It comes every year at the same time: February 24. It’s a bittersweet day. This year it marks 13 years since I became a mother. It’s my boys’ birthday. Seth and Owen would turn 13 this year if they were still with us. Teenagers! That would make me the mother of two teenagers! (That must explain why I’m starting to sprout grey hair.)
But they aren’t here to celebrate with us this year or any year. Instead we have a tradition of sending them helium balloons. We write birthday greetings on the balloons and then–this is very environmentally unfriendly–we release them outside. We stand and watch the wind carry them off until they are too far for us to see any longer. Today was no exception. The girls wrote elaborate messages in Sharpie and then let their birthday wishes fly.
My babies didn’t live long enough for others to get to know them, but I knew them and loved every day we shared together: 23 weeks and 5 days. Ryan loved them, too, though he only held them once. The girls have come to know and love their brothers through asking an endless number of questions, most of which start with the words “What if….”
While we were in Norfolk last weekend, we stopped by the cemetery. The boys are buried together in the same row with their sister Lucy. The girls see nothing strange about cemeteries and understand the rules of a visit: Don’t step on markers and don’t move any of the graveside mementos that other parents have left.
My eyes stayed mostly dry today–most likely because of the scar tissue on my heart. Instead, my heart has been heavy for another friend whose brother is losing his battle with leukemia. I’ve been missing someone else, too. Today is the birthday of a man who was like a second father to me and a substitute grandfather to my girls. I know that today Uncle Bill celebrated his birthday with Seth and Owen.
While those who loved Bill and Seth and Owen are feeling a little more lonely today, we look forward to the time when we’ll see them again. Whether my eyes are clear or clouded over with tears, I celebrate that there will come a day when my tears will be no more.