Twelve Years

Twelve years ago today was Thanksgiving. It sounds like a random fact to know, but it is one I won’t ever forget. I delivered my son Matthew that day. He was so tiny and unbelievably perfect. I held him for hours, treasuring that time more than any couple of hours I’ve ever had on earth. I had to memorize every single feature on his precious face, remember the feel of his tiny hand in mine, count the ten little toes over and over. Those couple of hours had to be enough to last a lifetime. My baby was stillborn.

I came home from the hospital ravaged and exhausted from eighteen hours of labor and with heart so broken I thought I’d never heal. I remember so vividly walking in the door to find my parents and sister there. Mother had been cooking, John was waiting at the door with “aunchie” in his little turkey john john, and Daddy-O was holding down his spot on the sofa. The house was fully decorated for Christmas, the trees twinkling and music playing, and it was one bright twinkling light in what felt like an abyss of darkness and loss

Four days after Matthew’s birth day, was John’s second birthday. Honey gently told me that I needed to get out of bed and celebrate the son I had here on earth. He was right. I looked in the mirror at a sad, tired woman and I promised myself and my husband and BOTH of my sons, John and Matthew, that I would never take them for granted.   I pulled on my maternity pants, put on a smile, and even went to Chuck E Cheese that night.

Against the advise of all of my doctors, I became pregnant with Whit four months later.  In losing Matthew, and with his autopsy and extensive testing by many specialists, I learned that I have a blood clotting disorder.  The fact that I had safely delivered John was a miracle.  I was treated during my pregnancy with Whit, but his pregnancy was hard and riddled with fear and shortcomings.  Thirteen months after Matthew came Whit.  The child I prayed for more than anything I’ve ever prayed for in my entire life.  He was incredibly perfect.  And he helped patch that hole in my heart.

Matthew’s short life was the impetus for a tremendous change in the way I lived my life and the way I parented my boys. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t let Matthew’s death define me in a sorrowful, woeful way. Instead, I let go of fear and worry (for the most part), and embraced love, patience and trust in God. I had the very real knowledge that tomorrow is not guaranteed, and that even with healthy children we really have such a short time with them.

After Matthew, I spent the next ten Thanksgivings dreading Thanksgiving. While it isn’t always his birthday, I will never be able to feel truly thankful on Thanksgiving. It sounds awful. I am immensely thankful every day, but on Thanksgiving I’m mostly just sad. Last year we went to New York to celebrate John’s thirteenth birthday. For the first time in a really long time, rather than feeling sorry for myself, I said a prayer for the son I don’t have here on earth and I rallied my troops.  We each put on everything we could scrounge – tights under jeans, two hoodies, scarves, gloves, coats, etc. and headed to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We had the best Thanksgiving in more than a decade. Once again, John saved me from myself in a way.

That brings me to this year. I woke up early, as I do on November 22, and lit up our Christmas for the first time this year. It has all been ready for well over a week, but I save Matthew’s birthday for lighting the trees and garlands and music. I had just poured my coffee and started to turn everything on when Whit came down earlier than usual. I told him what I was doing and asked if he wanted to do the honor of lighting our den tree. He counted down 3… 2… 1… and in the early morning light I stood in my den watching the son I never thought I’d have light up Christmas in memory of a brother he never knew. <3

I sit here now in the twinkling light of my Christmas tree, with the fire blazing and my favorite Christmas hymns playing, and I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. Downstairs, John has seven teenage boys celebrating his fourteenth birthday and hoots, hollers and laughter is a joyful sound in the background. While I cannot make sense of losing a child, I can now clearly see what a gift the passage of time truly is in healing a heart.

Little Matthew lived a very short life, but it was one filled wholly with love, joy, wonder and adoration.  He never hurt, never wanted, never knew meanness or anger.  Just love.  And that’s exactly how I remember his life cut short.  With love. Until we meet again, I will spend my time trying to fill the days of the two boys I was able to bring home with smiles, laughter, and unconditional love.

My cup runneth over.

