April 13th, 2015 was my son’s fourth birthday. It was also his fourth birthday in Heaven. (You can read here on what my thoughts and feelings were on this a two months ago leading up to his day.)
I have always been anxious and riddled with panic attacks leading up to his anniversary. How would I feel? Would I be too sad to do anything? Too heartbroken? How would the let-down be? (The time *after* our attempt at celebrating when I feel like I am about to be so distant from him for the next 365 days and that possibly his celebration wasn’t good enough.)
This year, a few days before his birthday, I decided I wanted to have hearts fill my Facebook page. I believe I get hearts as signs that he is okay, and I will be too. (We got the first heart when we were driving home from his burial). Within hours of my event being created on Facebook, hearts began trickling in. They cam from family, friends and strangers! A woman I have never even met released four heart balloons and a Happy Birthday balloon in memory of my little boy! It was uplifting!!
With that momentum, I decided that this year would be different. Last year, in honor of his third birthday, I donated three books to the hospital “Someone Came Before You”. It is a book that explains the death of a child to their sibling. I thought it would be my “thing”. What I would do every year, donating a new book to the hospital. As I searched for a book I was going to donate a few months ago, I found “Ethan’s Butterflies” and it explains death to his baby sister, Emma. I thought, of COURSE this is THE BOOK I need to be donating every year. It is a sign!
But as the hearts began to trickle and than flood in, I realized that so many people, like me, don’t focus on Ethan’s death (I try not focus on his death or the “what if’s” anymore) but were focusing on his LIFE with me; And that is when I switched gears in my head. I decided I didn’t want a moment of his birthday to be about his death, I wanted it to be about his LIFE! Even though he never took a breath on this earth, his life still lives on – through me, my husband, my family, his sister.
On the morning of April 13th, I did briefly let me heart weep for celebrating a son that I couldn’t be with, but then I choose JOY. And it is by the Grace of God that it was even an option available to me.
We got Emma up and in a SUPER SISTER shirt, and I wore a Team Ethan shirt (my husband wore the same one under his work shirt that day) and we drove to Starbucks near my house. We went inside and bought four gift cards that had messages written on them and went and sat outside. For the next two hours we sat together on a bench and selected four random strangers and gave them the gift card and all we said was “Choose Joy” or “Have a nice day”.
Afterwards, my husband went to work and my daughter and I came home, followed by going to my sister’s house for pizza and to release a balloon for Ethan. I than came home and looked through all of the hearts and messages I received.
I didn’t know how to thank everyone for their kindness and outpouring of love. I was humbled.
It was than that I decided to put the hearts into a slide show for everyone, with a song attached. I chose “Sweet Child” by Rictor and went to work. (My video is below)
I now know, finally, four years into my grief, that I *can* choose JOY. I also know that some days I will fail at that choice. That some days, I will still cry; Some days over the next year I will grieve and be angry at the world for taking one of my dear ones; Some days I will just be a broken Mother. And on those days, on those days that JOY is the farthest out of reach, I will know that it will be okay to be human, and that after my heart is done weeping and my tears dry, I will be able to choose JOY again.
Thank you, my Sweet Baby Boy, for teaching your Momma yet another lesson on this earth.
Please keep that rocking chair ready, grab the best books you can find and the softest blanket. I have a whole world of cuddles and stories waiting for you!!