i dream i am on a boat, an exile. you are the shore. you are getting smaller. i pinch my fingers around the image of your head, smiling at the optics, playful in my powerlessness. i do not believe my voice will carry across the water.

i nod to the ache of it. sand swallowed, carried within me.

this is not the way i meant to go. i would have stayed…but launched, i sail. there is no swimming backward.

i trail my hand in the water when i should be sleeping, sending messages in bottles.  they all say, tell me you do not need me there. i think you try. i don’t believe you. it is too hard to hear over the waves.
***

i thought there was water between us.

last night, i listened to Jess read aloud the names of hundreds of loved and lost babies. in love. in remembrance. October 15th is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day…an awkward holiday, if ever there was one. even for us.

the first year it came across my radar, Oscar was eighteen months old. i was pregnant again, for the briefest of spells.

we lit a candle in bathroom while Oscar played in his bath. he splashed and laughed, and the yellow light played across the walls. in my mind i called Finn’s name.

he did not answer. but names did. a hundred names, all the babies and children and promises of babies i had come to know in the year and two years before. and i stopped, and cleared my mind, and tried again. Finn. Finn Liam Ferdinand Bug Maddy A the twins Thomas…the names began to trip again.  i could not still them, could not hold in my mind my small son with his perfect fingers and the just-so curve of his ear. into the river of names he slipped, away from me, water between us. i blew out the candle, gutted and guilty. i’d failed him. failed at remembrance.

sorrow becomes less specific with time. not less, exactly: only less sharp, less exact. and less exacting.

last night i sat and i listened to Jess, and all the names, and tears ran down my face. but i was not sad.

in the river of names, somehow, i found him. i found them all. a tide of tears that has become something bigger, something unto itself, something beautiful. for me these lost children are like Finn’s friends, his peers. this comforts me. no mother wants her child to be alone.

three years ago, in the candlelight, i was trying to remember what Finn had been, to bring him present. i cannot. he has not been that baby with the broken body for years now. if i try to hold him in that moment, he will wash from me, slip away again, over and over.

instead, last night i sat and listened, and i let them run over me until i too was in the water, no longer an exile.

and i smiled. in love and remembrance. in celebration. of all of them.