Dear Gillian -

Each year around the third week of October, I find myself getting really irritable for no apparent reason. I yell at my family for stuff that really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, people in general just piss me off (well, more than they do normally), and I start considering self-medication as a form of protection for those around me because I just can't seem to stop. Then one day I'll look up at the calendar like I did this morning and suddenly realize that today's your birthday. I don't know if the two things are really related, but they sure seem to happen together a lot. Or maybe I'm just a bitch the rest of the time too and I only notice it around now.

Earlier this year, I met someone via the Internet who had just found out that the baby she was carrying had tripliody. A friend thought I might be able to help her through this and put us in contact. We exchanged long emails and information through updates and successes as well as the inevitable outcome. I think perhaps she handled the whole thing better than I did, was much more adult about her feelings, and probably cried why me a whole lot less than I did. (A close friend who struggled with cancer in his youth once told me that he determined "why me?" to be the most dangerous question one can ever ask one's self. He said that the answer was always, "why not?" And yet I'm still prone to hand wringing and anger at God when things don't go my way. I wish I wasn't so quick jump on that bandwagon. It's trite and overdone.) I'm not sure how much of a sounding board I was to her or whether I was of any use, but what really happened through that experience was she helped me. It was nice to be able to pull that out of the little protective case I keep it in and talk about it. I vacillate between thinking that I keep all those feelings to myself a little too much - I should talk more about it to more people - and the same old me-type feelings: these are my memories, no one else's... other people aren't entitled to them unless I decide. And so I jealously guard when and with whom I talk about it. It's probably not so healthy, I admit, but it's how I roll. I'm trying to be smarter about that though.

When discussing grief at some women's church event this year, I remember someone announcing to the group that feelings of loss lessen after time. To which I had to respond, "No, you are wrong. Those feelings never go away. They will always be with you, but they do eventually get easier to live with." It was a big step forward for me... bringing up our past in a group of women from this ward. Maybe it shows that I am growing up a bit and letting go of some of my hurt over how we were treated back then.

When people ask me how many children I have, it's always a hard question to answer. Because what they really mean is I see you are a bit old to have a small baby; how many other children do you have living with you at home right now because I'm wondering how you are coping and whether you are just one of those crazies who thinks when the Bible says, "multiply and replenish the earth" it meant you personally? I hate this question because it's small talk and it's supposed to be easy to answer and it's not easy for me. Depending on the situation, I'm either more or less technical about it: if it's just someone in the elevator, I'll often say two and get off on my floor. Sometimes I'll answer two at home with me and one stepson who lives with his mother if I might talk to the person again but they aren't anything more than an brief acquaintance. It's just the easiest way to get the information out when people aren't really asking to know, but just out of politeness and/or small talk. But the truth is I do and will always consider you a part of our family and I have four kids - even if they aren't all living with me right now.

For years, I've used my friend's kid as my litmus test to see where you would be if you'd stuck around. She was born in the same year as you and it's been both painful and gratifying to have a little reminder of what you'd be doing, how you'd be acting, the successes and defeats you'd encounter. This year we were invited to her baptism. It caught me by surprise, I'll admit. My first thought was Good heavens, it's not possible that it's been eight years and then, Not only is it possible, but that's how long it's been, stupid. It's hard for me to believe that that much time has elapsed when the memories of you are still so real and needle sharp. There are definitely things I'm glad you will never experience: mean kids at school, trouble with homework, Internet predators... but oh how I would just love the chance to sit back and watch you at your baptism. Who would you be now? Would you be a budding musician/therapist like I was at eight years old? Would you be a hard scientist/I think I'm going to write a novel today type like your daddy? Would you become your own brand of person entirely just to remind us that there's always something we haven't prepared for or thought through? These are things I can't wait for you to tell me one day.

We've never kept any information about you from your sisters. While The Caterpillar isn't old enough to understand yet, we've been pretty up front with The Dormouse about you and we consider you a current part of the family. When The Dormouse was younger, she used to talk about you and say things like, "We took my baby sister to the hospital. I remember, she was very tiny." I sometimes pressed to see if she'd said those things because they were things we'd told her. But we only ever used the most minimal terms to talk to her about what happened to you and I don't remember ever telling her about the hospital and how you were born. I don't really know what's that supposed to mean. Was she somehow more connected to you? Or do I just want to believe that?

Now that The Dormouse is older she doesn't claim to remember you like she used to do. But she does consider you a part of her family and you show up in drawings, family tree projects she's asked to do in school and listings of names under the title "My family." It's gratifying to see that.

Can you miss someone with whom you spent so little time? I do. I miss you Dear One. I hope one day I'll be able to put my arms around you and hold you close to me. I hope one day you'll tell me about your day and we'll laugh about silly things and just generally all be together. I can't wait for that part.