Her name was Anja.
In the days before she died and was born, I was thinking of different names. My favourite was Sabina. It seemed right for the baby I thought I knew: sweet, playful, slightly mischievous.
But then she died, and Sabina didn’t seem right at all.
Anja had been on the list. I wasn’t sure about it; I thought we’d be correcting people’s pronunciation all the time. But, she died, and I thought: no one will ever say her name but us, so it doesn’t matter anymore.
When I came home from the hospital, where I’d gone alone to learn that she was dead (I already knew), R and I lay in bed, holding each other and looking out at the dark mountains and the lights on the North Shore. There were stars that night, and for the first time since we’ve lived here and the only time since, I watched a shooting star fall through the sky.
‘Anja,’ R and I said to each other. ‘Her name is Anja.’ And then we held each other and cried.
Who was she? I don’t think I’ll ever know. Like that shooting star, she flared briefly and brightly through our sky and then was gone. And like her name in the sand, the time she spent with us seems to wash away from us; time, like the tide, comes in and fills the space where she was, and like the tide, recedes with her, pulling her out and out and out, away.
She is gone. She is unknowable. But she leaves behind her, with all the innumerable questions and the ever-present ache, a tremendous love. She was – she is – she always will be: my daughter.