After Mass today we stopped at the cemetery to see William. Today is his birthday. We gathered around his grave and one of the kids asked if we could sing Happy Birthday. And so, we sang. Afterward, we prayed as a family. We talked abut how old William would be had he lived and a couple of the little ones asked me if I thought he would want us to have cake today. I assured them that I thought he would and we made plans to make a chocolate cake when we got home. As we were leaving, Madison gently kissed his name and said, “I love you William!” Oh how my heart swelled with love and broke with sadness at the same time!
It’s hard to believe it has been 4 years since William was born. It seems like it was just yesterday and yet so much has happened since then. I remember every moment and every aspect of that December day. Not a single day goes by that I don’t think of William; not a single day goes by that I don’t miss him and long for him.
Standing at the cemetery with the kids I was reminded of just how blessed I truly am. I know it’s easy to look at our family, with so many children, and say that it’s obvious that we are blessed. If you don’t know our story or our history of losses, it’s easy to think that we’ve come to this point without suffering, without trials, or without struggle. But when you know our struggles and you know our sufferings, suddenly when you look at them all, you can’t help but see God in the middle, His arms gathering us all close to Him.
Four years ago I didn’t think that I would ever get to this point. I didn’t think the raw, searing pain would ever subside. The pain is still there, but instead of the constant, all-consuming pain that occupied my heart and mind and caused me to feel completely empty inside now I feel a sadness and longing for what I know we are missing and for what could have been. There are times that sadness encompasses me and I just have to take the time to cry and grieve, but those days are not near as often as they used to be.
Seeing Madison kiss William’s gravestone made me realize that while our babies are not in our arms, the kids know they are still a part of our lives. We must be doing a pretty good job of making sure our children know that their siblings in heaven are still a very important part of our family. And it should be that way. Many people don’t want to talk about pregnancy or baby loss because they fear it may hurt the parents, but really, talking about them keeps their memory alive and keeps them close to us. Because we are open with our children about our feelings regarding the loss of our babies and because we continue to talk about them, not as someone who “might have existed” but instead as family who were here and were loved immensely, they too feel connected to them and they love them as much as any sibling who sits beside them at the dinner table. It warms my heart to know they feel this way.
The journey through loss is a difficult one. It is different for each person who travels the road. I know that I couldn’t do this without my faith. I know that even though the road is a little easier right this moment, there can and will be days that I wonder how I will make it through. Those days are fewer and further apart, but they are there. Instead, the days that I can enjoy the beauty that surrounds me and that I can delight in God’s will are much more numerous. Regardless of the day set before me, I know that God will help me through, will comfort me and protect me, and will always be there waiting for me to trust Him, lean on Him, and take His hand.
Tonight as we light the candle on William’s cake and sing happy birthday, I know that all our children who wait for us will be smiling down upon us knowing that they are not forgotten. I will be smiling through my tears knowing that my children here are forever tied to my children who have gone before us. I feel blessed to know we have instilled a great love and respect for family that they remember and love their siblings and want to include them in our lives. It makes the distance that separates us seem smaller and the closeness that remains seem greater.
I remember feeling overwhelming love as each of the kids gently held William and looked at his tiny, perfect body and held him close to their hearts. I felt that same love today as Madison sweetly kissed William the only way she could. I know that she doesn’t remember physically holding him but her heart still remembers him and loves him regardless. That is one of the most beautiful gifts that I could ever receive.
Happy birthday, William. We love you and miss you. We hold you close to our hearts now and always. We hope our singing reached you and you felt surrounded by our love. You were here for such a short time but you changed all our lives forever. We are so grateful that God loved us so much that He blessed us with you.
I love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living,
My baby you’ll be.