Isabella hit a remission and we decided to have a third child because we knew Isabella would have trouble conceiving a child later in life. We thought if we had a baby girl, she could potentially use her sister’s eggs to make having children possible. Isabella was with me that day in the hospital when we found out she was going to have a little sister and she was thrilled. No more boys, I remember her saying.
Sophia was only 2 ½ when she came in to see Isabella for the last time and kissed her on the cheek. “Bye Bella!” she said and walked out of the room. I don’t even know where Sophia was as we carried her out to the funeral van. I don’t know where she was for most of it. All I knew is when she would enter the room, Isabella hated it. Sophia was full of energy and life and just wanted to play or curl up on my lap. Isabella was dying and all noises and movement were irritating to her and Sophia was at the top of that list.
I don’t have many memories of them playing together. I know they did because I have a few pictures and videos of it happening but none of them stick out in my mind. I know Sophia loved her bald head and would often times come up behind her and slap her hands on top of it or try to eat it. Isabella would scream and wipe the spit off her head, annoyed as always. Isabella always kept Sophia at a safe distance. She was a bull in a china shop at times and when you are hooked up to an IV pole that is the last thing you want running around you. I got it.
Now we sit back and watch Sophia grow up without her. She does so many things that are completely Isabella. The way she talks with her hands or faces she makes. The minute she does them I see her. Sophia of course has no idea that she is mirroring her and just dances out of the room. I even find myself laying with Sophia sometimes when she’s asleep and covering her hair to get a good look at her face, and I see Isabella again. It’s this amazing gift that Sophia gives us, a constant little reminder of our other little girl. I’m thankful every day for that.
I watch Sophia become obsessed with her in her daily life. It gets scary at times to watch her be so consumed with everything in our house that is Isabella’s. She wears HER clothes, she watches HER High School Musical Movie on HER iTouch, and listens to HER Taylor Swift CDs as she falls asleep in HER bed, on HER Pillow Pets with HER blankies. I have to go into Isabella’s room each morning, open her door and hear that same creak in the door that I heard for years when waking her for the hospital. I have to go over to her bed and see a little girl in kitty pajamas, covered in pink blankies and wake her. But instead, this healthy little girl has hair… this time it’s Sophia.
For Sophia, Isabella has become the ultimate role model. She sees pictures of her doing amazing things with this bright red hair and her big smile. She sees her enjoying every minute of her life in pictures. Sophia doesn’t know Isabella with cancer or being defeated. People talk so positively about her with admiration. The story of Isabella has been built up over the years so much that Sophia wants to be just like her.
I wonder how her love for Isabella will change as she gets older. Will she start to resent her because she has so much of the focus? Will she feel like she can never live up to her? Will she realize one day that she died and she lost a sister? Will she ever go through a grieving process? Do I even want her to?
Counselors tell us that Sophia will develop a relationship with Isabella based off memories that never happened, and we will need to support that. A relationship built off lies.
I’m sure if Isabella were alive today, they would be doing lots of fighting but lots of laughing too. Luckily for Sophia, even though she lost a sister – she has a brother that has stepped in and become everything she needs. Grant saves her every day. He is a big brother and big sister to her and Sophia knows no other life but just the two of them together. For Sophia, Isabella is just a character she knows from television who someone once told was her sister.