It has been fifteen years since the Thanksgiving morning when I delivered my stillborn son, Matthew. 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 share this story every year on his birthday for two real reasons. One because I could never think of anything else to write about on November 22. That one day immeasurably changed me – my life, my priorities, my heart and my family. And two, because I hope above all hopes that my story and struggle can reach someone else when they find themselves in the depths of despair feeling like they may never again be normal or whole again.
When you lose a child I believe you stand at one of the greatest forks in the road. There are two paths and only you can choose the one you take. Your loss can become your crutch – your reason for why everything is so hard, so incomplete, so not how you imagined your life. Or your loss can become your light. Matthew changed me more than any one event in my entire life.
I let go of fear and worry (for the most part), and embraced love, patience and trust in God. I have 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.
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.
I always thought I’d have a big family, a bustling household full of love, chaos, laughter and disorder. For many years I entertained the thought of having another baby. Trying again. My head knew that I shouldn’t, with my blood clotting disorder, but my heart had other desires. I mentally came to terms with the fact this year that my family is complete. And I am SO blessed. I am closer to grands than to having more children of my own. It is often hard to reconcile the way you dreamed something would turn out with the way it actually did. Isn’t that the crux of so much heartache?
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. My precious son is in Heaven with Jesus, and that is a joy I don’t yet know. I am comforted by the promise that we will be reunited with Matthew in His presence. 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