Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Birthday Boy

"There is no grief like the grief that does not speak." - Henry Wordsworth

Today is my son’s birthday.

I am not planning a birthday party. There will be no Harry Potter invitations or Minecraft-themed goodies adoring my tables. He will not hastily wipe off my kiss when I hug him and tell him happy birthday in front of all his friends. I will not see a lop-sided smile over a pile of presents just waiting to be torn open.

My son is dead.

He would have been 12 today.

There will be a birthday cake. We make one every year, his sisters and I. We sing him “Happy Birthday” and have birthday cake. Sometimes I take a slice to the cemetery but even after all this time I am not always quite up to it.

There is a private torment that occurs for the parents who have lost children, regardless of the age of those children. Perhaps they were young, perhaps they were adults. It doesn’t matter. When a child dies before the parents, it feels wrong. Sam was only three months old when he died from SIDS. The doctors told me there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. Such things are hollow comfort to a grieving parent. The rational part of my mind understands the doctors’ words, but the guilt will never leave me. It consumes me, little by little, and eventually it will eat me alive.

I can still remember how it felt to hold him. He was a schlumper. When I held him, he didn’t use his arms: they hung by his sides and his whole body weight just sort of sagged – schlumped – down. And he always nuzzled into my neck, sort of buried his head into it as if he wanted to hibernate.

I think about him all the time. I wonder if he would be tall. And if he and his sisters would be close. I think he would have big feet. I don’t know why. I just do. I wish I could have just one more picture of him. I wonder if he would wear his hair long or short. I’ll never know what his voice will sound like. I’ll never get to hear him say my name. And I’ll never get to say, “I have a son” again.

But because of today, I get to say I had a son. And he was beautiful. Happy birthday, Sam. I miss you.

My beautiful boy, my heart is with you. Save a place for us.

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