Today I remember the day 17 years ago, almost to the minute as I sit writing this, that I gave birth to my second child and heard from my husband, "It's a boy!"
This morning I went to walk around Lake Harriet, a place full of warm memories both old and new, on a day of beauty in direct proportion to my heartache. How can the world be so achingly beautiful and Mark not be in it?
I passed the usual bikers, runners and walkers, the mothers with babies in strollers, the elderly on benches. I passed toddlers whose parents waited patiently as they made their way down the path.
The airplanes fly low over the lake just a few miles west of the airport, and while some might find their noise annoying, each one makes me smile. After passing over Lake Harriet they go on to pass over my childhood home, lower and louder, their familiar underbellies a testament to man's optimism.
I passed dogs of every variety, one so covered in fur I could barely tell his head from his tail. I got to stop and pet an old basset hound lounging in the grass with his owner.
I passed an acquaintance who told me last spring she had lost a one week old baby to SIDS many years ago. I would have said hello to her, but she was sitting at the water's edge laughing and chatting with a friend. She doesn't know she gave me hope today.
Life and hope all around, and me with tears streaming down my face. Like folding laundry and doing dishes, walking is something I avoid because it gives me time to think. And when I think, I cry.
An older man on a bike rode past. He was in a group of four and as he passed he turned to one of his companions, said something that made him chuckle, then looked at me with a big grin on his face. I was impressed that a man his age was out riding his bike around the lake. I was even more impressed by the oxygen tank strapped to his back and the nasal cannula across his face. He's who I want to be, I thought to myself.
I will always celebrate this day. I will always remember how my hospital room filled up with well wishers 17 years ago. But on this day in 2015 I claim oxygen. I claim God as my oxygen. I claim my family, my husband, and each of my sweet babies as my oxygen. I claim my extended family and the many, many loving friends who have reached out since Mark died as my oxygen. And I breathe through the tears trying to hold onto the hope of better days.