December 7th, 2001. Emily had died about 18 months earlier; Kiddo#2 was about three months old.
Kiddo#2 woke me up at 3AM to nurse, and she blessed me with what we affectionately term a “megapoop.” I changed her (new PJs too) and she went right back to sleep. I stayed awake for a while.
I lay there watching her baby face in the darkness, shadowed green in the light of the clock, and I looked at her contentedly for a while before I realized Kiddo#2 looked further away than she ought to be. So I reached out and touched K2’s head.
Only the face I was seeing was above and behind the head I was touching.
Maybe I really was asleep, because that should have sent me screaming into the night. I closed my eyes a
couple of times and then stared at it trying to figure out what shapes in the room could look like K2’s face. But nothing really did. And I knew Emily and Kiddo#2 looked a lot alike.
The face didn’t have any expression, and was only looking at me intently.
Then I blinked again slowly, and I didn’t see it any longer.
I turned to look at the clock to see what time it was, and the clock was turned to face the headboard. Meaning, there couldn’t have been any green light reflecting off anything in the room.
I felt as if I was awake throughout, and my dreams are never that clear. I’d had experiences before that I thought were other-worldly, but never actually seeing something. If it was Emily, why would she just stare at me?
People suggested afterward that Emily wanted us to know she was “watching over us.” I think maybe she just wanted to check out Kiddo#2. I think this because years later, she checked out Kiddo#3.
After I had Kiddo#3, there was one afternoon when I laid him down on my bed and went to cook in the kitchen. Every once in a while, I’d sneak back down the hall to check on him, and all was well.
After about half an hour, I went in, and I felt her there. The room was still, totally still and silent. It was a different stillness than before, when I’d come in, seen the baby sleeping, and returned to the kitchen. This time, the room felt time-frozen. The light. The silence. The scent. Everything about it felt like a snapshot, except I could clearly see the rise of the baby’s chest as he breathed.
I said into the quiet room, “So you came to check him out?”
I said, “Thanks for coming by.” And I backed out of the room.
A couple of minutes later I returned. The same utter stillness. The same sense of the dust hanging in the air, the light brighter than usual, the sense of time stopped. I backed out again.
The third time I returned, the baby was still asleep, and the room felt normal again.
A year later, I was sitting with Kiddo#3 in my lap when I put my head against his, closed my eyes, and thought of Emily.
A moment later, her scent hit me in full force. In his hair. His hair, for that moment, smelled just like her: chrism; newborn scent; hospital.
I said to my Patient Husband, “Smell his hair.”
Without asking why, he did, and his eyes flew open.
We looked at each other.
He said lowly, “It’s the half-year anniversary today.”
I hadn’t realized. Five and a half years to the day.
I haven’t sensed her around since then. If she’s come to check on Kiddo#4, I haven’t known about it.