Posted by Auntie Juju (Julia Gonsalves) on Jan 08, 2012
I started making Stella's funeral soundtrack back in June when we found out she was dying. I wanted this task. Music is a language I understand, and Stella is not a hard personality to translate. Every time I get on iTunes or Youtube to look up songs my field of vision- and my search field- is full of light and stars, rainbows and sunshine- but not unicorns- oh and driving for a bit because she was obsessed with cars last summer. They are all typical images around the loss of a child (except for the cars) but they apply to Stella in ways that make them uniquely hers.
I'll start near the end, because it seems my relationship with Stella has been working that way too.
Not unicorns: Stella is a very real kid. She doesn't hide what she likes and what she doesn't like. She asks for what she wants and doesn't wait to be offered. Nana became that way near the end of her life, which happened to coincide with the time that I knew her, but I'm told she wasn't always that way. Stella was always that way. She used to intimidate me a bit, the way forward children can intimidate adults when we don't know what they're going to say and our insecurities assure us that they will out something bad about us that nobody knows. With Stella what you see is what you get, which is true of all kids to an extent but with her it's really true. I absolutely revere this about Stella now, and I am building this capacity in myself at a good pace thanks to her.
Driving in cars: Stella and I have been on missions for coffee, tomatoes, bubbas, bagels, ice caps and a host of other staples in paddle boats, a battery operated land rover, cars at chuck-e-cheese. Sometimes I drive, sometimes she does. Sometimes Gracie does. Sometimes we forget our bathing suits and have to turn around. Sometimes one of us has to pee. We don't usually go anywhere, but time with Stella is always travelling forward now- at a clip or a snail's pace- travelling closer to navigating our lives without her physically here. A lot of this journey for me (maybe just for me) has been full of gratitude for the Stella-shaped puzzle piece I now have carved out in me- solid, vivid and permanent memories of each minute she has sat on my lap, relaxed in my arms, whispered in my ear and the series of smiles I have been lucky to see. but that isn't about driving anymore.
Sunshine: Stella can appear gloomy, and expressionless given what she's going through. The high contrast of her delight can be startling, like an intense ray shining right in your eyes when you are staring intensely at a cloud trying to explain to someone how it looks like the virgin mary and you don't expect it. Her hair is a sunny colour. She is always warm.
Rainbows: Rare, and memorable, and an amazing gift of nature that I have only seen a dozen times that I can remember in my thirty-two years. The day after my Nonna died I saw the biggest one I have ever seen anywhere but over Niagara Falls, in a schoolyard at Harbord and Euclid, back when Andrea and I were just hooking up and Joey was smaller and much less annoying. It was like a rainbow that kids draw in preschool, stretched in an arc across the entire sky. Stella is one of those things that you see and you bask in, and just want to share, and call other people over to see, and want to stop time just to stay in it, and you try to photograph it but the photo doesn't capture it- if you're lucky the photo will trigger your memory instead.
Stars: There are a bazillion stars in the sky. My sister is one of them. My Nonna is one of them. Looking up helps me remember that we have all lost people, a bazillion people, to other worlds. Stella feels halfway there already in a comforting rather than in a scary way. I think of her when I look up with Gracie at night. Gracie and I have a special affection for the sky and we talk about clouds and sunsets and sunrises and stars more often than you would expect of a three year old and her parent. I have thought about the stars as linked to death probably weekly since I was nine years old, because her name was Celestine and it is nice to think of her up there. Stella has become a pivotal part of the universe for those of us that love her, she is and will be a daily thought for a long, long time and the constant nature of the stars makes them a good concrete place to put my memories of her too.
I will post our playlist for her once it's done. Burn it and listen to it, and smile for having been lucky enough to know her or even know of her.
I saw Stella yesterday. She says my name in a way that is a-mazing. It raises a surge of gratitude in me every single time she says it. She can stretch it out to be a whole minute long sometimes. Juuuuuuulaaaaaaaa. It's amazing.
Little Stellie you have changed me so much.
Celebrating Mommy Aimee's Birthday
(Juju, Gracie, Aimee, Stella)