Today was your sister’s birthday. She turned six. She’s such a lovely girl; you would’ve been such good buddies.

Her birthday didn’t hurt the same way it did the first year, and it was different, too, than the second. You’ve been gone so long now.

Last night I lay in bed remembering the night, six years ago, that we went to the hospital, worried because she wasn’t moving, and then were induced, and then, quickly, so quickly, they rushed me to the OR and cut her out and she was safe, and ours, and all of a sudden, I was a mother.

And I thought about that other afternoon, nearly three years ago, now, when I noticed you weren’t moving and I didn’t do a thing. I sat and worried and tried to write. I picked your sister up from daycare, made dinner, gave her a bath, sang her to sleep, and then, finally then, went to the hospital and it was too late. You were gone. Static on the doppler and my own heartbeat. My cries the only ones we heard that night.

How did I manage to get her here and not you?

I have caught myself several times in the last two days saying to E: I didn’t know who you were and then suddenly you were here, and you were you.

What does that mean for you? I have sworn adamantly that I knew you were you, but did I? Maybe I knew she was E, too, and have just forgotten? Or you both were unknown, strangers to me, but I can’t admit that now, for you, because then it would mean…what? That I never knew you? That you never really became you?

I expect I will wonder about this every year. I expect I will never know what to think. I expect I will never stop furiously protecting your memory, even from myself.

Soon it will be your birthday. Three short weeks from now.

I remember three years ago, when your sister turned three, and you were still here and we rode the carousel at the Christmas Market. In the pictures I am smiling; there will never be another picture of me smiling like that again. That is something I know for certain.

I missed you today, my girl. Today your big sister turned six, and I missed you and the six you’ll never be.