Today would have been Jenna’s 35th birthday. She’s been gone for just over two years now and I struggle to find words that would adequately express what she meant to me. I fell head over heals in love with her the very first time I looked into her eyes. She had me and my whole heart. When I think of her today I ponder our time together and the things that I learned from her. She taught me so much about undying love. She taught me about joy in the face of adversity. But the thing that stands out to me today is that she taught me to communicate when words are unavailable. Because she was non-verbal, I had to learn to really listen to her, not with my ears but with my heart. Sometimes it was clear what she wanted: A drink when she’d throw her sippy cup at me; Food when she’d crawl to the table and try to get into her chair; Frustration when she’d begin pulling the books out of the bookcase; A kiss and hug when she would smack her lips together. Very obvious and straight-forward communication.
Other times it was more subtle. A number of years ago during one of her all-to-frequent hospital stays, I was sitting by her bed, holding her hand, and talking to Jackie on the phone. As Jenna slept I said to Jackie, “She’s sleeping peacefully, I think I’m going to call it a night and head home.” But there it was, a gentle squeeze on my hand. “Stay a little longer, Momma.” No words. But clear as day, “Don’t leave me quite yet.” So I tucked the blankets snug around her, kissed her cheek, and held her hand for a little while longer. Unspoken communication. Unmistakable content.
There is a peace knowing that she is no longer trapped inside her not-so-functional body, but I miss her crooked little smile and the way she used to snuggle into me at the end of a long day. Happy birthday, my girl. I hope you are running through a field of daisies on the other side of the rainbow.