My three children resemble one another so closely that I often have fun playing tricks on friends and family by posting baby photos of them with a caption of “Guess the baby!” To prove my point, here are photos taken of each of them in the hospital just after they were born:

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Every once in a while, I take a photo of one of my two living children, and when I look at it, I’m reminded immediately of a photo of their big sister. Although we have thousands of photos of Hudson, who died at seventeen months old, I’ve looked at them so many times that most of them are burned into my memory–even the faintest hint of one of them in a photo of my living kids can take me back to a different place and time when I was a different person and a different mother, when I didn’t know what I know now. I started making collages of these photos. All of these below are of Hudson and her brother Jackson.

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Of course, as the younger two get older, they grow more and more into themselves so that it becomes very easy to tell them apart from each other. And because Hudson will never grow any older than seventeen months and twelve days, it becomes very easy to tell them apart from her.

Tonight at dinner, my youngest daughter was noshing on a bowl of blueberries. When she looked up at me with purple lips, I found myself back in October 2009, when her big sister was almost eleven months old, noshing on a bowl of blueberries and tipping the bowl up to her face to drink the juice. In both moments, I picked up my phone to grab a picture. Tonight, I knew exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to put the two pictures together and see how alike my two girls are.

Blueberry Sisters

But when I saw them, I was almost disappointed. So alike in some ways but so different in others. They share that sparkle in their eyes, the apple-cheeks, and their mile-wide grins. But they look so different already. Ada has already burst through a new stage of her childhood that Hudson had only just reached the doorstep of when she died. Ada and Jackson will keep growing and changing, resembling each other, but resembling their big sister less and less.

Every day, there is a new lesson in acceptance. Or an old lesson that needs to be repeated many times before it is learned. Today’s was the latter kind: accepting, yet again, that I’ll never have an actual photo of the three of them together, that these side-by-side photos are all the growing up together that my three kids will ever do.