What Would We Do Without You?

by | May 2, 2011 | 5 comments

Dear Audrey,
“What woooould we dooo without you!”  you say this as I’m getting you out of the car tonight- we went to church and then for an impromptu visit at grandma and grandpa’s for lunch, the park, and dinner.  I guess and ask you who told you that and you say, “Grandma and grandpa told me that.”

One thing I’ve been super wary of from the start was leaning on you too much just because you are a child and so naturally full of joy.  I never want you to feel responsible for my happiness or the weight of bringing joy into our home and family again.  You are my child- I am responsible for you.  I want to make you happy- not the other way around.

But that said, when you are much older, there’s something I’d like you to know.

You bring me joy- in the midst of so much sorrow.  You make me laugh when I haven’t stopped crying in ten months.  You make me love again so soon…in the face of such brutal loss.

For you alone I get up in the morning.  For you, I, a grieving woman,  make french toast in heart shapes or hard-boiled eggs in bunny molds.  It’s for you that I take walks outside, blow bubbles, or sing silly songs.

You- in your tutu and purple easter hat which you call your “jump roping hat,” as you gallop around my living room until you collapse on the floor giggling.  You- climbing on my back and peaking with delight as I ask “Who’s on my back?!”

You, who sits reciting and singing nursery rhyme after nursery rhyme by yourself, stand singing into a large plastic microphone and tell me you’re going to be a “famous singer up on the stage.”

You- who scribbles me “invitations” and leave them for me.  I ask you what it says.  Your reply, “Dear mommy, please come to my celebration.  Dear mommy.”

You- upon hearing me say, “Oh my God,” who tells me, “He’ll help you- God will help you mommy.”  You- who miraculously remembers ten months ago the hair clip your dad put in your hair, or the washcloth he used to bathe you and give me just enough hope that you might have one single memory of him- to go on.

There is a great dichotomy between my grief and your toddler-ness, and sometimes it slices me to the core…the sorrow and the joy all messed up together.  I look at your face from across the room today at my parents’- intently- because I see my husband and best friend in your face- in your eyes and in your skin and your hair…and I see you- the product of our love- and I feel the weight of taking care of someone else’s child who is no longer here to care for you.   I secretly tell him…

“don’t worry…I will love her well…I will love her well…”


May 2, 2011


  1. Rachel

    Julia – I love this. Even as I struggled in the midst of depression, my sons' sweet smile or offbeat phrases or silly antics would just bring a smile to my face, and as you said, help me get up in the mornings. Children bring great joy, and I am so thankful for Audrey in your life and you in hers.

  2. nikki

    this brought me to tears… my tears have been all dried up for awhile.
    thank you

  3. Vee

    This is gorgeous, and you have articulated a feeling I haven't been able to put to words yet about my children. Your audrey will love to read this some day, and she is a lucky girl to have you. I think about you often.

  4. Brooke Simmons

    Absolute perfection. Our children are our saviors…

  5. Gwyneth

    This is so beautiful, and exactly right. I have no doubt that my son is the only thing that has gotten me through the last 15 months. Love is a powerful emotion – it allows us to do things I never would have thought possible, whether that be taking care of a dying husband or a thriving five year old. Thank you for writing this. I need to write a similar letter to my own little glimmer of hope and light.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like…

List-making in a Dark Time

List-making in a Dark Time

For any other list-makers out there, I published this on HerStories yesterday.""In this time of quarantine, my lists are offering me space outside of the walls of my home, a way of making sense of chaos, a self-imposed structure on structure-less days, and even a way...

Simple Things

Simple Things

"In our deepest self we keep living with the illusion that we will always be the same." Henri Nowen "It's really very simple," my late spiritual director, Gladys, once said to me. She was talking about how she lived each day, waking up, having a written conversation...

Continuous Living

Continuous Living

"Anxiety turns us toward courage, because the other alternative is despair." Paul Tillich I've claimed "seasonal affective disorder" for years, and that may be so, but I'm starting to realize it's not only summer to fall that is hard for me. It's winter to spring, and...