His birthday was going to be a beautiful day.
Finally I'd hold a child in my arms and never let him go.
But I didn't.
Six years ago today he was born and six years, nine hours and thirty minutes ago he died.
I'd say tragically, but honestly? Isn't the death of any child, for any reason, at any time--isn't it just tragic?
(Almost) no one nearly dies in childbirth.
Healthy babies don't die because of labor complications.
Or so we like to believe, because facing the reality that all of those things do, in fact, happen is just too horrendous.
Six years ago, my life changed. I became a mother.
To a child I buried a week later.
Yesterday, on Still Standing, I published an article by a father who lost his first son and only child to stillbirth. I often read many articles where I am shaking my head with a resounding, "YES!" in agreement, but this one...this one only a few days before Matthew's birthday...this one just spoke to me.
It talked about 'getting over' loss...how one does and how long it takes.
Reading his words, I began to sob --"“You know, you don’t really get over it, or speed it up. It’s going to take as long as it’ll take. It’s more about how you live with it.”
You don't ever really get 'over it.'
But you do learn to live with it. Even if you never believe you could. Or even would want to.
It's unbearable, but you bear it. And, you get to the point where even though it's still a burden you bear, the weight doesn't change, but it redistributes itself. Sort of molds itself around this new person you've become and this new normal you live.
The magnitude of my loss...the weight of his death...in those early days?
It crushed me.
Literally left me breathless so many minutes of every day.
And while there are times where that same breathless feeling will come out of seemingly nowhere, nearly knock me to my knees and force me to acknowledge and submerge myself into the black heaviness, my ability to reemerge and return to light is so much stronger.
It's weird to say that...on the eve of his sixth birthday...that I am more confident in my ability to live without him.
There's nearly nothing I wouldn't give to have him with me every day. For the first time ever the other day, Luke told me he wished he had a brother or sister to play with. That tore my heart up.
Having Matthew here is not an option, though. And so, as I have for the last six years, I go about the business of not getting over his death, but living with it. Moving forward in life with it.
Some days, living with his death is ugly.
Some days, living with his death means I go to bed at night thinking I just about had the perfect day.
But as the years accumulate, it seems I spend less and less time in the fiery, raw misery that those first days and weeks and years trapped me in and more time amplifying and extracting from the joy that simple things bring to me.
It's so hard, sometimes, for those of us who have walked this path.
To say we are able to be happy seems nearly sacrilegious.
How can one be happy when she mothers a grave?
To say that we will grieve forever looks like to many a picture of unhealthy emotional integration, and though erroneous, the inability to be thankful for and enjoy the gift of the life one still lives.
There's no great way or word to describe the in-between.
Or, the both.
That's where I am.
Happy. I live a life full of joy and smiles and love every.single.day. I look forward to every opportunity and have a heart full of gratitude, anticipation and hope. Oh, yes. I am happy.
Grieved. Death stole a lifetime of hugs and tickles and, "I love you, Mama!"s. Death made my middle of three sons an only child who wishes he had siblings with which to play. Oh, yes. I am grieved.
So, if there was one thing I'd proclaim as my most important realization over the last six years, it would be this:
Death does not win.
It claims its little small victories, and mocks one as it does, but in the end?
It does not win.
November 28, 2009 was a beautiful day. One of the best of my life.
Death on November 29, 2009 may try to steal that from me, but it cannot.
No matter the outcome, there is unmatchable beauty...in simply being his mother forever...
Today, and always, I celebrate the beauty of his birthday.