I talked a little bit yesterday about how strange it feels not to have Lauren here in San Antonio with us. I hadn’t thought it would be a very big issue for me. We would never have come to San Antonio if Lauren hadn’t died. If all had gone as planned, we would still be in Japan, and we wouldn’t have this gaping hole in our family.

My point here is that Lauren was never intended for San Antonio. Geordie and I have reached a point where we don’t know what’s going to happen next, not for the long term. The plans we had made in Japan had included Lauren, and now they don’t. If Lauren was never meant to be in San Antonio with us, why does that hole in our lives feel as big as it ever has?

Simple answer: because Lauren is still very much a part of us, of our lives. Even as we do things that we never meant to do with or without her, she’s still here with us. She always will be. And there will always be an absence, a place where she should be but she isn’t: the place at the table where her highchair should be, the extra bedroom that should be filled with her things, the backseat where she should be as I run my errands all over town. Neither the house nor the car were every meant to have these spaces for her, but even so, they feel like they are missing something. ven now, almost a year later. This hole never seems to get smaller.

If anything, sometimes it feels like it’s getting bigger, growing as Lauren should be growing. I feel the ack of her acutely in this house. Our living room is strewn with things half-unpacked and unpacked, an obstacle course of objects waiting for a place of their own. Lauren would be walking now, or at least beginning to take her first steps. What trouble she could get into in this room! What a mess she could make, and who would notice anyway, given what a mess it already is? I can see her at the sliding glass door that lets out to the little backyard, her face and hands pressed against it, eyes big as she takes in the world outside.

What tricks the mind plays on us. It’s still so impossibly hard to believe that she’s gone. Her life may have been brief and limited, but I can’t even begin to describe the effect it had on me. It seems as though Lauren has always been with me, has always been a part of me. How odd that such a small thing has become such a large aspect of my everyday life.

I think of her every day, many times a day. I’m at a point now where the grief is not overwhelming. What I mostly feel is love. And longing. How is it possible to miss what we never had? Her smiles, her laughter, her first words, her dark curls bouncing, her soft breathing as she sleeps. All things that I’ve seen and heard only in my mind’s eye, but things that are as real to me as anything else. For all my life, I’ve been thankful for my imagination, for the worlds and characters and stories it has given me. But now, as it feels in this gap that Lauren has left, I almost wish it would leave me alone. In peace.

Almost. In truth, I love that it keeps her close to me, no matter how much it hurts to have these imagined memories of her. As much as I miss having her with me, at least I have this much of her. It’s better to have this than to have nothing at all. I have the image of her face, and the memory of her movements inside me, and the imprint of her love. If I can’t hold on to her physically, then I can carry with me what she was and what she could have been. She keeps me company when I’m lonely, gives me someone to talk to, inspires me when I need it.

I miss her still. What I have of her is not enough, but I’ll take it. I’ll keep it. The memory of my bright-eyed child, my lucky girl. My daughter.