Five hundred seventy one days.
We had five hundred seventy one days with Ryann.
Tomorrow we will have survived five hundred seventy one days without her.
Up until now it’s felt like she had always been a part of our lives. Our time with her felt like it always outweighed our time without her. The scale always tipped back towards her. But as we continue making new memories, having new experiences, living new moments, that scale has slowly been evening out and it feels like tomorrow the balance will break and start to tip forward again, whether we’re ready for it to or not.
Some memories are starting to fade, and it terrifies me. My worst fear is forgetting. My memory isn’t always the best and I am afraid to forget any of the too few days I had with Ryann. I often find myself playing mundane moments over and over in my head to try to engrain them permanently. In my mind I study the movement of her hands, the tone of her voice, the feel of her weight in my arms. When I watch videos, I study the pattern of her steps, rewind, the wind blowing her hair, rewind, her mouth as it laughs and grins, rewind . . .
The other day I was laughing about how funny it would have been when Ryann discovered that she could put her fingers in her nose. It wasn’t until days later that a vague memory came to me that she had discovered this in the week before her death. She realized that this new trick brought a lot of laughs and would do it over and over while we all sat down to dinner. I had forgotten. And it terrifies me that there must be other things I’m forgetting. And I can no longer deny that she’s fading.
It makes no sense. How is it possible that my baby was here one moment and the next she was gone. I held her in my arms, but she was gone. How does that make any sense?
I’ve recently become obsessed about keeping the tangible memories safe. My current worry is a house fire. I panic at the thought of her framed crayon scribble burning to ash. Our computers melting with her pictures and videos lost. Her Ryann-sized sofa chair with the bottle-dribble still on the arm up in smoke. Her tooth marked crib that Clifton now sleeps in turned to char. It paralyzes me. These are the only physical things we have left, and with my memories fading I find myself depending on them more than before.
Today is day five hundred seventy. In what I sometimes think of as our parallel lives, it’s the day we went to church. The day we turned down a lunch offer, the last chance we had to let our new work-family get to know Ryann. The day we went to the Nature Center at Pioneer Park and hooted at the owl and sniffed the herbs on the nature trail. The day we ended with a bath, a book, and a bottle. Tucked into bed. Went to sleep. The last day we went to sleep innocent. Whole. The last day we took for granted.
The photos in this series have become undeniably the most famous images of Ryann.
They so perfectly capture her. (She was about fifteen months old.)