On March 29, 1999, I watched my daughter Stephanie Paige Steines take her last breath. She was born with a neuromuscular disease of unknown origin. It is something that stays with you the rest of your life, only time makes it hurt less; I no longer cry starting a month before her death, and that day, sometimes it passes without recognition. I always remember though.
While her health deteriorated, her muscles became weak, her breathing difficult, her eating nearly impossible, I had a weird dichotomy of experiencing the other side, the wonder of her twin, my daughter Kayla, as she grew stronger, hit her milestones, thrive.
But with each milestone achieved, there was something not completely right, there should have been two reaching these ‘normal' goals.
There was always a whisper of sadness through everything that Kayla did and though I promised myself that Kayla would never have to live her life because her sister died, she'd only have to live her life because Kayla was, the whisper, the hint, a piece of the whole was always there.
I hadn't realized Kayla experienced that emptiness until almost 17 years later. Seeing other twins at school hurt, she wanted to scream out, “I'm a twin too!” I will never forget the time I was in a room with four other adults, and three of us gave birth to twins. As the two moms spoke of their twin issues, I wanted more than anything to chime in. But to talk of the loss carries a dark cloud over the conversation and it's not always the right time or place.
The loss is not just my loss, it's also Kayla's. Even though she were 11 months old when Stephanie died, we both feel it especially during great achievements, a great moving forward, always knowing, someone else should be there too.
I feel it now as Kayla is ready to graduate high school, as she's ready to enter college. I'm not just sad because my baby is all grown up. I'm sad because we are missing someone.
There is so much pride for all Kayla has been able to accomplish. Overcoming crippling anxiety, scoliosis, ADHD. She's graduating with amazing grades, a high ACT score and was accepted into three colleges. She'll be attending this fall on her way to full adulthood.
Time makes it less difficult and there are less tears, but it can never wipe away the sadness. I only hope I can make through graduation without the ugly cry.