Since Vivian and Annemarie passed away, I have thought of them as my butterflies. Fragile and beautiful and only with us for a short time. Now everywhere I go, I see butterflies. And, of course, it makes me think of Vivian and Annemarie, which is something that I like. I like seeing them in the world around me and being reminded of them, even if it is difficult.
Last Saturday, Paprika’s birthday, I was surrounded by butterflies. It was a hard day for me already- I thought about how Vivian and Annemarie “should be here” to celebrate this special day. All day I was so sad, and yet it was supposed to be a happy day- it was Paprika’s birthday and Ryan and Katherine’s wedding.
Ann and I spent the morning shopping on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. We stopped by the Baby Gap, and the first thing I saw were two pairs of butterfly pajamas in Paprika’s size. The pajamas were each a little bit different, and I imagined that they were something that Annemarie and Vivian would have wanted Paprika to have as gifts on her birthday, so I bought them for her.
Later that day, I was at Katherine and Ryan’s wedding reception at the Nature Mueseum in Chicago. Ryan and Katherine had arranged for all of the exhibits at the Nature Museum to be open for their guests to tour during the cocktail hour of the reception. Mr. Mustard was off doing his best man duties, and I was by myself. I journeyed up to the Butterfly Garden, where I was surrounded by gorgeous butterflies. I was the only one in the sanctuary, and I imagined that my girls were with me at that moment. It was so peaceful and perfect, and I could feel their spirits around me. I took these pictures while I was there.
I go through phases of being spiritually enlightened about their passing, and phases of despair. There are some people who want me to move on, who can’t understand how devastating this has been. I don’t think they understand, and that’s okay. A lot of well-meaning people have said things that are insensitive, and yet there have been other shoulders that have provided me so much comfort. But no matter what anyone says, and whether they are cruel or compassionate, it doesn’t change the fact that my girls are gone. Nothing I can do will bring them back, and it makes me so incredibly sad.
I don’t know how much people want to hear about grief. People ask me how I’m doing, and I think that they want me to say, “I’m okay” and then they can feel okay. Or they want to avoid talking about the girls because they think I’ll break in two if their names are brought up. But that’s not true. I want to talk about them. I miss them so much. If people don’t talk about them, I feel like they don’t remember them and don’t acknowledge that they existed. Talking about them is how I keep their memories alive.
I ran into my neigbor last night while Paprika, Mr. Mustard and I were at the grocery store. She was there with her toddler, a little boy a few months older than Paprika. She looked at me, confused, and said, “Aren’t you pregnant with twins? When are you due?” I didn’t know what to say to her, so I said, “They both passed away a month ago. I delivered them at Cedars on July 12th.” An uncomfortable exchange ensued, and as she left, she said, “Oh well, you can always try again.” I know she meant well, but I just wanted to scream at her that my babies are not replaceable. There is no “trying again” for identical twin daughters. I cannot replace Vivian and Annemarie, and I wouldn’t want to. I want them with me. It’s not fair that they had to die.
And yet, I hear it so much. You can try again. At least you have Paprika. You are young. It could have been worse…they could have lived but had problems. Who knows, you may get pregnant with twins again. For the record, none of these things are helpful to say. None of them.
While we were on vacation, it was easier. There were lots of distractions. Now I am home and everything reminds me of them of being pregnant with them. In a way it is comforting, and in a way it is incredibly painful. I have to trust that God knows what he is doing, and that there is a purpose and a plan for their lives as much as there is for my own. I have to believe that God is in charge and that although I cannot understand why Vivian and Annemarie were taken from us, that in the end, our suffering will be for a reason. In the meantime, I miss them so incredibly much.