It’s been 2,922 days since I held you in my arms. So much has changed since that awful day when I learned I wouldn’t be taking you home. For starters, you have two little brothers now. Carter turns seven in just a few weeks. He’s exhaustingly curious and smart as a whip, and he talks about you all the time. Last week he asked me why I wanted to have three kids, and I did my best to explain that I’d only planned on having two. When he was a baby, he looked exactly like you, so much so that I often had to catch my breath when he opened his eyes. He’s all boy, but I can’t help imagining that you would’ve been the girl version of him, with thick brown hair and enormous green eyes wise beyond your years.
Preston is four and sweet as can be. It was a bit of a miracle he even got here, as I had a whole slew of complications when I was pregnant with him. He was early, but he came out healthy and strong and hasn’t missed a beat. He goes to a Christian preschool, and he talks a lot about Heaven and how his big sister ended up there. He sleeps with three of the Avery Bears your Nana gave out at your baby shower, and he swears up and down that every time he hugs them, he feels your angel wings hugging him back. (I like to think the same thing.) The boys still have a few of your toys, like the giant pink ladybug and the frog prince, and they always tell people they’re hand-me-downs from their big sister.
We live in Texas now, a thousand miles from the little house in the woods where your life began and most likely ended. I’m guessing subconsciously your death was the catalyst for your father and I’s decision to move, though I doubt either of us will ever admit it. I’m not sure if we were trying to run away from something terrible or run toward something beautiful, but whatever the motive, I actually think we managed to recover some of the happiness that was destroyed the moment we saw your perfect, still face.
Can you believe it’s been eight years? Time is such a funny thing. After your death, the days lasted forever. It was like staring at a giant hourglass, watching the sand drip out grain by grain, until my eyes grew heavy with the setting sun, until I woke at first light to do it all over again. Then one day, the sand began spewing, churning faster and faster. Now I long for it to slow down before I forget what it felt like to hold you.
Eight years. An eternity in a blink of an eye, thousands of giggles and a few hundred tears. I wonder who you would be, Avery Mae Chandler. A girlie girl or a tomboy or someone who defies labels? I wonder if you’d want to be a doctor or an artist or the first woman to set foot on some distant planet far away. Everything about you will always be wonder, because for some reason I still can’t quite comprehend, you became a speck of dust, a beautiful soul far too good to plant feet in this cruel world.
Eight years. So much has changed, but one thing never will. Your mother still loves you so much, Avery. So much that it hurts her heart.