A Story of Birthdays

Dear Andy,

Your little brother Will recently started pointing to your picture on our family room wall and saying, “Baa-bee?” I tell him that the baby in question is you, his big brother. Not understanding, he points to his own chest, emphatically repeating “Baa-bee?” once more. With the singularity of mind that comes with being only one and a half years old, he thinks that he is the only baby that ever was.

But it’s important to me that he recognizes who you are and knows your role in our family. So, once more, I explain how there actually are three babies in our family – first Andy, then Lucy and Will.

Your little sister Lucy, of course, needs more specifics. She wants to hear a detailed account of how you three came into this word, and she wants to hear it all of the time. She asks me to tell her the story of the three babies on the way to school and while we are at Target. During lunch and her bath. Before bed and when she wakes up.

I repeat the story for her, again and again. Sometimes stumbling over the words as I try to hold back the tears. Remembering how you made me a mother and us a family. Reliving the joyful moments and intense pain that brought the five of us to today – your sixth birthday.

And, while I’m sure that you’ve already heard the story – that my words were carried on a breeze that blew all the way to heaven – I want to share it one more time in your annual birthday letter. To write down the words as a tribute to you. Because, my sweet angel, it is with you that our story begins.


It was many years ago, and Mommy and Daddy were much younger, with fewer gray hairs and wrinkles. We had each other, we had our dogs, we had a nice house, and we had good jobs…but something was missing from our lives. We didn’t have you. We wanted a baby.

But the days turned into months and the months turned into years, and still there was no baby. Mommy and Daddy were sad. We started to lose hope.

Then, one spring day in 2008, Mommy discovered that a baby was coming! Mommy told Daddy the good news, and he couldn’t believe it. We were so excited!

Soon, we learned that the baby was a boy. We painted his room blue and decorated it with the ABCs. We filled his room with toys and books. We hung a mobile of the moon and stars over his crib. We wanted his room to be as perfect as we knew he would be.

We decided to name the baby “Andrew” in honor of your great granddad, but we knew we’d call him “Andy.” His middle name would be “Glenn,” after Papa. We couldn’t wait to meet him.

And, on Thursday, January 8, 2009, at 11:52 a.m., Andy was born. Our hearts were full of joy! We couldn’t wait to take him home to his little blue room and to start our life as a family.

But, when he was a few weeks old, Andy got sick. Mommy and Daddy rushed him to the hospital. The doctors told us that he had a very bad disease called spinal muscular atrophy and that there was no cure. Andy spent a long time in the hospital, with Mommy and Daddy right by his side. The doctors and nurses did everything they could to help him, but no medicine could make him better.

Andy couldn’t move a lot, but he loved to laugh and play. He was a very happy baby. Even when he was really sick, he still smiled. Mommy and Daddy prayed that we could see that smile every day for all of our lives. But, God had other plans and took Andy back to heaven to become an angel.

Mommy and Daddy were heartbroken. Without Andy, everything was sad and dark. It was like all of the light had gone out of the world.

And then, one day a few months after Andy left for heaven, Mommy discovered that another baby was coming. Mommy told Daddy, and we were both very nervous. We were afraid that we wouldn’t be able to keep this baby either. We looked to the stars and asked our angel to watch over us.

Mommy went to the doctor, who performed tests to see if the new baby had SMA. After several weeks of waiting, Mommy and Daddy found out that the baby was healthy! We were so relived and happy! Then the doctor told us that the baby was a girl, and we were even happier!

The news of our baby girl was like a ray of light shining through the darkness, and so we decided to name her “Lucy,” which means light, and “Catherine” after Nana.

(At this point, your sister usually exclaims, “That’s me! Lucy!”)

We filled her room, which was once Andy’s playroom, with pink flowers, baby dolls, and newly rediscovered hope. And, we counted the days until we got to meet our girl.

Lucy was born on Thursday, July 15, 2010, at 8:08 a.m. The same doctor who delivered Andy helped to bring her into this world. She looked just like her big brother, with the addition of a headful of black hair. And, she indeed brought all of the light back to our world.

(This is when your sister corrects me, saying, “I bought the light back for ALL the world.” Who am I to disagree?)

Lucy filled our home with laughter as she grew and thrived. She made us look forward to each new day – we couldn’t wait to see what she’d do or say next.

But looking at pictures of our two babies who would never know each other – except for stories like this – made Mommy and Daddy a little heartsick. We hoped one more baby would come to live with us and that we’d be able to watch at least two of our children grow up together.

And, like an answered prayer, Mommy found out that she was having a third baby. After visiting the doctor again for more tests and a rather long wait, Mommy and Daddy learned that this baby would be a healthy baby boy! We were all thrilled!

Lucy loved to feel the baby kick while he was in Mommy’s tummy. She couldn’t wait to meet her little brother. She helped us decorate his room with dragonflies and stars.

We decided to name the baby “William,” which means determined protector, and “McLean” after your great-uncle. Lucy thought she might call him “Little Chicken,” but we felt that “Will” would be a better nickname.

(Now your sister laughs, “Little Chicken!! That’s you, Will!”)

Will was born on Monday, May 6, 2013, at 7:48 a.m. Again, the same doctor was there to ensure his safe arrival. And with his birth, our family was complete. We were – and always will be – a family of five.

The end.


But, Andy, that’s not really where this story ends, is it? Because you are with us still, watching over us from heaven as Lucy and Will grow and protecting our hearts as life moves forward.

Without your birth, we wouldn’t have this family. It is because of you that your sister and brother exist. Your father and I had the honor of introducing you to the world, and we hold your memory close in our hearts. But, while they never knew you in person, Lucy and Will are a physical part of you. They carry you with them in their blood and bones. They continue your story – your legacy of love – with each and every breath they take.

Andy, I never thought that I could ever love another person more than I loved you – such was that intense and all-encompassing love born six years ago today. But, with the births of your siblings, I have discovered how abundant that love can be. How it can fill the space you left, displacing my sadness, and keep us connected through space and time.

I love each of you with a ferocity and depth that I never thought possible. A love without boundaries. A love that can scale the gates of heaven and last for eternity. Which is where our story will really find its end – on that day when our eternal life begins, and we are reunited in heaven.

But, for today, we will celebrate you here on earth. Happy sixth birthday, baby boy. I love you and miss you.

Always and forever,


Andy and Mommy on January 8, 2009

Andy and Mommy on January 8, 2009

Andy and Daddy on January 8, 2009

Andy and Daddy on January 8, 2009

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3 Responses to A Story of Birthdays

  1. Sayre says:

    It is a story worthy of telling again and again. And every time you do, it cements the family of five in their minds even though they can only see and count four. For Andy, I’m sure it IS a happy birthday because you remember him and love him and share him with everyone.

  2. Rosaleen says:

    Beautiful as always Audra. He is surely a very proud little boy. X

  3. Rosemary Perry says:

    I remember that beautiful, joyous day with profound joy! That is the feeling I will remember today. So loved, so wanted!

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