Dear Parent of a Blonde Curly Haired Girl either almost five or almost eight- Part 2

Dear Parent,

It has been awhile since I last wrote. I felt compelled to write as this Wednesday would have been my sweet girls 8th birthday, and I know I my gaze has lingered longer than usual again. I know it must be weird for you for this woman to be staring at your little girl, and believe me I understand, I would also take notice. But please forgive me as I miss her so…

Let me tell you about her. Maribella Rose Maitri Willard was born at 1am on June 21, 2009. She was a cancerian by 1 hour, born on the solstice, as well as Father’s Day. I had been in labor at home with her for almost two weeks, stretching everyone’s comfort level. My water broke two times, yes, two times with her. She was a force of nature, stubborn from before she left me, and was born finally in a birthing tub in my bedroom in the quiet of the night. She lived harder and brighter than anyone who I have ever known. Dear parent, I stare at your almost eight year old because I try to imagine what she would have been like. I imagine her excitement after finishing 2nd grade. What kind of student would she have been? I imagine a good one, as I remember her dear sister playing school with her. She gave her homework packets (much like the ones she got) and told her they were due the next class. I remember her running up to me and saying mommy, can you help me with my homework? What would she be reading? Would I have started reading Harry Potter to her yet? What would she be interested in? What would she want to learn about? Would her hair be long? Would she ask me to straighten it? I ask this because all the pictures she drew of herself were with straight hair,which is what she wanted. As most people who have straight want curly and vice versa. Though it cracked me up that she wanted it so young. Would she still ask me to French braid it and take a picture?

Dear parent, I stare at your almost five year old because that is what I remember. She was four years, ten months, and seventeen days old when I last got one of her amazing squish hugs. She was taken from me, and my heart and soul has never been whole since. We played Scrabble that morning, we took her sisters old size five clothes down from the attic to switch out her closet the next day. We also had to see if there was a dress for her and her sisters pictures scheduled for that Saturday. She was so excited to have her picture taken with the number “5.” She was so excited to be five. She would often lie to strangers saying she was five maybe thinking she would trick us and let her get her ears pierced (which we were going to do). I think of all the things and rights of passage she did not get to do dear parent. I think of her goals of riding her bike with two wheels, of reading, of going to a park, of what pretty shoes she would wear.

Dear parent, I say this because I want you to know what a spectacular human being she was. I want you to know that she took to heart when I told her to smile at strangers. I remember the day, she was probably around three, and we were walking in downtown Portland. I told her to stand straight while she was walking and look people in the eye and smile. I told her that you never know what kind of day someone is having and that a smile from a child is one of the purest things in the world. I told her you may change someone’s whole day by that one smile. She did that from that day forth. She would sometimes beam when someone smiled back and say mommy, I made them smile. She would be the first to worry about a friend who got a bonk. She self regulated at four. Yes, dear parent. When she was really mad or throwing a tantrum, she would either realize it or we would say, hey Bells, do you need a minute? She would go up to her room, scream, maybe slam something, then it would get quiet. Ten minutes later she would come down like nothing happened. I still have a hard time with that at my age. When I was having a hard time she would come up to me and put her hands on my cheeks and say I love you mommy. She “performed” every night for us, usually a dance, but sometimes with a song. No, I am not glossing over the hard, she had her bad days, she would fight sometimes with her sister, was a picky eater, but she was truly my sunshine. She had this vibrant and happy personality that would see the silver lining in things. She was this lightness that shone from the inside out that I was always in awe of, it came easy for her.

Dear parent, I know over the past few weeks I have been looking more at your little one. I try not to as this grief can consume me if I am not careful, and I don’t want to lose my shit in front of you, that would make it even weirder. I have not dealt with her death, my brain refuses. It has been over three years and I still think that if my brain actually clicks into place the actuality of things, it will break, much like my heart and soul did the evening of May 8th when I found her. I tell you this so that instead of you thinking me a stalker of sorts, you have compassion instead. When you see a mom staring longingly at your little girl while she fights back the tears in her eyes, have compassion. Hold your little one tight. We are not supposed to outlive our kids, but sometimes we do, and that is a club no one wants to be apart of. Thank you for that glimpse of the reminder of what was and what may have been, for that, I am grateful.

Nine months pregnant
A couple of days old
My Homer
When I see this picture, I see a glimpse into the woman she would have become

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Stephanie Willard

Originally published at on June 20, 2017.