HAPPY BIRTHDAY MADDIE      MENU

On August 19th, 2004, Maddie turned 3 years old.

You've come a long way ... baby!

     I had dinner with Maddy, Daddy, Grama Dell, Uncle Russell  and Max-The-Dog the evening before Maddie's "official" birthday on the 19th ... Jim had already thrown a great party on the weekend before, and Maddie had still not opened all the presents. When it was time for the Chinese Food (now a weekly ritual that I hope Maddie will look back upon with fondness), she didn't feel like eating and went over to the couch. "I want to lay on the couch," she said. 

     I asked Maddie jokingly if it was her bed. She answered: "It's the couch." And then tears began to flow down her face. Not the whining or crying of a baby or child; nor did it seem like overtiredness. Maddie was --- as she frequently is --- lost in thought. She turned to me and said softly "I cwy." I leaned over and told her that it's ok to cry; that I cry sometimes. Then I gave her a little kiss and reminded Maddie that we all love her.

     I didn't ask why she was sad; I didn't feel it was my place. But a few weeks earlier she had asked Jim if he ever saw Mommy, and one week before she had told me that "maybe Mommy will come" to her 3rd birthday party. I had a strong sense of what was going on inside, whether or not Maddie was conscious of the reason. 

     Then in late August I was watching a "Baby Genius"-type video with Maddie, when the image became one of a woman with a baby; a voice-over announced "MOMMY." 

     Maddie asked me "Where is MY Mommy?" I always answer verbatim with what I know Jim has already said to Maddie. "You know that she had to go away, darling." Maddie then really surprised me, since I've never experienced a follow-up question. "Where did she go?" Maddie asked. I continued with Jim's previous statement. "Mommy didn't want to go, because she loved you so very much." And then Maddie just blew me away: "But where did she go?" with an emphasis on the word "go," like maybe I just wasn't getting the point of her question. I fought back tears and felt that the only appropriate way to answer was to say "I don't know, darling. That's something to ask Daddy." 

     I have ambivalent feelings about the day to come in the apparently not all too distant future (maybe sooner than imagined with the start of pre-school and listening to other kids) when Maddie slowly comes to understand. On the one hand, it will probably be very healing for her to understand that Mommy did not deliberately abandon her. On the other hand, she will also have to come to terms with the knowledge that Mommy isn't going to be able to come back, ever. In the end, I'm not sure which option is the less painful.

     I think that many of the adults among us may also be lost in that "in between" place. There are moments when it feels like Cec is at work and it has just been a longer stretch than normal since we've caught up at phone tag. At other moments a quick sense of the reality jolts me, and I am overwhelmed. She was 45, and was finally allowing herself to feel happy with the way everything had come together in her life. And then in an instant everything changed.

     Knowing Maddie has helped me to see inside my own emotional reaction to Cec's passing ... the child deep down inside me feels she must still be here, even though I can't reach out and touch her;  while the grown-up experiences the fleeting realization that I won't ever see Cec again on this Earth ... a realization that doesn't stay with a person for more than an instant at any time, I expect, because of the intensely painful sensation stemming from that moment of perfect clarity.

     Thank God for Maddie. No ... she isn't Cecily. She is her own person. But she is also Cecily's great legacy. As long as Maddie and others continue to love Cecily and all that Cec was as a person, then Cec will be with all of us always.

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Maddie at 5 months (photo by Uncle Marky)

 

above: Cec's very favorite photo of Maddie as a baby.