April 29th. It's my daughter's first birthday today. My heart is exploding with the gigantic colossal love that all new mothers feel. We spent the day together underneath the sunshine, my girl and I. Cupcakes in the morning at a neighborhood mom and pop bakery with Daddy. Brunch with Nonna and Pappi. Exploring the backyard. A long nap. So many kisses. Filled to the brim with love. My baby girl...
Erin is now in hospice care. This will be her last Spring.
There is a soft, gentle kind of magic that comes along with having been young together. I met Erin when I was 20. One of my soul sisters. One of my very best friends from college, and now she is dying. She is in Chicago in a hospital bed. She is no longer lucid. She has been on morphine since January, I think? There has been so much pain. But, her mind was crystal clear and she was a fucking warrior all through this last year. She's been fighting colon and liver cancer. She's been optimistic and so bad-ass. Erin's an actress and she's still been performing in her show, which is just astounding. But, she has ammonia buildup now. Her liver can't process it. It's impacting her neurological functioning. The doctors are quite sure she'll never be lucid again. It happened gradually and then suddenly. Then last week, it happened fast. The last I heard, she went into the hospital for something minor.
I want somebody to fix this. The doctors. Or the scientists. Or my husband who can fix anything. Because it's not fair, dammit! It's not fair that she's been in such terrible pain. It's not fair that Erin will just be done, that her wildfire passionate life will be cut short too soon. And, I know, I know she would roll her eyes and fuss and be PISSED OFF at me for carrying on and being so over-dramatic. She'd say, "Come on, Big D. Snap out of this. You need to be present for your girl. Go take a walk and then snap out of this!"
I run errands. I buy hula hoops and bouncy balls and birthday candles with Sofia at my chest in the carrier. I stroke her hair and I kiss her and we touch noses and I watch her eyes shine starry as she giggles. I try to take her in fully. She grounds me in the present moment and I am so grateful for that. I make asparagus and broccoli and then heat up some leftover chicken for dinner. I watch her closely as she takes dainty bites. I leave my phone in the other room. I drink her in. I smell her neck when I wipe little asparagus snakes off her chin.
During bath-time, I stare at her eyes that are shaped just like mine, and I wonder how they can be so very dark blue. I notice how her hair seems to get longer every day. When I towel her off, I hold her extra close. I read our bedtime stories slowly in an almost-whisper. I caress her toes. I smell her clean hair. I hold on to her so tightly. When she drifts off to sleep in my arms, I kiss her cheeks, her eyebrows, her nose. All the while, I see Erin's face and I try my best to bottle up every last ounce of this big, big love and send it off to her in a dream. Her body may be in that hospital bed in Chicago, but Erin has already left us. She was not made for lying in a bed. She was built for sunshine and singing. And, I'm going to sing "Happy Birthday" to my girl with my whole heart on Sunday. Sofia is one and Erin is rising up, up, up....into light.