Today is your third birthday. It feels like just yesterday you were born, and, at the same time, it seems like that happy day took place several lifetimes ago.
I will never forget the trembling excitement I felt while waiting to be rolled into the operating room that morning and the nervous fear I felt when the surgery began. I will never forget the sound of your first cry as you entered this world at 11:52 AM. I will never forget holding you against me for the first time, so pink and full of life. I will never forget how soft your hair was as I brushed my lips against your tiny head. I will never forget the pride in your father’s tear-filled eyes as he looked at you.
January 8, 2009, was the greatest day of my life. It was the day that I discovered how true and deep love could be. The day that I found how it feels to be truly happy. I didn’t yet know what it meant to be a mother, but I knew that our life would never be the same. I also didn’t realize then that what an understatement that would turn out to be. With your birth, our family unknowingly started a precarious journey through love and loss. The rosy future that we had imagined for you never was to be. You had a different plan all along.
Three years later, I often wonder what our family’s daily life would be like if you were still here with us. What kind of boy would you be today? How would we celebrate your birthday? Would you still be the happy little man that I knew? Would your hair be a tumble of curls like your sister’s? Would she even be here? Would you still be able to laugh? How many little ways would you have found to amaze us each day? How much would SMA have stolen from you by now? I wonder, but these are questions that have no answers.
Then, I think of you in heaven and a feeling of calm washes over me, quieting my tortured mind. I envision you running and playing with the other angels in a meadow of vibrantly colored flowers. I see your sweet smile, and I hear your laugh ring through my thoughts like bells pealing. Light illuminates your face, and your blue eyes shine. You are radiant. You are peaceful. You are free. This, I can visualize so very clearly.
Andy, I have fought for years to escape from the black hole of your loss, trying to follow your light out of the darkness. Now more than ever, I can feel your presence around me. Our spirits are connected in a way that transcends all space and time. As much as I believe that you are in heaven, I know that you are here with me as well. Perhaps, right now, you are sitting beside me on this couch with your head resting against my arm. Perhaps you are whispering the words that I write.
I am your mother, and I always will be, but I am not sure that I was ever meant to be your teacher. You were sent from above with a heavenly mission and an important lesson to convey. I can only hope that I was a good enough student in our 20 brief weeks together to carry that lesson forward. I gave you life, but you continue to define mine. Andy, I promise that I am still listening.
You send dragonflies to dance around your sister, your father and me. Their fluttering wings softly murmur in our ears, sharing your message of hope. I know that, through them, you are telling us not to worry about you. That you are where you need to be. That you are happy. These little visits always make us smile. I know that you want us, the family you had to leave behind, to recognize the joy in the smallest of moments and to appreciate all of the wonder in our earthly lives. And, to trust that, one day, we all will be together again.
While I may never understand why you had to have SMA or why you had to leave us so soon, I can accept that this is how it must be.
So, today, I will not try to imagine the birthday party we should have had for you or the little boy you would have been. I will not cry for what never was, but I will embrace this day as it is and our family for what we are. And, we will celebrate you – our baby who loved to laugh, even in the darkest of hours. Our baby whose sweet smile could brighten any room.
Today, we will wear silly hats – just like I made you wear on your monthly birthdays, we will eat cupcakes, and we will send you enough balloons to line the streets of heaven. We will remember the precious time that we had with you in our arms, our smiles echoes of yours past. Then, we will look towards the clouds in the winter sky as our balloons fly to you and listen to hear your voice on the wind. We will be thankful for all we have. Your gift to us is the present, and we will cherish this gift.
But, what can I give to you, my angel? You know that you already have my love, trust and faith – forever and always. So, on this birthday, my gift to you is a promise, and I believe it is one for which you have been waiting. You have my word that I will no longer allow sadness, anger, and grief to overcome me. Instead, I will wake each morning to the dawn’s gentle light, knowing that you are in it. I will rejoice in each day’s little adventures, understanding that the joy I feel in my heart is sent by you. And, I will go to bed each night with a tranquil mind, hoping to see you in my dreams. You taught me what happiness is, and, for you, I will try my hardest to share that lesson with the world.
Happy third birthday, son.
This is one of the first books we bought for Andy before he was born, and I always think of him – my perfect baby boy – when I read it:
On the Night You Were Born
By Nancy Tillman
“For you are fearfully and wonderfully made…” – Psalms 139
On the night you were born
the moon smiled with such wonder
that the stars peeked in to see you
and the night whispered,
“Life will never be the same.”
Because there had never been anyone like you…
ever in the world.
So enchanted with you were the wind and the rain
that they whispered the sound of your wonderful name.
It sailed through the farmland
high on the breeze.
Over the ocean…
And through the trees…
Until everyone heard it
and everyone knew
of the one and only ever you.
Not once had there been such eye,
such a nose,
such silly, wiggly, wonderful toes.
When the polar bears heard,
they danced until dawn.
From faraway places,
the geese flew home.
The moon stayed up until
morning next day.
And none of the ladybugs flew away.
So whenever you doubt just how special you are
and you wonder who loves you, how much and how far,
listen for geese honking high in the sky.
(They’re singing a song to remember you by.)
Or notice the bears asleep at the zoo.
(It’s because they’ve been dancing all night for you!)
Or drift off to sleep to the sound of the wind.
(Listen closely…it’s whispering your name again!)
If the moon stays up until morning one day,
or a ladybug lands and decides to stay,
or a little bird sits at your window awhile,
it’s because they’re all hoping you see you smile…
For never before in story or rhyme
(not even once upon a time)
has the word ever known a you, my friend,
and it never will, not ever again…
Heaven blew every trumpet
and played every horn
on the wonderful, marvelous
night you were born.