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20 thoughts on “Twelve Years

  1. Dear, dear Amanda,

    Thoughts of you have crossed my mind so many times this week and I send you many prayers, warmth and love. I still cry every year when I read your story. That is how deeply your words ~ and strength ~ touch people. They remind us all how dear life is and how quickly it passes. They also remind us to know that angels guide us and to trust the plans that God has for us, though they are beyond our comprehension.

    How comforting to know that God’s love is giving you new ways and strength to fill your heart at this time. May you continue to find much happiness and magic this season with your beautiful, sweet family, including your precious Matthew who has touched us all.

    May God bless all of you. Let your hearts be light.

    Much love,
    Jane ~ San Diego

    1. Dear Amanda,
      God’s grace truly is sufficient for us. Each year when you share your precious Matthew with us, I am reminded that trusting in The Lord, being grateful and loving the people in our lives, regardless of our losses and very real pain, are what this life is all about.
      Sherrie from Australia 😘

  2. Dear, sweet friend – thinking of you today. You are an inspiration for living and loving each day to the fullest. xoxo

  3. What an absolutely beautiful post and tribute to your family and three sons! I am moved by your grace and resilience in an immensely difficult time. I love how you have selflessly worked and prayed to turn sorrow into beauty. Your family is so blessed to have a Mom like you. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

  4. Amanda, can’t type thru the tears. Every year I wait for your wisdom. Though old enough to be your mother, you teach me. Thank you for helping me live with losing an adult daughter 7 years ago. Continued health and happiness.

  5. I think of you every year when I put up my Christmas decorations. Yes, time does heal some of those sad feelings. You are very blessed with a wonderful family and supportive friends. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving!!! 💓💓💓

  6. I don’t know that I’ve ever commented although I’ve read Dixie Delights for several years now. I just wanted to tell you how beautifully written this was. You and Matthew both are a blessing to your readers sharing your story in such a way. Happy Thanksgiving to you <3

  7. Amanda, for some reason this year your story overwhelmed me with sadness and JOY. I’ve read your posts previous years, but this year, your words were so beautifully written. I am in awe of you! Sending love and a virtual hug!

  8. Amanda, Your story of Matthew and your incredible love and faith always touch my heart, now more than ever. Thank you for your words of living life to the fullest every day and finding joy in every thing you do. You are a wonderful Mama to your boys, a beautiful wife, a precious daughter and sister, and a lovely friend to all who know you.

    Sending you love and God’s peace and blessings.

  9. Amanda, I appreciate so much what you shared and how you chose to grow through this heartache. Your are a great example every day of a loving mother. Thank you for sharing. God bless you and your beautiful family.

  10. Thinking of you today. Each year, I make sure I read this post. Through the sadness, Matthew has helped shape the person you are today. Thanks for being such an inspiration and for reminding us all to be the best mom we can be.

  11. Reading your description of Whit lighting up the tree for Matthew was beautiful. Prayers for you all and so happy to read your heart is beginning to heal.

  12. Such a beautiful post and tribute. I love how you chose to take something so incredibly sad and difficult and find a way to live your life with meaning and purpose and give your family the very best example of faith in God. Prayers for you and your family this holiday season

  13. This post brought tears to my eyes and shivers to my heart. I can’t imagine how difficult that time was, and I’m sure that day brings sadness every year. But you always power through, and your love for your family and your commitment to making the most of every day shines through.

  14. Dear Amanda, My second child…also a son, was stillborn. Like your Matthew, tiny and perfect in every way. It will be 38 years just after Christmas. And for me taking down the tree, which was always sad is even more so because that is what we did the day before he was born. Thirteen months after he was born, we had another daughter. I have lived life counting the many blessings my two girls have brought me. And now I am even more blessed with the 2 granddaughters and 2 grandsons they have given me. But, there will always be a special part of me that looks for the baby that never came home that holiday season, and I know exactly how your life can change. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

  15. So beautiful, Amanda. Your boys will know their brother through your traditions and how you keep him in your heart. And he will continue to live in the hearts of the next generation also through John and Whit. Kyleigh and Ryder talk of their Uncle Matt often and love wearing his loved #35, although they never knew him. Prayers for your family this week.

  16. Reading of your loss both moves me to tears, and makes me feel incredibly grateful for my own family. What a comfort your words must bring to anyone who has lost a child.

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