My reflexes tell me to hold, to kiss, to tell you how proud I am, to shower you with my love and all of your favorite things today, on your second birthday. But, almost nothing that feels maternal and instinctual about celebrating your birthday today is actually possible, Zachary.
We had the wondrous day of your birth, which burst with happiness and the promise of a full life for you. It was the one and only happy birthday we will ever have with you, my love.
C.T. has been anticipating your second birthday for days now, sleeping every night with all three of his giraffes. When he was supposed to be getting ready for school this morning, I found him huddled in a 14 x14 inch space between his bedroom bookcase and the corner of the wall, hugging his softest giraffe. This is what he prefers to do with his sorrow now. He finds a stuffed animal and a hiding place, and grieves and misses you quietly, all by himself.
When I gently coaxed him out, comforted him, he asked me which dinosaur I thought would have been your favorite. He didn't give me but a few seconds to consider it, and instead answered for me,
Zachary was so tough. Don't you think he'd love the Ankylosaurus?
You are in C.T.'s heart through and through.
None of us really know what to do with our overflowing love and our aching grief on a day like today. It is still difficult to comprehend and accept. So, we muddle through, we create another painfully numbing set of birthday memorial traditions - traditions none of us ever anticipated would replace the celebrations we expected to have with you, but which we hope will fractionally honor your life.
We packed meals again, with some of your family, for children living in impoverished countries. In total, today's food packing session yielded over 53,000 meals.
We sang a sad happy birthday, had cake and lit the first of fourteen days of luminaries, in your memory, at the front of our house.
I also decided I would acknowledge all of the precious children I know (or know of through their bereaved parents) who have died. I lit your candle and spoke their names aloud, 39 of them in all. While their parents may often feel as if their child is forgotten, I wanted to use part of your day to remember each of them, individually.
I know how delightfully alive two might have been, with you here, Zachary. I know how proudly you'd have shown us "2" with your fingers, for the camera. I know how special it would have been for C.T. to dote on you, to help you open and play with your gifts. I can almost imagine the memories we should have made on this day, and in the last one year and 50 weeks, with your amazing spirit filling our home and our lives.
It is overwhelming to think about just how much has been lost.
Despite the anguish of your absence, I will never forget the spectacular day of your birth. I will never forget seeing and then holding you for the first time at 4:22 p.m, two years ago. Your birth, your cry, your eyes, truly lit my world ablaze with pride and joy.
I miss you so much, Zachary, and I love you as much as a mother can love.