She would have been ten today.
Like any mother, I remember her in phases: the colicky baby, a vivacious toddler, my astonishing child.
Phase four and beyond exist outside of memory, in a murky and perilous space where everything is possible but nothing is real. Visits there are fleeting, because whether you call it unimaginative or realistic, I have never liked spending time on things that have no chance of being.
For Julianna the two weren’t mutually exclusive. She lived in the intersection between imagination and reality. How else to explain a five year old who could take us for a ride on her bed turned magic carpet and also articulate the loss of higher cortical function that comes with death? (“When you die, you don’t do anything. You don’t think.”)
I’ve dreamed of her just twice since she died.
In one, she was sick. It was one of those dreams that goes on and on. I woke up with my heart in my throat, but I don’t remember any of the details. I don’t know where we were, why she was sick, or anything we did. I only remember the feeling, the horrible, hopeless feeling that was my reality for years.
The other was a flash, but I remember everything. I was in a high rise in Seoul visiting relatives. She came through the door with windswept hair, a mischievous smile– and hands full of shopping bags. She had two purses (Julianna was never afraid of excess), and they were worn cross-body style so that her hands were free to carry said shopping bags. She wore pants and pink sneakers, and I understood in an instant that she was very busy. She had a lot of ground to cover, and a fussy dress would just be in the way. She didn’t say a word, but gave me one look with the sparkling eyes that I know so well, and she was gone.
both as real as the earth below and sky above. I lived one and know the other, the way I know the curve of her forehead and the feel of her little hand in mine. Truth is in both of them, but the first is grounded in fact and the second could be perceived as fantasy, the subconscious yearning a a grieving mom.
After ten years of being Julianna’s mother, I know this: some truths, the deepest ones, can’t be felt with our hands or seen with our eyes. To live well in this world, with all of its pain and brokenness, you have to know the other one, the way she did.
Out of all the gifts she gave me (and there were so many), the greatest was a glimpse, an undeniable vision, of the reality to come. I will see her again, in a place beyond time, imagination and frailty.
So on the day she would have been ten, I remember and mourn, anticipate and give thanks. More than anything else, I am blessed because there was a girl named Julianna.
Will I be your little girl even when I’m a queen? When I’m a giant?Julianna Yuri Snow