From left to right, my sister, my friend, and my cousin. This is one of my all time favorite pictures from my childhood. It is also one of the most bittersweet.
I grew up on the corner of my Papaw's farm in East TN. My cousins grew up on the farm too. We were a lot like siblings, rather than cousins, because we were so close.
We had wonderful woods and wide open fields to run absolutely free with our even wider imaginations. One day we were Indians. The next day we were astronauts. The next we were rodeo queens. We dreamed of one day riding our horses on the moon. Our life plans were growing up together, having big farms full of horses and cows, and eventually, when we found a guy that could tame us, raising our families together.
That beautiful little girl in purple turned 19 on July 5, 2006. It was a Wednesday.
That Wednesday night, my entire world came crashing down when her car hit a tree head on, just a half mile or so from her driveway. On Friday, her parents pulled her off life support and donated her organs. On Sunday, we buried one of the biggest and brightest parts of my childhood. We buried those dreams that will now never come true.
It's been almost 5 years. There are still days that choke me up, especially when I smell certain things or hear certain songs. But most days are peaceful now, even happy, when I think of her.
When I was pregnant with Lilly, I had a dream where I saw my cousin riding some small children around on her ponies. They had hands full of flowers (probably stolen from the neighbor's garden, knowing her haha), and they were so pretty and so happy. She looked up from the pony and stared into my face, telling me that she was taking care of my baby until she was ready for me. It was so amazing and felt so peaceful....until my baby died a week later.
My mom later told me that she thought it meant she was taking care of my baby in Heaven. I didn't like that idea at first, but eventually I warmed up to the idea.
When I was pregnant with Brake, I had a dream that I was outside with a group of my family. I was showing off my belly and enjoying the company of so many that I don't see very often. My cousin was there. She was smiling and hugging me. She touched my belly, and it immediately became see-through. I could see my baby, looking up and smiling at me. It was so amazing....but then a week or two later my baby died. Again. His face was exactly the same as in the dream. He looks like me.
I thought about the dreams for several nights after the nurse carried my son away. I thought about how accurate my son's face had been. About how the ponies were the same ponies from my childhood. About how the flowers were always the same flowers we picked for our moms. About how much those dreams reminded me of that picture up there. Of my childhood.
Last night I dreamed about my cousin and my babies again. They were both there with her. Smiling and happy and beautiful. Riding ponies in the giant fields of wildflowers, just like we had done when we were young. It felt peaceful. It made me smile.
I put this sticker on my back window a few weeks ago. I see it in the rear view mirror in the mornings on my drive to work. It stings at first, but it reminds me to keep my head up. This morning, as I stared at the tiny little toes, I remembered that dream. It was the first dream I've ever had about both of them together. I ached to see them and hold them again.
When I looked back from the sticker, I saw these little guys land on the fence in front of my truck. One was slightly bigger than the other, but otherwise they were almost identical. And they sat there. Looking at me. Occasionally shuffling their wings. Occasionally looking at each other. Then looking at me again. They stayed there for an entire 5 minutes, watching me. I thought about the dream again, and my two babies together, and I felt this immensely peaceful feeling rush over me.
I hope they're enjoying their "childhood" as much as I enjoyed mine....