Four years tomorrow.
I slept with his blanket last night. It was cold in the house (I woke up in the morning to find the front door ever so slightly ajar) and Brian wasn't home and the 17th was looming. I slept with his blanket last night, like I did every night that first year. Like I did for many nights after that. Like I haven't done in a very long time.
His blanket is yellow, like lemon chiffon. My grandmother made it, one of thirteen she has made for her great-grandchildren. I didn't use it because he always had velcro on him somewhere and it snagged on the knit blanket. But when we went to the hospital for the last time, I brought it. It is what he was wrapped in when we held him for the last time.
I slept with his blanket last night.
Tonight, when I sang Kathleen the "Kakeen" song, the lullaby I made up just for her, my voice cracked and I choked through tears when I got to the Henry verse.
Kathleen, my baby, your brother is Henry.
He is an angel who watches over thee.
He is no here with us upon the earth
but he's watched over you since before your birth.
He is not here with us upon the earth.
"We don't have Henry," she tells me sometimes. "No. No, we don't."
Brian and I went through the timeline again tonight. The discharge into the snowstorm on the 13th. Actually getting home on the 14th. The visiting nurse's stamp of approval that all looked well on the 15th. The fever and vomiting and diarrhea and frantic phone calls and exhaustion on the night of the 15th. The pediatrician, the ER on the 16th. The drill into his leg. The sighing over the weeks it would take to ween him off the ventilator again. Going home for a couple hours. The phone call. Back to the hospital. Brian wrung out sick and needing to leave somewhere in the wee hours of the 17th. The unfamiliar beeping. Singing him out, singing him love. Brian arriving too late, seeing my mom's face and knowing.
I have no idea what time he died. I have looked at his death certificate just to find out, but I never remember. Time had lost all meaning then. And it was the time of year, this time of year, when darkness falls so early and grayness sometimes conveys dark. Had I been looking out the window, it wouldn't have helped.
I am past the joyful days this week. I am not far from the day. I have been feeling it coming on today, even as I worked and read Christmas stories and delivered jams to our church and cooked dinner.
I don't know what to do with that. Four years. I've come so far, but come these days of December, I am still standing there by the revolving door at the hospital, waiting, arms empty, for somebody to come to take me home. I don't remember if Brian was beside me or behind me or with me at all at that door. I was numb and searing and separate from everything that flowed around me.
I think I will go hold his blanket again and check on my girls and feel them breathe. I will go to sleep knowing my neighbors have been holding me in their hearts and my friend Tricia has been thinking of me this week sending big hugs. I'll go to bed knowing my friend Michelle will listen to You Are My Little Bird with her daughter tomorrow and remember Henry. I'll pass by my tree and see the ornaments others have made to remember him. I'll go to bed and hold his blanket knowing his place in the earth is marked.
I'll go to bed and wake up and it will have been four years and a new year will start.