Six months ago on January 26th, a Saturday night, we put our wonderful,
lively, healthy Magnolia to bed, just like always. She snuggled up on Sasha's
lap as he read her book after book, then sang to her and rubbed her back,
finishing the evening saying "I love you" to each other as he walked out of
the room. Later on that night, Kendra took care of Magnolia when she woke up
with a soiled diaper, changing her and calming her. Then Magnolia snuggled up
on Kendra's lap as she read book after book, then sang to her and rubbed her
back, ending with the exclamatory, "Bye!" that was her specialty, as Kendra
walked out of the room.
Six months ago on January 27th, a Sunday morning, we woke up looking forward
to taking Magnolia and her cousin Dalia to the zoo that day. Delphinium came
into our bed and snuggled with us, and we looked forward together to the time
when Magnolia would have the patience to lie in bed with us, and we'd cuddle
together like four spoons in a drawer.
Moments later, we found Magnolia dead in her crib. Three hours later, the
Medical Examiner’s office took her tiny body away in a small black bag. The
police, firefighters, and EMTs cleared out and the ME investigator left us
with a small card with a case number. At a quarter to noon, we curled up on
our bed alone in our quiet house, holding each other as we wondered what had
happened to our family.
These past six months have been wrenchingly sad for all of us. We miss
Magnolia enormously all the time: We miss who she was, the funny, connective,
thoughtful, loving, adventurous child, who knew how to get so much joy out of
life. And we mourn who she would become, all the things we imagined for her
and all the things that would have surprised us. We miss our family of four,
the wonderful unit we were together, the ways that Delphinium was such an
amazing big sister to Magnolia, the relationships we each had with each other
and the strong whole that we were. And we mourn what our family would have
become, the evolution of the relationship between Delphinium and Magnolia at
all the different points of their lives, the ways we'd notice and appreciate
their similarities and their differences, the relationships each of us would
have with each of them, the times we'd spend together as a whole family and
the times we'd split into twos. Our grief encompasses all of this and so much
We've spent July at grandma's house in Denver, just as our family always does,
and Magnolia is missing in so many painfully tangible ways. She spent last
July working in the sandbox, reveling in water play, distributing caps to
everyone and then taking them away, scarfing down prodigious amounts of
watermelon and corn on the cob, picking tomatoes in the garden, riding
alongside Delphinium in the trailer behind our tandem bike, walking the dog,
and just toddling all around the house and the neighborhood. This July, the sandbox and the garden
and the bike and more are constant reminders of her absence, and how wrong it
is that she's not here with us. We're grateful that we've had a lot of time
and space to grieve and to be alone with each other this month.
We are living each day as a family of three, trying hard to find meaning and
joy together—especially for Delphinium’s sake. The routine of daily life
gets us through the mornings, meals and bedtimes, and we make time to have fun
adventures together. But it feels so wrong in so many ways. We are trying
hard to make it work, but hating that this is our life now.
Many of you have checked in about how the two of us are doing together,
conscious of the fact that the death of a child can break up relationships.
We have very consciously taken care of the two of us every day of these six
months. The paths of our grief have been and continue to be different, but we
communicate very closely about where each of us is, work hard to take care of
each other each day, and pick up each other's slack. We engage together about
parenting Delphinium and about what it means to be a parent to Magnolia even
now that she's dead. And we've gotten professional help, meeting with our
wonderful couple's counselor, participating in a family grief group with
Delphinium, and connecting with a network of families whose children’s
deaths are also classified as Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood
(www.sudc.org ). We're closer than we've ever been, and tell each other every
day how grateful we are to be walking this miserable road together.
As for Delphinium, she's been doing really well. She enjoys her six year-old
life, loves the busyness of school and day camp but also requests unplanned
weekend days at home to relax and work on projects. She busies herself
planning lemonade stands and rigging up an elevator for stuffed animals on her
loft bed, using yarn that she’s been finger weaving. We see her maturing
before our eyes, and have been surprised that this has been her smoothest
transition from school to summer. As has been true since Magnolia's death,
she is very willing to talk about her and share memories, and talks about
missing her sister but rarely gets visibly sad with us. We know that grief
will be a long and unpredictable journey for her too, and we'll continue both
to follow her lead and to create opportunities for her to connect with her
memories of and feelings about Magnolia.
These six months have also been filled with so much grace. We are so deeply
grateful for your e-mails and texts, whether long or short and simple. We're
grateful for the check-ins. We're grateful for the quick sentence or
meaningful look that acknowledges our grieving before launching into social
conversation. And we're grateful for the many, many ways that you've found to
make us feel your presence and your love with us through all of this.
And with your support over the past six months, Magnolia's library fund has
reached $35,000, meaning that every single one of the 35 public library
branches in the Bronx will get 100 new children's books in Magnolia's memory.
We can't think of a better legacy for our amazing daughter than the thousands
and thousands of times that children and families will curl up with a book
that was bought in her memory.