A 10:20 flight bound for the West Coast carried my mom and sister home this morning. The room they stayed in this past week, once filled with yoga mats, books and puzzles, was neat as a pin. It sat empty, the bed made, the sofa bed turned in, no night lights burning or tapestries draped over chairs to create makeshift forts, not a single trace of Abbie and Gram, save the ineffable quality of no longer. Tomorrow it will be occupied once again, an intern for the Adirondack Theatre Festival. I know that as the sun sets tonight nothing will ease the hollow, soul deep chill of their absence.

This morning Sean held Briar and Avery in his arms, standing in the walk as we packed up the Jeep. “Don’t go!” These words were howled from a face crumpled by panic and saddness, soaked with enormous tears of rage and hurt. “Please don’t go, Abbie! Don’t go.”

Abbie called out through the window earnest promises to return. Then her hand touched her mouth and her dark hazel eyes turned to mine, “Help her,” they seemed to say. I offered kisses and reassurances that I’d be back, but still she sobbed. The pauses between her cries were the most chilling as she waited for us to climb out of the car, to change our minds and let the glory of the last week continue. My mom sat in the back, nearly cowering as she winced with each cry, “Let me get in the car, please let me in.”

There was nothing to be done but to leave. Their figures grew smaller as we pulled away, but we bore the unforgettable and exquisitely clear image of Briar suffering. We drove in silence, each battling her own saddness. The goodbye at the airport was more subdued, but Briar’s cries still rang in our ears as we embraced.

Tonight we’ll each go to sleep in our own bed. Seattle. Yakima. Glens Falls. Each home, not together. One day soon we’ll look back on this and revel in the memories of this visit, but today they are too heavily cloaked in the heartbreak of a little girl.