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And yet we all wish we could jump ship– that we could have met another way– Alas, these shining souls are the most beautiful, compassionate, grounded, loving, movers, shakers and healers I have ever had the honor of knowing. I feel all of it, deeply: the love, the grief, the joy, the pain. My life now is more rich and vibrant and full, not despite my loss, but of it. These gifts don’t in any way make it all “worth” it, but I am grateful beyond words for each and every gift that comes my way.

They are life-changers, game-changers, relentless survivors and thrivers. Every day loss parents move mountains in honor of their children gone too soon. Imagine if you had to live every holiday without one or more of your precious children. It would be easier to lose an arm, a leg or two– hard for bereaved parents. Know you don’t have to understand in order to be a supportive presence. I bow my head to each one and say I take for granted.

Just as parents of living children unconditionally love their children always and forever, so do bereaved parents.

I want to say and hear his name just the same as non-bereaved parents do.

The oil perked up at this suggestion, and began clambering at the edges of the enormous pot. “ is my own stomach.” She held her free, comparatively sugar-free palm out to Dominic, fingers waggling. ” “Yes,” said Isabel, and merciless, added, “Also, you speak Chinese like a white boy.” “My own heart! Something exploded over the rim of the Dutch oven in a flurry of feathers and offended croaks. ” “No, it’s a thing you don’t get, you culture-deficit ingrate. Inside the stinging cocoon of the blizzard, eyelids clenched tight against the cold, Isabel reached for memory: Maman’s old, checkered tablecloth. Isabel blinked hot, sightless eyes, and said nothing. ” “Blood is thick,” said Elias, simple, quiet, speaking words filled to the brim with a hundred different meanings. Two long, shuddering gasps, echoing one another, followed a staggering of footsteps, heavy and human and exhausted. “Mum and Dad,” said Elias, from beside Isabel, his hand still caught in hers.

Isabel ducked its attack with the ease of long practice, then snatched half a fist of dough from the mixing bowl behind her. ” She kneaded willpower into the little ball with her flour-caked fingers. Isabel grabbed a pair of tongs and rescued her creation before her fickle friend could change its mind again. ” “You know it’s true.” She waggled her fingers harder. Did you pay no attention at all to Maman’s lessons when we were kids? ” “Just so…” The raven croaked its reproach and landed on top of Isabel’s hair, nesting happily in the hairpin-filled – and no doubt flour-dusted – expanse of her updo. Birds of the sun, according to proper Chinese lore.” “Yes, well, Horrible is going to gobble up your pretty three-legged sun bird and cast us all into eternal night.” “Horrible is a lazy coward currently hiding in my bathroom because he’s afraid of the noises the kitchen makes,” Isabel pointed out, dry as the flour caking her apron. Elias’ golden-voiced tongue, dripping her own words. The glint of the afternoon sun against a kitchen knife. ” “Because,” croaked Isabel, “as satisfying as killing the bastards would feel for about five seconds, it would feel immediately fucking terrible within the same hour.” Her father’s regard hung heavy on her. “You don’t anymore.” “No.” “I think I understand why,” mused Zao Jun. You are, in the end, quite inextricably human.” “Thanks, Dad,” said Isabel, very dryly. But the kitchen god was already moving on, casting his regard toward Elias now. Real magic drifted behind that voice now, pulsing like the steady, spell-made heartbeat of the three-legged raven Isabel had pulled from her kitchen flames. Elias spoke again: “For my family, I can think of a fate better deserved than death.” Zao Jun laughed, long and hard. Gold filled the inside of Isabel’s head, magic and magic and magic. His slow, steady pulse thrummed through her fingertips. ” Confectioner’s sugar smeared from his wrist across Isabel’s thumb as they reached for the same donut.

I wish people could understand that grief lasts forever because love lasts forever; that the loss of a child is not one finite event, it is a continuous loss that unfolds minute by minute over the course of a lifetime.

Every missed birthday, holiday, milestone– should-be back-to-school school years and graduations; weddings that will never be; grandchildren that should have been but will never be born– an entire generation of people are irrevocably altered This crappy club called child loss is a club I never wanted to join, and one I can never leave, yet is filled with some of the best people I’ve ever known. The joy I experience now is far deeper and more intense than the joy I experienced before my loss. Because I’ve clawed my way from the depth of unimaginable pain, suffering and sorrow, again and again– when the joy comes, however and whenever it does– it is a joy that reverberates through every pore of my skin and every bone in my body.

