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.
DIXIE DELIGHTS DELIVERED