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Jessica would have been seven this week ...

by David Kaplin
reprinted with permission

September 9, 1995

Jessica would have been seven this week, but she died when she was three months old. I can't tell you how many people showed up the next morning on that two degree, blowy, snowy, winter's day for the graveside funeral. I found out who my friends were. An amazing group. They provided so much love and comfort that week.

Jessica was our second child. Her older sister was on her first sleep away to Grandma's when she died. Big sister was three at the time. I think she was nine before she could sleep over at a friend's. But when Jessica died, she took on the job of passing out tissues to all the mourners. And she was the reason that my wife and I never had time to feel sorry for ourselves. We grieved, but we never had time to feel sorry for ourselves. We had to attend to the living. We had to keep a solid foundation for the living. We had to trust that Life has purpose, and it isn't our job to second guess it. Somehow, we didn't.

I remember the night before Jessica died. I was up late playing on the computer. I don't remember if I was working or fooling around. But I remember thinking how blessed I was to have my wife and two kids upstairs, safely tucked away for the night. That's really the word that came into my head, "Blessed," and that's not part of my regular vocabulary. I remember just after finding Jessica's body, thinking about that thought, and how quickly life changes.

Seven years is a long time. Grieving comes in cycles. We have another daughter now, born nine days shy of a year from Jessica's death. I remember being at the hospital when it was time to take her home. I didn't want to. My knees were like rubber. I thought Id become Gumby. All the professionals that we'd talked to in the last year were "unavailable." I had no one to cry to. And the hospital staff said, "It's time to go."

Can you believe I didn't sleep well that year? Later the psychiatrist who made the most sense to us in those early months told me not to worry about it. Sooner or later I'd fall flat on my face and sleep. Big deal. Take the kid home and get on with it. So I did. And six months later her sister realized that this kid might stick around for a while and finally got mad at her. We knew everything was ok, then.

The daughter I was afraid to take home six years ago started first grade this week. She's probably starting goalie on her soccer team tomorrow. Her big sister is in fifth grade and doing very well. Somehow, I'm the luckiest dad in the world.

Jessica would have been seven this week, but she died when she was three months old. And her big sister, and her mom and me; we all grew up too fast that year..

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