My dearest OTHER child, Erin Madeline,
I love you, and miss you, and although it has taken me twenty-three long years, I'm finally saying these words to you. I am sorry it has taken me this long; sorry for everything that I wish to Heaven and God above I had done so differently, now.
I realize now that you have long known your Grandma Rice and your Uncle Danny. And that you have been an extra guardian angel to your little brother -- now "BIG/little brother," Joe, who thought of giving you your name before I even thought of it! Erin is a favorite friend of Joe's, and Madeline, as you know, is your Grandma Rice's name.
Joe misses you too. HE was the one to really lift me out of my shame and sadness by marveling that he now knows he has a big sister in heaven, and by hugging me, consoling me and telling me, "It's OK to cry, Mom. Just let it out." Just like I did for HIM when he was little, and just like I would have done for YOU.
Please forgive me, and your Dad, even though I think now that you already do. And I think now that you are and have ALWAYS been happy, there with Jesus. I think that's what Christ was trying to tell me when I bought the little card with the picture of Jesus holding the smiling, little, blond toddler with the same Pixie haircut I had as a child. Jesus was trying to tell me that He was holding YOU, smiling that way at YOU.
You are in a much better place, I realize now. You have always been. But I miss you terribly all the same. And Joe does too. And maybe your Dad does too, when he thinks about you.
I feel like our Lord has given me those few moments on retreat, to hold you and squeeze you so tight. To try to show you how much I love you, all these 23 years of love that I never realized: to squeeze that into a few minutes is not possible. So Jesus will have to keep on holding you in His arms until I can again, when we meet again.
It really gives all new meaning to the Irish Blessing: "And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of His Hand." Isn't it funny how Joe chose your name to be "Erin" too?
I love you, my OTHER precious child, and when we do see each other again, I will never let you go again.
Please give Grandma Rice and your Uncle Danny a big hug and a kiss for Joe and me, and thank you, for being my daughter.
All my love,
[As invited in this post on "returning to our roots".]