Ben and I took a trip to Boston this week. We spent some time together without any kids for the first time since Alex died. It was nice to talk and laugh and have fun together, like we did when we were dating. When life was simpler and we were free from the all the stresses of life we have now.
While taking a tour, we learned about life during the time of the American Revolution. It was a time when sickness was rampant, and it was common for families to lose children before the age of 5. As many as 50% of all infants wouldn’t make it to see their second birthday… how sad. What was most striking to me was the descriptions of how families reacted to all these infant deaths. It wasn’t uncommon for parents to re-name subsequent children the same name as children who had died.
What I liked most was how they retained the memory of the children who had passed on. If the family was having a portrait created, artists would paint in the children who had died as if they were still living. The children were still depicted as active members of the family, the age they would have been if they had lived. The only difference was that these children may be painted barefoot, in pajamas, or pointing upward as a way to indicate that they were in Heaven.
When guests would see the family portrait, they might comment, “You have a lovely family with five beautiful children. I see that two of them have passed on. I’m sorry for your loss.” Why don’t we have an equivalent of that in today’s society? A socially acceptable way to let people know that you have a child you don’t want to be forgotten? A child who has passed on to Heaven, but is still very much a part of your thoughts each day… A child that you want to talk about without creeping everyone out… A child that you want people to remember with you, regardless of how much time has passed.
We are grateful that we have Benjamin. He is a beautiful child, full of life and laughter. He brings a smile to everyone’s face and when we’re in public, he literally stops traffic with his good looks and charm. Throw in his sparkling personality and naughty toddler antics and we are a walking sideshow of entertainment.
We were out to dinner tonight and Benjamin had at least six tables captivated with his silly behavior and crazy commentary on the evening. As proud as we are of him, I can’t help but feel angry that people don’t know about our other beautiful son.
Alex was just as special, handsome and fun as his brother. He was full of love and joy, quick to smile and brought happiness to those around him. All of the strangers that stop to admire his brother don’t know about him and it makes me sad.
I’m not trying to elicit sympathy or make situations awkward, but I want people to know about our other beautiful son who isn’t with us anymore. It’s not fair that he goes unnoticed, and it’s not fair that there isn’t a socially acceptable way for us to talk about him.
Alex was special and perfect and just as deserving of attention as his brother. How can we keep him alive in our hearts if we can’t even explain that he exists?
My sweet Alex, you will live on in the hearts of those who knew you, and I’ll find a way to make sure you aren’t forgotten. Just give me time.