I arrived home after a sobering day at work and hugged my nearly two-year-old daughter so tight and so long that she started to wiggle and complain trying to escape my grip. After her bath, I kissed her soft hands over and over again, as I examined every line carefully. I kissed each delicate, little finger, making her laugh, absorbing the sound of her giggle as it resonated perfectly with the bathroom acoustics.
That morning, as usual, my best friend Jill arrived at my place to give me a lift to work. We were both working at a craft camp for children on the school holidays. With no effort at all, Jill always looks amazing. She even makes her old, rusty, three-door car look cool. She had arrived at my house in her brown leather jacket and skinny jeans, hair flowing naturally across her youthful, tanned skin. She bounded into my kitchen hugging my girls and joking around with my husband, like usual. After saying our goodbyes we got in her car and headed off.
Along the way she turned the radio off and said in a shaky voice,
"The plaster moulds of his hands arrived yesterday."
She then proceeded to tell me about the horrible week she had been having. The plaster handprints she was referring to were that of her baby boy. He would have been two years old on Wednesday, but he didn't make it past 18 months of age. The chubby fingers of her son would be frozen in time. She would never see the man's hands that they would have become.
The previous night Jill had gone into the baby's room to place the frame with the impression of his hands on his wooden shelf. The room was dark and as the lights from the passing cars streamed into her child's bedroom, she saw his handprints all over the window that had not been cleaned off. Suddenly memories flooded back of the days when he was alive and standing on the changing table leaning against the window. Jill collapsed to the ground too weak to stand, as she remembered him cracking up when she used to tickle his ribs and kiss his soft skin on his back.
My heart aches for my dear friend and I cannot comprehend how painful it must be to relive the loss of her son every day. I feel sick with grief, but then there is a tug of war of emotions for me as a mother of a child the same age. As a friend, there is an element of guilt as I think about how lucky I am to have two healthy children and she does not even have one. We were pregnant at the same time and there's a photo hanging on the wall of us together with our baby bumps. I look at the photo now and see it as a sad reminder of what it ‘should have' been.
Instead of agonizing over what is not fair and what is out of my control, I have forced myself to change my thinking. I have decided that from now on, I will happily clean the fingerprints off of our sliding doors in the playroom and from the huge window at the front of the house. I will look adoringly at the handprints on my full-length mirror in the bedroom. I will not get annoyed when I see handprints on the flat screen television or stainless steel refrigerator. I will love and appreciate my children's handprints forever.