November 22 in 2007 was Thanksgiving day. It was also the day I gave birth to my precious, angel, stillborn son Matthew. It was a long and sorrowful labor lasting about eighteen hours in total. He was the tiniest baby I’d ever seen, and also the most perfect. I treasure the few hours I had to hold him, and used every second of that time to memorize his face, hold his little hand in mine, and marvel and the perfect son we would never grow to know. Those couple of hours had to be enough to last a lifetime.
I came home from the hospital broken, physically and mentally. I vividly remember walking in the door of our home 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, knee socks and bucks, 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 shining light in what felt like an abyss of darkness and loss. Every year since then, I decorate early and then I light up all of the trees in the wee hours of his birthday morning. Now that the boys are grown and sleep in, I do this alone. It is peaceful and poignant.
Losing Matthew was the impetus for a tremendous change in the way I lived my life and the way I parent 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. We celebrate everything. We prioritize family. We say “yes” as often as we can. We go and do and see and smell and try and learn and taste and experience. We are thankful for every day we get.
For many years after his birth, I could hardly function on Thanksgiving. Time does heal all wounds. Today, on Matthew’s birthday, I spent the afternoon preparing for a SURPRISE “sweet” sixteen for John this evening. When coordinating this with John’s friends, I had to blink a few times before I read his bestie’s text “the best day for everyone is Nov 22.” I wanted to say, “that’s the worst day for me,” but I took a deep breath and typed through welling tears “That will be an amazing day to celebrate John!” I have never doubted the timing of Matthew’s birthday and I marvel at the fact that John’s birthday falls just four short days later. For fourteen years now, my pendulum swings from the pits of despair at losing one son, to the pure joy of celebrating his brother in a matter of days (and sometimes minutes). God’s plan is the perfect plan.
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 joy, laughter and unconditional love.
Thank you, friends, for coming here to offer your love and support each and every year. I will reserve November 22 to remember Matthew for as long as I write this blog. When you lose a child that only you knew, the feeling of loneliness can be consuming. Having all of you remember him too is an extraordinary feeling. <3
DIXIE DELIGHTS DELIVERED