmother. It was written before his surgery, when we were scared but hopeful and we believed his heart would be fixed and all would be well. And yet, she was right.
Kathleen was baptized this past weekend. It was an event that I looked forward to and dreaded. I feared the memories it might bring up. For a while we had a priest who was always admonishing people to SMILE. I wrote dozens of letters to him in my head, because had he told me to smile at Kathleen's baptism as I was having a Henry moment I might have lost it. I needed him to know that we had a son, that he had been baptized in that same spot about two years before, that he died months after he was baptized, that his casket had sat in the center aisle feet away from the baptismal font, that six months later his godmother had died, so that while we were happy, we were also sad and we would smile—and cry—as we felt like it. But our priest was replaced and I never sent the letter or let forth that flood of anger at him.
And Kathleen's baptism was a joyous event. I had my Henry moment at the end of the mass that preceded the baptism. Tears welled up as I stared up at the font. During the ceremony, I was able to focus mainly on her; I only noted that she cried much more than Henry did when the water was poured over her.
Love Like an Ocean
I just got back from visiting my parents with Kathleen. It is a trip I never made with Henry. My parents met him as did my aunts and uncles—even my grandmother. But I never got to bring him there.
I grew up on the coast. The ocean is in my blood. It is the one main complaint I have about where I live now—too far from the ocean. I used to sing to Henry about the ocean in "Peace Like a River." I'd sing that I had love like an ocean, and I'd tell him that he had never seen the ocean, but when he did, he'd know what I meant. But I never got him there. I remember standing looking out over the water for the first time after he died, how I choked on the words as I sang to him.
But Kathleen made it, in what I hope is one of many trips. She saw and smelled the ocean. She was held by her nana and grampy and by her great-grandmother, aunt, and great-aunt. Her cousin Thomas brought her toys when she cried and helped feed her a bottle.
We walked up to the handicapped accessible playground, and my mom showed me the sign that remembers several kids who left too soon, including Henry. We wheeled Kathleen right up to the top level where the sign is, and I saw his name and cried.
Henry loved his baby swing. I imagine he would have loved the playground swings too.
Watching You Grow
In the past few days, Kathleen has changed remarkably. She went from tolerating and showing mild interest in her play mat to grabbing and holding onto the dangling toys and half -rolling herself over. She wants to creep forward. She writhes herself backward on her back. And she laughs! She continues to amaze me daily.
I wrote about Henry's song, and Kathleen has her own. One of the last verses is this:
Kathleen Avery we love you so.
We are looking forward to watching you grow.
You will get much bigger, so many things you'll do,
But one thing won't change. We'll always love you.
It took me some time before I could sing this verse with confidence, before I could believe that we would indeed get the chance to watch her grow. I hope to have a long lifetime of watching her grow, but right now she is changing so much I'm trying to just focus on the moment.