Shortly after returning from the hospital to an empty house without my sweet girl, I went for a long distance bike ride on the open road alone. I was climbing a huge hill, the wind beating behind me and smelling the fresh Fall air, thinking of what my life had become. I was talking to Ruthie Lou as I rode, telling her of my undying love and asking her what I was supposed to do with a life that now held no meaning when the thought came, I must live for her. I must wake up each day, put my feet on the ground and greet each day as it is my last and make it the best it can be. I must be the person I always wanted to be, do the things that always held fear for me and truly live for her.
When Ruthie Lou died, life as I knew it ended. Relationships ended. My presumed future ended. Who I had been until that point ended. My innocence ended. But, my life did not end. I wanted it to end, but it didn't. I willed it to end, but it didn't.
As every child does, Ruthie Lou came into my life to make it better, sweeter, full of love and she did, while she was alive. She did not come here to ruin my life, but to see how truly beautiful life can be. I will never un-experience the joy I had when she was in my arms, I could never fall out of love with her. Even though she died, my love never will.
I live for her because she cannot.
"I see those shirts everywhere!" she said to me as I walked into the staffroom for lunch. It took me a moment to even remember what shirt I had put on that morning but quickly remembered I wore my Ruthie Lou Crew shirt in celebration of the upcoming Human Race. I told her it was probably at a past Human Race event but no, nonchalantly she continued to tell me, "I think it was in Cloverdale. Those ladies are always dressed in costume, sometimes they have kids with them and there are usually ladybugs everywhere!" I laughed as so many images and memories came to mind of times when my crazy (lovely and supportive) friends displayed their love for Ruthie Lou in the most unlikeliest of ways. "So sad about that baby." Her voice reminding me we were still having a conversation, she continued to tell me, "Her name was Ruthie Lou." And then I realized, she didn't know. So many times I have answered that question and how painful it was in the beginning. Now I am able to answer with love and pride as I told her, "That's MY baby, Ruthie Lou." We continued talking and I told her about the Press Democrat article hanging in our school office (thanks WMS!!) and after we finished chatting, she went to go read the article. That conversation stuck with me all day, and it got me thinking about the last few years and the impact my daughter has had and how much we have been supported in the last 3 1/2 years.
We have had so much love shown to our family from the start; organizing Ruthie Lou's Celebration of Life, feeding us after we returned home, grocery shopping for us when we couldn't leave the house, sharing our story when it was too new for us to tell, welcoming us for holidays in their homes, showing up at our fundraising events, walking one of the many races that we do for Ruthie Lou, I could go on and on...One thing is for sure though, I do have some crazy friends, in the absolutely best way possible of course; from hanging ladybugs on every lamppost of the Cloverdale Half Marathon, to decorating our front yard with daisies and ladybugs on her birthday, to dressing in full ladybug costumes in public including their dogs and children, those ladies ARE crazy!
The first Thanksgiving after Ruthie Lou died (or maybe it was Christmas) as my friends walked in our home, they unexpectedly had on their RL shirts on. They know I love the Ruthie Lou Crew shirts because I love the image of "walking for you, Ruthie Lou." However on this day, instead of the word "walking" on their backs they had each taped something that they did in honor of Ruthie Lou. Words such as dancing, singing, laughing or believing for you Ruthie Lou appeared. Quickly not wanting to be left out, I ran to my room, changed my shirt and in bold letters taped "LIVING LIFE" for you Ruthie Lou on my back. It felt so good to see how much my daughter, this little baby had touched hearts of those who loved her.
When everyone left, I collected all those pieces of paper and posted them on my fridge to remind myself of how much life was left to live. In those days getting out of bed was still such a challenge, I am so glad the weight of that grief has lessened it's hold now. Living without my daughter is still unbelievable, it is never easy, and it is a constant choice everyday. Some days that choice is harder than others, but everyday I vow to LIVE because she cannot. To some, these Ruthie Lou Crew shirts are merely a fundraiser (and for that I am so grateful) but for me, these shirts represent all the expressions of love for my daughter, the beauty that remains and the reasons that I choose LIFE everyday; the dancing, singing, laughing, believing and LIVING LIFE are all for you, Ruthie Lou.
I am so grateful for all the little ways in which we have been supported, the thousands of little things that people have loved us through. From the smallest gesture to the largest expression of love, they have held us through this, not one thing has been unnoticed. And I am SO excited for the next few weeks to make way for the Human Race. I may not be able to plan an annual birthday party for my daughter but the Human Race is such a special day, I get to see her name across the backs of amazing people in the world, as we help raise awareness and support for other hurting bereaved families who are just entering their world of grief. This is yet another legacy that my daughter has left behind. I am so proud to be her mother.
The house felt strangely inhabited tonight. Reid wanted to "watch Rufie Roo" before bed. We probably have 2,000 photos of her, many plastered around the house, on our phones and most anywhere that we are. Reid knows her pictures, her name and that she is his sister. We speak of her, we include her in all that we do and how we live. Tonight when he asked to watch her, my heart leapt with fear and excitement. I have not watched her videos (from the video camera) for near three and a half years and before that only once, days after coming home without her. My sister and I sat on the couch in the living room and watched Ruthie Lou and cried, it was hard and it was sacred. It was so necessary. But, I haven't had the courage to watch them since.
I often picture Ruthie Lou in our daily life and that thought is full of so many emotions: sadness, emptiness, love, pride and so much loss. I feel my own loss but I also feel it for Chris and even for Reid, for the sister he'll never know. I worry about him loving her at all, and then I worry that he'll love her so much that it will cause him his own grief. But mostly, I feel so sad that he doesn't get that playmate that other kids get in a sibling. He has a sister but he'll never actually get that sister.
So tonight we snuggled on the couch, we had milk and loved watching Ruthie Lou. Reid giggled and squealed to see his mama and dad on screen and he asked questions about what he saw. We stayed up past his bedtime and we laughed and I cried and my heart was full, having both my babies in one room for almost a minute. It was a sacred moment. I kissed Reid all over his face and he even let me do it without saying, "eww". His eyes were near closed before his head hit the pillow and although I still feel like crying, I think I'll revel in the feeling of love instead.
Not a day goes by- and not many moments without missing my sweet girl. I'll miss her always.
I am mama of three beautiful babes; two sons whom I have the privilege of raising and my daughter who lived for 33 sacred days.