On Thursday a new episode of the podcast will come out. Instead of asking the questions, this time I will be the one telling my story.
I asked my talented friend Kelsey Dilts McGregor to help me and step in as the host for this episode. Towards the end of our conversation she asked me, apologetically, “what has been the hardest thing?”
It’s an impossible question and we both knew it. I floundered for an answer, but none seemed right. We cut it out of the episode.
I’ve had time to think about it and there are three things that spring to mind as the hardest since Eva died.
There’s the what if game. What if she was still alive? What would she be doing? Would she be crawling? Walking? Would she be able to hear? What would our lives look like? There’s the important dates, her birthday, Christmas, the anniversary of her death, where I can’t help but count up how many months old she would be and imagine what she would look like. It’s tortuous and irresistible.
Then there’s the fact that when Eva died, I lost my other half. I know that sounds cliche. I don’t mean to say she completed me. This isn’t Jerry Maguire. I am a whole person. But Eva made me into a new person. Her presence in my life redefined me. I was me, but I was also Eva’s mother. We were a team. It was me and her. Always. And with her gone, there’s this ache of loneliness that can’t be filled. The ache isn’t constant, and I do feel happy, but what is constant is that my life is different again, and she is gone. What is different is that this new identity that Eva helped to form, has lost its muse. Lost its drive. I am still the woman Eva helped me to be, but without her, and that feels wrong. I have lost my team mate.
But there’s something else. Something that digs a little deeper than both of these things. It’s not based in reality and it’s not rational, and despite knowing this, it still stings me the hardest. A barb that strikes me when I least expect it.
It’s the idea that I didn’t deserve Eva. The idea that she was taken from me because I fucked it up. The idea that if I had handled things better, if I had been the mother Eva needed from day one, she might still be here.
Like I said. It’s irrational. I don’t believe in fate. I don’t believe in luck. I don’t believe in a giant scale in the sky weighing up your heartbreak and joy and deciding you’ve had enough of either one. But then I see children who are so like Eva. I see children who look so like her it takes my breath away. I see children getting cochlear implants and and learning to take those first wobbly steps much later than what’s considered normal, and having first birthdays and second birthdays. I see their parents crying with gratitude and love as their child responds to their voice for the first time, or cheering from the sidelines as their baby crawls across the room, and I can’t help but feel like they deserved to reach these milestones more than I did.
I feel jealous. The ache of losing her gets replaced with a hole where I wish I could swap places with their parents. And I can’t help but feel like I did it all wrong. That I failed Eva, and because of that, I was punished. I had Eva taken from me because I didn’t deserve her.
I tell myself that is ridiculous. But that doesn’t stop the wondering. It doesn’t stop the gnawing feeling in my stomach that I deserved what I got. Even as I know that that isn’t how it works.
That’s the hardest thing.