I have a distant memory of you. I know it was a cold winter day where the temperature was too frigid to bundle up my toddler and let him play in the yard, but he needed activity to keep from running laps down the small outlets of our hallway. Neither my carpet nor my patience could handle the jumping off furniture.
I remember standing in the middle of the mall by the play area, holding my baby girl close to as she was still so fragile, tiny and ill pre-heart surgery days only a few months old. I can picture her on my shoulder, petite frame and giant blue eyes watching the world as I watched my son run on the gym mats and climb on foam filled play equipment. I already had a container of disinfecting wet wipes open by the stroller, already considering how to clean his hands and mine after his sister was strapped back in her stroller. I remember the faint rainbow pattern of the stain glassed pattern through the ceiling windows of the mall, the sound of the elevator music over the speakers and the murmur of costumers walking and running their errands.
But I don’t remember your face. I remember you coming to me with tear filled eyes, your eyes barely moving from my daughter’s soft and beautiful face to meet mine. I’m sure I tucked her closer then, because I always did with her. I was always anxious and fearful of an illness that could take away my daughter before we allowed her heart to grow big enough for the surgeons to repair the hole in it. I’m sure that I was still contemplating whether the fun of the play area was worth the exposure to those germs.
You paused before you spoke. As a mother I could feel the heartache when you shakily told me that this was the day you had lost your daughter. You told me her name and that she had been beautiful and loving and kind. And you were struggling today with the pain, the heartache, the loss. I saw you had a small support system that was quietly waiting behind you. And as my own eyes filled with tears you shared that our daughters both had an extra chromosome. And that you knew seeing my dark haired, blue eyed girl was your daughter telling her that she was okay. And you smiled, even though you hurt. You said that seeing my girl was her daughter’s way of telling her that she was okay and still watching her.
I no longer remember what I replied. Again, I no longer remember your face. But I remember holding your heartache in my heart as I kissed the soft hair of my baby girl. You left then and even though I know I had been terrified to bring my daughter to that play area that day I never regretted it that day. Because we were meant to be there.
To you, dear Mom who lost your daughter with Down Syndrome, I have never forgotten you in the last nine years. I have never forgotten how you admired my little girl as I always view her myself—seeing and loving those extra quirks of her flatter face and small nose, her beautiful blue eyes set far apart in a head that was then too large for her body. I think of you nearly daily. I can only imagine what your girl looked like, but I know how much you love her. And I’m thankful that you gave me that moment to remind this young, scared mother that sometimes you just need to stop and be grateful for the moments you have. I can only wish that time eased your pain, but a mother should never lose someone that was literally a piece of themselves at one time.