"I love this green blanket, Mommy," Lil' C says as he snuggles deeper under his covers and into my side.
"That was Joey's blanket," I say and see his eyes widen, a smile curling on his lips. "He would be happy that you are enjoying it."
Wait a minute. No, he wouldn't. He would want it back. If he were here, he would demand that blanket be back on HIS bed.
If he were here.
But he's not, so we'll never know.
I say things all the time about what Joey would be doing or thinking, but the thing is - I can't say with certainty what he would be doing or thinking.
I think this is every grieving parent's cross to bear. The what-ifs. What would life be like if he were here? Who would her friends be? What kind of grades would he be getting in school? What kinds of activities would she like?
How would our family be different?
Of course there is absolutely no point in mulling it over because we'll never know. We weren't meant to know.
All we have are assumptions and guesses and conjecture based on what life WAS like. On what he WAS like when he was here.
So when I see Knox holding Edgie's hand and running through the water park with him, I smile and think how the three of them would be such pals.
Then I stop and think, maybe Joey and Knox would go off by themselves and ignore their other brothers.
When my chest swells with happiness during Slim's birthday party when all of the friends from school he invited show up and are so nice to him, I think about the parties that he and Joey could have had together.
Then I stop and think about how, even at a year old, they were so different with such different interests.
When I tell Lil' C that Joey would be the best big brother ever and would be so proud of him for learning to ride his bike and for having lost his first tooth, I stop short.
Maybe Joey would have glossed over these accomplishments just like the other brothers did.
When Hubby and I talk about how much happier and more active Knox would be if Joey were here, I don't know if that would necessarily be true.
I don't know these things. I can't say for sure.
Joey was always smiling and happy and busy and wanted to try everything. But, he had only just turned five. I know a lot of five-year-olds that fit that description. What made Joey special? How do I know what he would have become?
The thing is - I don't. I won't ever know.
But undoubtedly the best thing about the things we'll never know is that we can make them whatever we want.
We can make Joey a generous blanket sharer.
He can be the most attentive and supportive brother.
He can be the best player of games and thinker of ideas.
He could even grow up to be the animal rescuer that the four-year-old Joey thought he would be.
There will always be a hole in our hearts left by his death, and the what-ifs will always be bitter.
But because he is gone, the things we'll never know will also never hurt us. I can make sure the things we'll never know will do nothing but comfort the brothers he left behind.
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