There is a space in our family that cannot be filled. At one time it was tiny, 18 inches long, yet to reach three pounds, long and lean but tucked into a bundle dripping with my tears.
That space inserted itself into every day. She was milestones unmet, crib sheets unused, car seats returned. The pain of her absence stubbornly followed my every moment. Tears in the shower, aching emptiness in my chest and constant wonder over the functioning world.
Our space grew as we did. Two years old, a height evenly between her brother and sister, toddling in places she should be and shouldn’t.
This space came and went. She woke me up in the morning and reminded me over again how life had changed, she was a hair color I would never know and words I would never hear and this spot in every photo where I knew she should be.
As our space got older we got stronger. At four she was probably all kinds of things, probably tall and thin, probably inseparable from her sister, probably the one to like hugs more and dirt less.
We could almost see her, the little person she would have become and this hurt so much more but sometimes less.
When our space inched past 6 she was so far from the baby we held we weren’t sure how to imagine her. She might be the tallest or the shortest or have straight hair or curly forever tangled in a brush.
She wasn’t just remembered by us anymore, her siblings drew her into their imaginations, painted her into our world, dripping with vibrance and swirling colors. Their thoughts of her made our hearts burst and break at once knowing they had glimpsed our emptiness. She was their space to hold too.
Our space will be 8 soon, we’ve held her for that long. She would be begging me for purple in her hair or loving it cropped short. She should be trading clothes with her sister and sharing her bed at night or hiding her things so she won’t borrow them again.
She is the sister my daughter is sure would fix every annoyance from her brothers. The daughter I imagine would have made our life that perfect kind of ordinary. And the child I would give anything to have back.
She is the space we will always hold, she’s changed form and size and intensity over the years but there’s no force greater than what she’s left for us. A family forever holding her place.