Before it was 7 I’d gotten texts from my brother and Helen.
In the next fifteen minutes one from my sister and one from Kim’s friend Kim (like I have to make it clear that it wasn’t from Kim herself).
Maryann posted a “Girl Power” picture on my Facebook timeline.
Jodelle and Bill came to visit yesterday. Kevin came last week.
Folks at my CocoaHeads meeting were just so nice last night.
Susan hung the valentines in the garden.
I’m surrounded by love and support and I appreciate every one of you.
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but in a way it makes me miss Kim even more.
People always supported Kim and me separately and together on this day. It meant so much to us and means so much to me.
But today was the day that Kim and I would look at each other and nod, “I know”. And we knew that the other knew.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years all felt different without Kim with me.
But Daniel, you say, I didn’t know that Washington’s Birthday was so important to you?
Today, Elena is dead eleven years.
I flash back eleven years and Kim and I are in the hospital room standing together looking at the body of our dead six-year old daughter waiting for the priest to arrive.
I flash forward to six months ago watching that same priest say last rights over Kim in her hospital bed.
For ten years Kim and I marked this day together.
Some years were harder than others. No year was easy. But each year we had each other.
I never traveled this time of year.
Kim called February our month of eating cookies.
I baked a lot of cookies.
People gave us recipes.
I didn’t bake fast enough.
Kim would come home from Heinen’s. “Look,” she’d say, holding up a package.
“What did you get?” I’d asked.
“Homemade cookies from Heinen’s.”
“They’re not homemade,” I’d object.
“Heinen’s homemade them,” she’d say opening the package. “Want one?”
And we’d stand in the kitchen and eat cookies together.
Over time our month of eating cookies began in January and ended in March. Later it didn’t really end in March, it just slowed down.
This year I decided to break that tradition.
We’d go to breakfast together each year on this day. After the first couple of years, Kim didn’t like to have people over.
We’d have them over in a week for Elena’s birthday.
Maggie and I decided to have family over for Elena’s birthday again this year. Colored pancakes, sausage, and bacon.
Some traditions continue. Some don’t.
After breakfast I would drop Kim back at the house and go to Elena’s grave. The last couple of years Kim would go with me.
Maggie and Elena’s birthdays were just about six months apart. Six months and a day.
Kim’s mom would always celebrate the half birthday of the one whose birthday it wasn’t with a little gift. A nice gesture that coupled the two girls and their birthdays together.
The anniversaries of Kim and Elena’s death are six months and a day apart. Elena is dead eleven years today. Kim is dead six months tomorrow.
Their deaths are coupled in so many ways.
Kim was the only person on this earth who felt the loss of Elena the way I did and do.
I’m not saying other people didn’t love Elena. I’m not saying other people don’t miss Elena.
I’m saying Elena’s mom and dad stood by her dead body eleven years ago today. It was a shared experience we could have done without. It’s a shared experience that was communicated in a nod and a touch.
We came out of that room and sat with all four of Elena’s grandparents who had come immediately to the hospital.
Washington’s Birthday. Elena’s favorite president.
I’m not going out for breakfast today.
On Elena’s birthday I’ll meet Kim’s parents for breakfast after mass. Kim’s mom and Kim used to go every year then meet me for breakfast. The last few years Kim’s dad has joined them.
Then I’d drop Kim off at the house and go to Elena’s grave. The last couple of years Kim said, “I’ll go too.”
Two breakfasts in two weeks. Two visits to Elena’s grave.
So no breakfast today. I’ll head over to the grave site in a little bit.
I’m not ready to go yet.
Today is about Elena but I find myself missing Kim so much more than I can explain.
I know I’m surrounded by love and support. I really do appreciate you more than I can say. I know I’m whining and not noticing the good around me.
But I’m on my way to visit the grave of my daughter on the eleventh anniversary of her death.
This year I’ll go alone.
Kim is already there.
Waiting for me.
Right next to Elena.