There is a sisterly bond forming between my girls that has got to be the most precious thing I have ever had the privilege of witnessing. It is something I thought about when I was pregnant with our twins as I would pray that my daughters would be best friends but I never thought it would be so sweet so soon. I know it will just get better as they get older. I am always saying, “What are we going to do when they are two and three?” and really what are we going to do? These baby and toddler years are where so much development happens and I hope the groundwork for their relationship is being laid right here in on the floor of our playroom. It’s not always perfect, there is hair pulling and toy snatching and the occasional push or shove and I can’t say that I’m not already praying that it doesn’t all explode in our naive little faces during their teenage years. But for now, it is pure joy to witness their giggles and to watch Caroline laugh at her big sister or to see Emma Grace bring her little sister a pacifier when she is upset. Precious. They are so pure and innocent and have so many fun years ahead of them - living, playing, learning and loving together.
Look at that preciousness - she is saying "Love you, Cay Cay."
There is not much that makes me happier than watching their bond grow and not much that makes me sadder than thinking about how Joshua won’t have that bond with his little brother. When I thought about my boys during my pregnancy it was a little bit different than how I imagined my girls. The girls are close in age, only seventeen months apart, so I thought of their relationship as more of best friends, doing the same things and being interested in similar toys, clothes, books, and movies because of their age. With my sons I thought more about how Joshua would step into this big brother role and how much he would thrive there. Joshua and Will are just shy of five years apart, so I imagined my ten year old teaching my five year old to throw a baseball or score a soccer goal. I dreamed of Will asking Joshua to build train tracks with him or Joshua being so proud to pass down his clothes to his little brother. I’m not saying that every little boy needs a brother to experience a sibling bond, but my little boy is supposed to have a little brother here with him and he doesn’t. It doesn’t seem fair. I don’t perceive that he thinks of it that way and I am grateful for that. Maybe one day he will feel the void that Will left in all of our lives, including his own, but for now all he knows is his two little sisters and he is a great big brother to both of them. He loves Caroline and will put up with anything - hair pulling, screaming, spit up - from her. He loves to help take care of her, play with her and comfort her. Sometimes a little too much. He and Emma Grace had a rougher start with extreme jealousy constantly showing up and preventing them from being able to experience the joys of having a sibling much of the time. Now he shares a room with her and if there is anything that curbs jealousy, it’s sticking two children in the same room. It still shows up, but not nearly as much as it used to. Instead they get ready in the mornings together, they share the same books and closet and dresser and we hear them talking to each other at night after we have tucked them in. Some of their conversations are the sweetest I have ever heard while others leave my checks hurting from laughter. Sometimes when we go to the early service at church they are in the same classroom and without fail the teacher gushes about what a good big brother Joshua is every single time we pick them up. Let me just be clear - he has his moments, they have their moments - so many moments, but overall he has two little sisters who adore him. But he doesn’t have Will and that breaks my heart every day. It makes me sad for my girls too. Caroline is a twin but she will never even know her brother. Although Emma Grace met him briefly, she won’t have a memory of him and will never know her little brother either. And Joshua, if he has a memory of Will I assume it will be small and brief.
Some of the few pictures I have of my two boys together.
This is the interesting thing about grief that I didn’t really know about or expect. I feel like I am living in this constant continuum between joy and sorrow. Seeing my children love each other and take care of each other and play with each other, it is one of the greatest joys of my entire life. But then there is always the sorrow of knowing that Will is never going to be a part of it. Even on my “good” days, days where you see me laughing with my children or playing at the playground or smiling through story time, it’s still hard. It’s still harder than all of my “hard days” before I lost Will combined. It’s still hard because there is always someone missing and even if I don’t always talk about Will, I am always thinking about him.
The loss of a child is not something you get over or move on from. Maybe there are some people who think that is unhealthy or unrealistic because with many other losses there is an expectation that we will eventually move on. Think about it. You lose a job or a relationship or a pet or a house - each of those events is tragic, heartbreaking and life altering, but aren’t you expected to move on? It doesn’t mean you never think about your childhood dog or wish you had that house or job or whatever back again, but at some point you stop mourning the loss and create a new life where you aren’t dwelling on the loss. Even with death, the death of a mother or father or grandparent or spouse or sibling or close friend or whoever in your life, don’t you hear people saying that after you grieve you should move on? I don’t think the idea is to forget that person ever existed, I think it’s more of a sense that we should continue to remember them, talk about them, honor them and miss them, but their death should not define our life. You hear about the “stages of grief” and after you have gone through those stages you should be over it and not have to grieve anymore. The tragic event, loss or death happens, the ones left behind move through the grief and have a period of mourning and then it’s over and you are on to a new stage, a new life the doesn’t coexist with the grief of the old one. This concept dates back to the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 34:8 says, “And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. Then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.” Ended. This mourning period was a common Jewish custom and the amount of time allowed for the grieving period varied based on the importance of the person. They would spend that time, be it seven days or thirty days or however many days, weeping and not eating and also doing things like tearing their clothes and sprinkling ashes on their head. They would even hire “professional mourners” to stand outside of their houses weeping for the deceased loved one. After the mourning period was over they would do annual remembrances of their loved ones who had passed. But what about all the other time?
All the other time for me is spent somewhere in the middle of this continuum. Sorrow on one side, joy on the other and in the middle they are both mixed together at varying degrees. There is this viral video about a mother orca whale who has been carrying her dead calf through the ocean for days right now. She is experiencing extreme grief the only way she knows how. She literally carries her baby with her because she cannot let go. Apparently this is a common ritual among orca whales, but this mama is making the news because she has been carrying the baby longer than most. When her baby starts to fall or sink into the water, she picks it back up and continues on. Researchers are calling it a “tour of grief.” When she no longer is carrying the physical body of her baby, I assume if she is anything like us humans, she will always carry that baby with her. I don’t think the mourning will ever be over for us. I don’t see a time in the near or distant future where grief isn’t a part of my life. I don’t see a time where I am not carrying baby Will with me, wishing he was here in my arms or racing cars with his big brother or playing with his sisters. There is no mourning period or grief steps or moving on. This is our life now and whether joyful or sorrowful or somewhere in between, we will always and forever carry Will with us.
Our mission is to glorify God by supporting children undergoing life-saving heart treatment and creating a caring community for their families in honor of our son, Will.
My name is Courtney Hughes and I am Will's mommy. I am happy that you are here to read Will's story and make a difference with us!