This photo was taken November 20, 2010. It was my friend D’s birthday and it had snowed overnight and we met in the park to play and go for brunch. E was so excited about the snow; I think it was the first time she’d played in snow. We made this sad little snowman and I was so proud of him and then R made a giant snowman that put this little guy to shame. We walked with our friends to the lagoon and threw snowballs into the water. We made snow angels and went for pancakes. It was two weeks before I found out I was pregnant, after trying for a few months. It was two and a half months before my first miscarriage. This picture is framed and sits on a shelf in our living room. Every time I see it, I think: ‘Before.’ This is us before the miscarriage, and then the next miscarriage, and then the unthinkable, unbearable loss of Anja. This is us before grief and confusion and the knowledge that no matter what we plan or hope for or dream of, the universe does its own thing. This is me, three years younger, but so much more youthful.

Brooke wrote the other day about time warps. I look at this picture and I cannot believe what happened to those three years. Look at E! She is not quite two years old, and now, right now, she is at kindergarten, sitting on the carpet with her friends, singing out the sounds of the alphabet, her eyes shining and her face wide open to the world. At least there is that: I worry sometimes that I have harmed her irreparably with my grief, but then I see how she still sets out into the world, expecting love, exuding it, too.

This picture for me is the last of Before. It is the end of the short years where we were a completely ‘normal’ family. We are stronger, now. There is no doubt about that. But we are not as shiny; we don’t sparkle in the same way.

I hope it snows this year, so that we can take M out in it, build another snowman, take a picture of us After. We’re still here. Missing her, but still here.