Today is your fifth birthday. It’s a Wednesday, which means your father is at work and your little sister Lucy is at pre-school. Your baby brother Will is playing at my feet. I’m sitting in the rocking chair that we once shared, missing you terribly and thinking about all that today should have been.
I should be rushing around the house, trying to finish the details for your party. You should be at school with your sister, high on cupcakes and birthday excitement. There should be a pile of presents waiting for you to open. Balloons and streamers should fill our home. It should be anything, except for a typical Wednesday.
But, it’s not.
There is no party planned – honestly, I’m too heartbroken to go through the motions of one without you. The only presents are the trinkets that we will bring to your grave later today. I will never know you as a five year old. I never even had the chance to celebrate any of your birthdays with you – except for the glorious day that you were born.
On January 8, 2009, my scheduled C-section had been delayed for several hours. I was incredibly nervous to meet you. I remember the chill of the operating room and the beeping of the monitors as I was prepped for surgery. Elvis was playing softly in the background – he shares your birthday, along with your Great-Grandmother Helen. The doctors made the first incision. I looked at your father; his face was grey with stress and worry. Then, we heard your first cry. What relief and happiness we felt, as the doctor called your time of birth – 11:52 AM. The nurse put you in my waiting arms, and I kissed your little pink face. I looked again at your father – this time both of us were smiling like lunatics, thrilled that you were finally here.
January 8, 2009, was the greatest day of my life, filled with such promise and wonder. I thought it was just the first of many happy days to come. That we’d have forever together. I was so blissfully unaware.
It was the last day that I was truly and completely happy.
Five years later, I am not the same woman who gave birth to you. I now know all too much about the horror of SMA. How quickly joy can dissolve into fear. How indescribable and unyielding the pain of your loss is. How all new experiences are tinged with fear and grief. How life without you is made up of contradictions – it’s all so bittersweet.
But one thing stubbornly remains the same – I am still your mother, Andy, and I always will be. You are part of me. For us, forever has taken a different form.
You are gone, but not entirely. You are very much alive in our hearts. You are our strength and our courage. You sacrificed yourself to give us our family, as we know it. You live in the curve of Will’s cheek. In the warmth of your father’s arms. In Lucy’s laugh. And, maybe even in the depth of my tears.
I try not to cry too much in front of your sister and brother, but, on days like today, I can’t stop the tears from falling. Lucy, now home from school, hugs me close, her head pressing against my shoulder where yours once laid. She asks, “Mommy, do you miss Andy very much?” When I say yes, she responds, “But he’s in heaven, mama. He’s okay!”
Andy, I hear your message in her words. I know you are okay, even if I’m not. I’m still struggling to accept this day – this life – for what it is.
But, for you, I will continue to try.
We might stop by Monkey Bizness this afternoon – Lucy is convinced that you would like it there. We will visit the cemetery after your father gets home from work. We will release balloons, and Lucy will blow bubbles – hoping that they’ll carry our birthday wishes to you on the breeze. It’s a cold day, but we will still look for the dragonflies. And, we will know – with no question or doubt – that you will be with us. We will feel you as we hug each other for comfort. We will do the best we can for you. We will celebrate your life through ours.
It isn’t the birthday I wanted for you, son. But it’s all we have.
Happy fifth birthday, my sweet Andy. I love and miss you.
Forever and Always,