“There use to be three,” she sobbed.

I held an over-tired, sweaty four-year-old up against my chest as she cried.

“How could there be three and now there’s only me and you?” She pushed her head into my shoulder and pulled the hair at the back of my neck.

Three and a half years ago I watched her daddy die. He took his last breath in front of me as I yelled for the nurse.

She was 11 months old and rather unaware of what was happening as she stayed with a rotating babysitter system back at the house.

Three and half years later, my grief has dulled from the sharp force that stuck between my ribs in the early days. The sadness would wrap around my throat and weigh heavily on my shoulders as I tried to push through every day, every minute, every second without my Joe.

As the days go by that weight feels lighter but for this little girl, she’s only now starting to understand the heaviness of what was taken away from her.

“I wish I had a daddy and a sister,” she said from the backseat as we left a playdate.

“I know my love. But I love our family. Me and you.” I answer back in an effort to make her feel whole.

We are a family. Not the family I pictured but the family we created. A mommy and daughter team with a daddy in the sky. It’s not ideal. It’s not the double income, the matching family outfits, the daddy-daughter dances. But it’s mommy-daughter “Gilmore Girls” nights with Thai food on the couch. It’s two stick figures on a drawing wearing matching pink high heels.

It’s the “Clark Girls”, and I’m pretty proud of us.

But tonight, it’s rocking a tiny girl. Too big to baby but too little to fully comprehend the feeling of longing for something you never really had. 

There use to be three.

You’re right baby girl and tonight we will cry. Then tomorrow, just the two of us will face another day- together.