Snuggled warm into my side, she looked up at me and, out of nowhere, asked:
“Are you having the life you expected?”
My heart plummeted to my stomach, still churning from another sleepless night of dark grief. I looked across the top of her head, searching for an answer, tears threatening with each passing second. My weary eyes rested on the empty spot in the otherwise sleep-mussed bed.
Oh, my wise baby girl, my heart cried. Only seven, but you lay it all right out, don’t you?
“No,” I answered honestly. “I am definitely not having the life I expected. At least not this part. I hoped for Daddy…and I expected you, beautiful girl. I expected that you would be an exquisite little fairy-sprite that God created just for me and Daddy. But I didn’t expect that Daddy wouldn’t be here. I didn’t expect that we…” I broke off.
She held my eyes, waiting for me to finish. Little Mini-Kev. She looks so much like him. This is impossible, God. Impossible that in this shattered, numb, half-alive state, I am all she has left.
I pushed on, not even trying to hide the tears now streaming from my eyes. “I didn’t expect that we wouldn’t have very long to be all together as a family. Daddy was sick, but I didn’t expect him to…to die. Not yet.”
Her skinny arms tightened around my neck. She whispered, so soft I almost didn’t catch her words. “I miss Daddy, Mama.”
I know, baby, I know. I do, too.
“He loved you soooo much, little bear,” I choked out. Her head shot up.
“Loves, Mama,” she corrected me forcefully. “You have to say LOVES. Just because he died doesn’t mean he stopped loving us. He just loves us from heaven now.”
Stunned at her astuteness, I just nodded. She’s right, of course. Death couldn’t possibly stop Kevin from loving his girls. His kind of love is too big, too marvelous, too huge to be defeated by anything. Even cancer.
But this unexpected life? I feel like it might defeat me because I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t know how to function in it.
I want the life I expected, the one that ended in April, when Kevin died. I want the life where together we watch our precious, precocious daughter grow up and amaze the world. I want the life where I go to sleep with him each night and wake up with him each morning. I want to send him off to work with a hug and wait all day for him to come back home. I want to hold his hand and kiss his lips.
I want the life where he loves us here, not from heaven.
This life unexpected bewilders me. It shatters me every day with what was and I can’t see yet what will be. It is dark and scary and unknown. Yes, there are moments of happy and I even laugh. My girl makes sure of that. That’s what keeps me going, even when life seems impossible without Kevin. I keep trying, curving toward the joy that I hope is somewhere down this twisting road, past the streets of sorrow and miles of mourning.
He wants that for me and our daughter needs me to find it again.
I just expect it may take me a while.