As does every grieving mother, I agonized over what to do with all of her things. Last fall, I completed the heart wrenching task of going through all of her clothes. We gave a few things to another little girl, most were used to create quilts for each of us, and the others, those most precious to us, were set aside. Over the winter months my dad built a wooden chest, we stained it, and Jade painted the top of it for Laynee. This week Jim carefully put the final coat of varnish on it. Today I filled the chest with all of the precious keepsakes we have of Laynee. I am not usually one to place a great deal of sentimental value on things, but this chest is priceless. It's value does not come from being made of fine wood or by a master craftsman, neither was it painted by a renowned artist. None of those things would hold much appeal for me. The value of this chest comes from being made by people I love, knowing that it would hold the treasures of an entire lifetime......Laynee's lifetime.
As I knelt before the chest and opened the lid, I felt a sense of finalitythat comes from knowing that this is the last tangible thing I will do to keep Laynee's memory fresh in our mind. I went to her room and stood there for a long time, surrounded by memories, drinking in her scent that still lingers. I really didn't know where to begin but decided to save the most cherished items for last so that they could be easily accessible for those times when I need to feel her close to me. I started with the stack of cards that we received in response to her accident. There are literally hundreds of them, each one filled with words of love for our family, a show of support and encouragement.
As I began to carefully fold the tiny articles of clothing and place them neatly in the chest I could picture her in each one of them. These clothes, the ones still intact and in our possession, were the ones that, for whatever reason, had become most precious. There were several pairs of her little pants, her jeans that I so loved to see her in. I held the waist of her jeans at my fingertips and placed them across my forearm, she was so tiny, her legs so short that the hem didn't even reach the inside of my elbow. It struck me as unfair that we never got a chance to see how tall she would be.
As I placed her coat and a couple of jackets in, I noted that one jacket still had what appeared to be a chocolate drool mark near the top of the zipper. Another jacket still had the sleeves rolled up to fit her stubby little arms. I know that these jackets have not been washed since she last wore them, and they will remain unwashed. I buried my face in them, hoping to smell her little girl smell within their fabric.
I felt a surge of anger as I held the machine used for testing her pacemaker. I was so diligent in making sure that it worked. Every month I would hold the doppler to her chest and hold her still while the machine checked her rhythm and sent it to the doctor. She hated having this done because it required her to sit still for several minutes. I had learned just a couple of months before that if I let her feed me cookies and I fed them to her, we could get this done without a hitch. I was so careful, knowing how much she depended on that pacer for her life. Still, her life was cut tragically short and sometimes it makes me so angry.
Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love,
the things you are, the things you never want to lose.
~From the television show The Wonder Years