I don’t know about anyone else, but I get kind of introspective around my birthday. It’s a time for me to reflect on growing a year older, and to consider all the changes in my life from the past twelve months. In case you are wondering, I am turning 25 this year. (I said that with a totally straight face…)
I think back to this past year and I am overwhelmed with emotion. There was so much change that we went through in our lives. So much unexpected joy, so much fun in welcoming home a little baby sister for Benjamin… so much sadness in marking the date of Alex’s first birthday in Heaven, and trying to celebrate the first anniversary of his death.
Things are going okay now. I’m back at work and happy to be there. Benjamin is potty trained and playing team sports! (Sometimes.) Miss Molly is sleeping 12 hours at night, and the Jonas family just keeps on going. I can answer Benjamin’s questions when he asks about Alex, and I don’t dissolve into tears. I can explain to someone the circumstances of Alex’s untimely death, and I don’t collapse in a heap. I’ve never used Prozac, or Xanax, or any other type of prescription to help me get out of bed in the morning, and I don’t ingest anything stronger than an occasional glass of wine. Progress, I think.
When I peel back the layers though, more than anything, I wish that I could go back in time. Obviously, I wish I could go back in time to when Alex was here and hold him again and feel his soft hair against my cheek. I wish I could return to a time when I felt him kicking inside me, and I could only imagine how sweet his face would be when he finally made his appearance. Strangely though, I also wish I could go back in time to right after he died. A time when life was a lot sadder, but the world expected a lot less out of me.
There was a time after Alex died, that I got points just for getting out of bed. A time when getting dressed, and making Benjamin something other than PB&J to eat almost made me mother of the year. Time has passed, and the world has moved on, and there are times when thinking of my sweet baby boy literally takes my breath away.
It’s not all the time. I never forget that he’s gone, but the painful sadness of his death doesn’t resound in my heart every single minute of every single day. I can function in life without fixating on sweet Alex in Heaven. Most days are good. Some days are great.
Some are not.
There are moments in the day when I am running from one task to another and I trip over some unexpected memories. I find myself stunned, leveled to the ground, but I don’t have the time to dust myself off. I have more stuff to do, so I learn to just keep going. I can have a quiet moment in the day while I’m waiting for the elevator to open, or for my computer to boot up when I’ll see Alex like a tiny light flickering in my mind. Before the sadness can wash over me though, the elevator opens and monitor comes to life. I guess I’ll have to wait.
I can brush off these memories for only so long until there is no more room in my chest of sadness, and I just need to feel it. All of it. The sad memories of my baby boy who is gone, the painful longing for him here on earth and the quiet ache of my heart that will always have a piece missing. The only problem is, no one really thinks about it anymore. No one really talks about Alex anymore. Life has moved on, and thankfully we have survived! But when the sadness rolls in, no one is looking for it, and no one knows to hold my hand in the storm.
I’m not asking for pity, and I’m not asking for others to share in my sadness. I think I just long for a time when it was okay to be sad, and people would know why I was quiet. The day of Alex’s funeral, we were surrounded by family and friends. There was laughter amidst the tears, and no one had any expectations of me. I could come however I wanted, it would have been okay. Things are harder now. I can’t take Benjamin to a birthday party with tears streaming down my face, and I can’t hide in my office, my eyes ringed with tears. Mourning Alex has gone from a full time job to a hobby, and it feels like a club of one.
I know that I can reach out to people. I know people will make time for me. It just seems like an imposition. People are busy with their own lives, and I have my own chores to do too. I wish there was a time and place for all of us to remember him together. To celebrate his life with us, but still miss him like crazy.
So I approach my birthday with a silent resignation. A realization that I would rather celebrate a birthday for Alex instead of for me… the candles on the cake don’t mean that much, when the one thing you wish for will never come true.