Today is your 8th birthday, and we’re having a party – in part to mark the first anniversary of my business and also as an excuse to invite our friends and family over. It’s a reason to get out of bed on this very bittersweet day and to surround ourselves with the people we love. To have the kind of party you should have had to celebrate your “golden birthday” – 8 years old on January 8.
There are streamers and balloons throughout the house. The cupcakes and snacks are on the counter, and a bounce house is in the backyard. The only thing missing from this party is you.
Your little brother Will marches over to me and demands, “It NOT my birfday. Why there a party?”
“It’s your big brother Andy’s birthday today,” I explain.
“Not Woocy’s birfday?” he asks.
“No, it’s not Lucy’s birthday either,” I say.
Will’s brow furrows in thought, and he looks up at me – his blue eyes so much like yours – and asks, “Hmmm. Andy coming for his birfday?”
“No, baby,” I reply as my heart breaks a little more. “Andy is in heaven, and he has to stay there. But we’ll visit his garden later.”
“Okay,” he says happily. “I go to Andy’s house.”
“Yes, we’ll go later,” I say, my voice thick with tears, and turn away before he sees me cry.
At 3 years old, Will doesn’t understand. To him, your grave is a garden, and the little white gazebo that sits by it is a magical house. You are a picture in a frame and a story we tell. A mythical brother that lives in the sky. An excuse to eat cake on a Sunday in January.
Your little sister Lucy, at 6, is more aware of the magnitude of your life and loss. She’s heard the story of your birth many times over. She points to your portrait when her friends come over, proudly stating, “That’s my big brother, Andy.” She tells them you had a bad disease and died when you were a baby.
She tells me she wishes she knew you. “Your brother is a part of you,” I say as I touch my fingers gently to her chest. “He’s always in your heart.”
It’s been said that when you have a baby, your heart goes walking around outside your body. You were the first to show me how true that is. The day you were born, 8 years ago, was one of the happiest days of my life and also one of the scariest. It was the day you taught me what unconditional love really was. The day I realized my life was no longer my own. That my heart was forever yours.
And when you left, you took part of me with you. As I carried you in my body, you carry a piece me on your journey over the rainbow and beyond the clouds. I believe that we are still connected by those heartstrings. That I can speak to you through a heartbeat and that you can feel my love wherever you are.
And I believe that you’re just as connected to your father, sister and brother. Heart to heart. Each a part of the other.
But, Andy, I still wish for more. I dream of a life where we’re all together, our family of five. A different reality where SMA didn’t take you from us. One where you’d be here today, bouncing with your friends and blowing out your candles. One where you’d run over to me, your face crusted with frosting and flushed from playing, and I’d lean down to kiss you and to brush a curl from your eyes. I’d breathe in your smell of sunshine, sugar, and little boy. I close my eyes, and I can almost feel you.
Andy, I miss you so much every day, but especially on your birthday.
So I’m trying very hard to focus on the good of today – the gift of your birth, the love of our friends, and the comfort of our little family. More than anything else, I’m wishing you the happiest of birthdays among the angels. I love you, baby.
Forever and always,