I walked downstairs this morning and saw my husband put the mail from yesterday on the kitchen island. As a common giggle we have with each other I said, “Any inheritance checks?” He smirked and said, “I didn’t look yet, go ahead.” As I begin to shuffle the five envelopes and tis’ the season coupon mailers, my eyes filled with tears.

“To The Parents of Gianna Hawkins,” the envelope was addressed.

My husband saw my face and asked what was wrong. Before I could answer, he too glanced at the envelope. And in his own way of relived grief processing, I heard the same sound I’ve heard from him for almost 12 years, “Hmmm. . .” That’s the sound he makes when something punches his heart and gut at the same time just like it did mine.

I shed tears. He shed a sound.

I opened the unrecognizable envelope and briefly scanned the contents. It was a survey on weight-gain prevention for teenage children between 12-17. It was a survey. It was nothing, but it was everything too.

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Gianna Lianne Hawkins was born on January 22, 2009.  She fought hard to come into this world and she succeeded. We had her for close to six beautiful months before her work here on earth was completed. Today, she would be almost 12 years old.

She is so missed and loved more than ever.

I sat down after opening that envelope this morning and thought of all the things we would be doing together at this age if she were still here. Hair appointments and manicures, middle school drama, and how to be true to who you are. Long talks about emotions and hugs to let her know it’s all normal and that it will be OK.

I try not to do the “what if” thought journeys much because (for lack of a better word) it’s hard. Like really, really, really hard.  Nobody wants to be sad all the time. So while those imagined thoughts may be positive in themselves, the reality of them never taking place is more than one can bear at times. Well, all the time.

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Today that envelope reminded me that I am the mom of an almost 12-year-old and my husband is the dad of an almost 12-year-old. It’s not something you necessarily forget, but it’s also difficult to recall daily when you still have to live. When you still have to function and you still want to smile.

There are so many things people can’t see in grief, like the fact that for me, I have four children and not just the three my Facebook is flooded with. 

I have a broken heart and nothing can repair the pieces that belonged only to Gianna. 

My fight every day to keep her memory alive and the way I look for signs . . . all the signs that let me know part of her is still here. A butterfly, her birthday “122” on a license plate, a song, a smell, or even an envelope that says “To The Parents Of Gianna Hawkins.”

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Today I cried a lot, but I smiled big. I cried because she’s not here, but I smiled because her memory is. We will always be her parents. I will always cry when I get caught off guard by the sweet memory of her, and my husband will likely sound “Hmmm . . .” just the same. I will always want her here, but I will also forever have the memory that she was.

Forever and always, I will welcome anything that comes to my home and reads, “To The Parents of Gianna Hawkins” because that is who we are, forever!

Tia Hawkins

Tia is a Writer/Blogger, Registered Nurse, Military Spouse, Mom and Spiritual Christian who currently resides in Virginia Beach, VA. Tia is an avid wisdom seeker and sharer. She has a love for tea, shopping, helping others heal as well as the continuing pursuit of her own healing journey. Tia's unique perspective writing focuses on a wide variety of topics including grief, loss, mental health, parenting and faith. You can share life with Tia at www.she-wrote.com on the web or find her at her She Wrote social media accounts.