Boys clamor for more ice cream and the baby wants milk.

The day winds down slow and rough and my head aches between the whining of one and the frustration of another. I can’t find his favorite bear; I hear rudeness leak out of every syllable his brother speaks.

This is the hard love.

The biting down on a tongue that wants to whip and lash out at them. The deliberate quiet voice, which is not my default. The refusing to rush into their over tired, frenetic pace.

The baby grabs two handfuls of hair, pulls us nose to nose and laughs crazy until she starts to cry.

I wade through the familiar evening routine of surviving bedtime and wrap thoughts of Sara around me. They make me strong.

At the end of all things we will bring only what we have given away with us.

Whether we rented or owned a home won’t matter. Neither will the kind of car we drove. No one will ask what our fall wardrobe was like or if we ever mastered the art of styling our own hair.

But what we lavished on others – that will matter.

Stories of the truck loads of care, concern, love, friendship, and encouragement that Sara gave away during her life are surfacing all over the Internet. Suddenly the woman who was neither wife nor mother has hundreds coming forward to testify to how their lives were shaped by her.

I pick up the blue light saber and a single stranded sock.

I offer the black lab stuffed toy in lieu of the missing brown bear.

I bend down to the son who made me want to wipe that smirk off his face with rough words and whisper instead, “I choose to love you, Jackson.”

I think of Sara who loved so well and so hard in corners of lives that no one ever knew about until now.

And I walk down the dark hallway to rock the baby.

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