With the anniversary of Penelope Joy’s death coming up next week, I’ve been feeling very emotional. About a lot of things. I’ve also been very thoughtful about a lot of things.
Like, how, when I think of Penelope Joy in the afterlife — whatever that may be — I picture her as a precocious 5-year-old little girl with brownish-red braids — one down each side of her head — and bangs that she’s constantly blowing out of her eyes.
She has freckles. A lot of them, but mostly when she’s in the sun.
And she uses words that are much bigger than she is. Words like “ubiquitous” (her mom’s favorite word). And “euphoric.” And “appalling.” And “anticlimactic.” And “bountiful.”
She loves books. So very much. And her world is full of them. Big ones. Chapter books. Books that are supposed to be much too advanced for her. But they’re not.
It’s weird. I only knew her as a baby. A very small, fragile baby. And I’ll never know what she would have been like as a little girl. Or a teenager. Or a young woman. But, in my head and in my heart, she has somehow become a bright, shiny, amazing little girl.
And I miss her so much.
The other night I had a dream, set in Penelope Joy’s new world. I saw her welcoming my dad to what was then his new world, too. “Papa! Papa! You made it! I was so worried about you. Come see what I can do!”
And she skips off holding my dad’s hand. But she’s just a little too fast, so she drags him behind her as he finds balance on his new legs. He’s a lot younger, too, in this place. And he stands up tall and straight. And the light has returned to his eyes.
At the end of the dream, Penelope Joy is sitting on my dad’s lap. And he’s smiling so, so very big. And she’s laughing.
It may all be a dream. All of it. I don’t know how I feel about heaven and the afterlife. Does it exist? I can’t know. No one really can. Nor can I say it doesn’t exist. I know that when we got Penelope Joy’s ashes back in that teeny tiny plastic bag inside that teeny tiny cardboard box, that wasn’t our daughter. We said good-bye to her in the hospital room. What happened after that, I may never know.
But the thoughts of her giggling and laughing as she skips along bring me peace. And, maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly as it’s supposed to be.