Isabel’s bird croaked his agreement, and fluttered down to nestle back on top of her head. I didn’t just call him ‘Cat.’ How would you like it if Maman had named you ‘Girl’ or ‘Witch’ or ‘Curse Upon My Loins’? Her brother had never developed her knack with magic, but like most folks with half a brain and a modicum of sense, he’d nurtured at least a couple arcane talents. Chinese food belonged to Isabel’s childhood, to sunlit days in her mother’s kitchen: the bright primary colors of the vegetables, the expert flash of the chopping knife, and Maman’s painstakingly arranged presentation of dish after fragrant dish on the checker-clothed kitchen table. And talk to them.” The temperature dropped as soon as the apartment door shut behind them. I want to live and die alongside people I care about.” Silence. “ “Leave me as I am,” Elias offered, desperation creeping into his voice at last. Still, she grit her teeth, and strode forward, closing the distance to Elias. His fingers clenched around hers like icicles, but that golden magic of his flared still, threads of sunlight whispering through their entwined fingers, a beacon against the cold. The fleeting, uncomplicated joy of a snapshot piece of childhood. Instead, her fingers curled into the crisp fabric of Elias’ shirt, paused over the heat of life thrumming in the skin beneath. Later, Isabel would feed Horrible his supper, let Sunshine nest in her hair, roll her eyes at some horrible joke of Dom’s.

” “I’m pretty sure ‘Curse Upon My Loins’ is trending in all the baby books this year.” Her brother heaved a mighty sigh, but allowed Isabel to spend the rest of the commute in relative peace. Dom had what their mother called a clever eye: he saw magic in all its infinite varieties and potentials. Academy-standard runes and incantations, with written spells composed in the approved meter –” “Damn, that is the most posh white English definition of ‘everyone’ I have ever heard.” “I tried experimenting more as a kid.” Elias sounded unexpectedly miserable. Learned the textbook runes, like I was supposed to. Turns out I can train myself into – or out of – most things, if someone needs it bad enough.” And that even as it explained the unruly restlessness of the sunlit power threaded through the young man’s veins. With enough motivation, you could force your innate magic into a shape it didn’t want. ” Isabel offered Elias one of the buns, holding it out soft and warm on her palm. “It’s simple,” Maman had said, in that rare, quiet Mandarin Chinese that she used only when alone with her family. I’d forgotten how food could after you haven’t eaten in ages. Still time before the sun rises, to go out and seek them out.” “You’re not serious.” Isabel’s lids drifted shut. Blistering cold raked claws through Isabel’s thin pullover. Beside her, Elias’ breath stuttered, but he didn’t retreat. She could imagine him lifting his chin as he spoke. She buried her nose against his chest, and felt the shuddering breaths rise and fall. But in this moment, the life shaking apart and pulling itself together again in the ring of her arms was enough.

I’ve taken him to Maman’s, but I thought you might be able to help.” “Why didn’t you just take him to one of your posh English witches at school? “A Chinese curse on an English schoolboy in Quebec, hmm? And they would have caught me this time, except that Dominic’s flat is in that neighborhood. What was one measly stretch of mortal, magical life, in the face of all this? Then she reached for the magic she alone had earned for herself, flush with foolishness, at age sixteen. The wind paused, hesitating in its path, silence eerie after the scream of the storm. ” A lazy, familiar voice replaced the blizzard’s howl. ” Long, methodical footsteps marched across the snow. “How dare you.” Fire roared to life, fire greater and more terrible than anything Isabel could dream of summoning. ” Still licking sugar off her free hand, she kicked his shin. I really feel that now, thank you very much.” “Well, I can you brooding.” “I can feel everything.” He almost succeeded at pulling off the quip, except for how his breath hitched, just a little, at the end. “It’s not wrong.” “I think they loved me,” said Elias, unexpectedly. Want the things you want.” “Okay.” Isabel tipped her head back beneath the fall of sunshine.

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