Sweet baby boy,
I can’t even imagine who you’d be today.
I think about three-year-old Seth. His monkey birthday party, with his best friend Gage and his hero Charlie. Remembering what his vocabulary was, continuing the nightmare that was potty training. Figuring out how to parent a toddler who was becoming more pure boy each day.
I see two-going-on-three Erin. Yes, she is just days into this two-year-old stage, and yet, it is already so evident to see the toddler she is going to be versus the baby I’ve grown to love so. She skip-hops down the street, Bentlie dangling by a sidewalk chalk-streaked ear from Erin’s grip. She has a fiery personality (which is a mommy’s polite way of saying that she has a temper) and a sweet heart. And she is like no one I’ve ever known.
And then there is you. Is it sad and macabre and morbid to say that I sometimes think of you as my ghost child?
You were little person who never got to be anything more than a dream. A one-pound miracle occurrence that touched my body for 158 days, my arms for 12 hours, and my soul forever. On one hand, it’s a comfort to know that I can “make” you into whomever I’d want you to be. Whatever blend of your daddy and me that I can imagine, in both looks and personality. I wonder if you’d be like Micah, in true just-a-blink-younger-than-your-brother style. I wonder if you favorite color would be green, just because it’s Seth’s favorite color. OR. If your favorite color would be anything BUT green, because it’s Seth’s favorite color. Would you have Seth’s dark eyes, or Erin’s blue? Would your hair have a rare double crown like your big brother, or swirl delicately from the right like your little sister? I wonder about these trivial things, I suppose, because nothing about her child is ever truly trivial. Not to a mother.
I can’t say that I doubt our decision to have you cremated. I’m glad that we didn’t have to pick a final in-the-ground resting place for you, because I can’t imagine how we would have made that choice: to return to Tennessee and leave you in Ohio; or to return you with us to White House, only to leave you two years later. That said, I struggle with not seeing your tree throughout the week.
It, as I suspected it might, became your place. You are there, to me, more than anywhere else on earth. Not so much your urn, though I know that holds your earthly remains. Not your blanket, though I know it cradled your brief stay with us. Not your footprint ornament, though I know it was the last thing you touched. No. It is your tree, so carefully selected and planted by a family who loved you immensely, simply as a reflection of the love they had for me and your daddy. I stand at the tree, and I feel close to you. I feel whole in a way that only comes when I am free to publicly acknowledge you, and my role as your mother, even in your absence.
I asked Andrea to pick up birthday balloons for you today, and to tie them to your tree in my absence. While I know there are few people on earth that love you more than her family – especially AP – it still hurts that it is a “surrogate mommy” doing this favor for me. If I weren’t otherwise occupied today, I think I would have made the delivery myself, just to be near you on your third birthday.
Speaking of that “other” occupation….
Oh, baby. I know you aren’t here. I know birthdays are so foolishly irrelevant in heaven. But today has always been YOUR day. People all over the world know that May 19 is Duncan Thomas’ birthday. But today, you become even a little bit more human, in the fact that you learn a lesson that all people who have a sibling need to learn, and that is to share.
You see, today, you become a big brother again. You’ve shared your birth month of May with your sister; today you share your birth day with your newest brother (or sister… I’m writing this when only God yet knows the identity of our new baby).
It was a day that we would have chosen to avoid. Not so much because it is a sad, tragic day. Because it wasn’t. Not really. It was a beautiful day that was completely, entirely, utterly about you. Treasuring you. Getting to know everything we could about you. Before we had to say goodbye. So, really, the 20th was the sad day. But the 19th….it was the day of your birth. You were our little fighter rockstar, Duncan, and May 19 was YOUR DAY.
And now we’ve asked you to share. Or rather, God, via Dr. Gibbs, has asked us to share what had become sacred and solely yours.
My immediate reaction of course was no! Especially when I thought we’d had the perfect day all squared away – May 11. Eight days after your sister’s birthday, eight days before yours. Perfect. Planned. Scheduled. And foiled. By no one’s fault, per se. But foiled, nonetheless. And then, because of the crazy, frantic, bureaucratic, paper-driven, insurance-heavy world we live in today, we were handed the “last resort” option of welcoming your little brother or sister on the morning of your birthday. But then, the voice of reason, aka Daddy, was brought into the loop, and as soon as I told him what the doctor had said, your daddy responded without hesitation, “I’m okay with it. I actually think it’s going to be really special.” (He gets that sweet, sensible, sensitivity from your Gramma, I think, because when I told her, she said, “I think it’s an honor, really.”)
If you care – which, in my heart I know you don’t – it would sure help your worrisome momma to know you would feel the same way as Daddy and Gramma. I would like to think that your little three-year-old self might even be excited to get to share your birth day date with your little brother or sister. And just in case your weren’t all that excited, I also know we would spend the next 20 years making sure you both felt special, unique, and individually celebrated on your birth days.
So, of course, now that I’ve managed to turn YOUR birthday letter into more about your new sibling than you (ugh, failing at the “individual” celebration already), I just have to tell you again, and again and again and again….
I love you. I miss you every day. I know that logically if you were here, Erin wouldn’t be, and what mother can fathom choosing one child over another, but that logic doesn’t stop me from wishing Seth had his little brother riding shotgun in his big blue truck. My heart aches for weeks in early May as I cling to the memory of my last days with you. Sometimes, I order pasta pomodoro even when I don’t want it, because it was the last meal I had while you were with me, and it’s “ours.” Just because the things that belong to just you and me are so few, and heartbreakingly less than the moments and memories I’ll acquire with your siblings, I still need you to know – I need the world to know – that I love you passionately. I love you fiercely. I love you as much as each of my “take home” babies – and maybe, in some other realm, even more.
Apple Jack…..I miss you. I miss you every day, in ways that only the two of us realize or recognize. Your memory, your place hasn’t dimmed in the three years since you left. Your place in my heart, in our home, as our second child is firm and unshakable.
I promise, no matter what is contained in the blog post I write next…today is your day. It’s your birthday. Today, I will consciously, deliberately, and joyfully celebrate YOU.
Happy birthday, baby. We miss you. We love you. The first thing I’m going to eat after surgery is birthday cake for you.