I forgot the birthday cake. Normally on Alex’s birthday we have a birthday cake and a little party. Nothing big, but something we celebrate as a family to remember our special boy.
We used to have a party with our friends on Alex’s birthday. Life got busy. People couldn’t make it, so we stopped doing a bigger event. This year, we aren’t even doing a cake.
Things are kind of winding down on how we mark this day. I don’t think it is bad. I just think that things have changed. I used to spend a lot of time anticipating this date; counting down, and trying to predict how I would handle it. I used to take the day off. Not this year. Big meetings at work. At a new job. I have a dinner tonight. No time for all the birthday pomp and circumstance. It feels… okay.
Thinking about Alex is still hard. I still miss him and he is still a part of our family. We remember him everyday at prayers. If we try to introduce our family without him, his name will still come up. We might be talking to someone we just met, and we will casually explain that we have 3 kids: Benjamin who is 9, Molly who is 5 and Emily who is 3. Immediately, without fail, one of the kids will interrupt us and say, “No! We have 4 kids. We have 2 boys and 2 girls. Not 3 kids!” It used to be just Benjamin who would correct us. Now either Molly or Benjamin will correct us. In another year or two, I think that Emily will join in too.
It is kind of ironic… two kids who never knew Alex jump in to defend him and make sure that we don’t leave him out when we talk about our family. I think that is good, and healthy. But I’m not sure.
I can still be sad about Alex, but trying to really dig deep into those feelings seems a little hollow. For every sad memory I have about losing Alex, I have dozens more happy moments of his siblings. Alex was born April 11, 2011 and he died June 9, 2011 from an unknown congenital heart defect. Miracle Molly was born May 29, 2012.
I tried to do the math in my head last night. I was up late thinking about today, and I was trying to remember… how long was it before I knew I was pregnant with Molly? I think I found out in October? So basically June 9 through October xx was sheer hell. Awful every single day. Hard to wake up. Hard to face the world. Hard to breathe.
And then on that magical day on October xx, the sun started to shine again and the whole world came back into focus. Maybe 100+ days of agony, but then years and years of gratitude? Molly was our first blessing. Then another loss, then our sweet Emily. Blessings upon blessings. An embarrassment of riches.
My personality is to hedge losses and optimize the best possible outcomes. I never expect perfect, but I try to create the most favorable scenario. Trading in 100+ days for years of joy? I can wrap my head around that. I do recognize that life doesn’t work like that. I know that God doesn’t work like that. But, it makes it easier for me to reconcile all that has happened in my mind.
I can still celebrate Alex’s birthday and his presence in our lives as a blessing. I hope that having him in our family has made us better parents, and better people. I am grateful for the 60 days he spent in our arms. *And* his absence will always be a part of me.
When Alex died, my heart shattered. It didn’t break into two parts. It exploded from the inside. But, I think that all those fragments have come back together. Each moment with Emily, Molly and Benjamin has helped to fuse those pieces together. I never thought that my heart would be whole again, but through the love of my children and the grace of God, I have a much stronger, more resilient heart.
Today is still sad. Somber, melancholy, bittersweet, whatever you want to call it. But, it’s no longer tragic. Maybe that’s why I don’t need to dress this day up with a cake and balloons. Hard to say. Either way, we say an extra prayer for our Angel Alex, and we blow out some metaphorical candles, hoping all his wishes come true.