he might have liked trains

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“He might have liked trains,” she said.

And we both teared up, staring at the toy on the bottom shelf.

He might have…

Dear Little One, sweet Joseph, this would have been your birthday present. Two years old.

Instead, this will be your second stillbirthday present, bound for the pediatrics ward at the hospital, for other children to play with.

© Burning Eye

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Gifts

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My sister sent us a gift for Joseph’s birthday. That she thought of this is such a deep and wondrous surprise to me. I didn’t expect any gifts for him. The idea that he or we could receive gifts for his birthday like anyone else’s birthday. Her gift is perfect–five little metal and enamel flowers. A bright spot for our garden; blossoms that never fade. My heart stretches and fills with love and gratitude for my sister.

And a friend made us a quilt square for Joseph’s birthday, too. She embroidered all of our names on it, mine, A’s, Joseph’s, and Baby. It was the first time I realized we are a family of four. I cried. I am so touched that she made this for us. I’ve draped it over the glider–Joseph’s glider, the new baby’s glider, the glider we have sat and rocked in through our grief. The diamond eye and the quilted rays shine out into the room.

We’ve received the gift of cards, too. Christmas cards that acknowledge the complexity of this time of year for us–those are the best. The generic ones that wish us Merry Christmas I barely glance at.

This year we made little Joseph-ornaments for our family to hang on their Christmas trees. The way you might hang a handprint or school photo or play-doh gingerbread cookie your little one makes. We made one for ourselves, too.

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It is Christmas today. 31 years of happy holiday memories and traditions mix with one night of hell. We constantly check in with ourselves, with each other, tentatively putting one toe forward, testing the emotional ground of this day. It feels so strangely normal. Something must be different this year. Something besides the absence of our firstborn. What are we supposed to be doing differently?

Or maybe, we just sit by fires and Christmas trees with family, eat cookies and sweet breads, and survive this day. Like A said the other day, we can let go of the pain. The pain is not Joseph. Just because today is the day he died doesn’t mean I have to relive it.

Friday–the 27th–his first birthday, can be Joseph’s special day. The day we remember him and hold him in love and Light. Maybe someday, I hope, we will even feel like celebrating.

© Burning Eye