My little guy would have been 3 today. Would he be walking yet? Talking? How big would he have been? Tommy is Forever One. He died 35 days before his second birthday. Last year, I was completely alone. It rained. I cried. I blew bubbles. I sang "Happy Birthday" between sobs to the ceiling as I lay in bed that night. It was such a sorrow filled day.
Tommy's birthday should be about life and joy, because that is what Tommy was. He was a flirt, he was a Ham. He was JOY. I don't know another word that described him so completely. Tommy had one birthday party in his life and it was amazing! He smashed chocolate cake and smeared his face with it. I cleaned him up in the bathroom at the park where we had the party. I didn't really plan that very well. I thought I would just be wiping his hands with a wet wipe. I did not expect to have to bathe him in cold water in a public restroom and dry him with scratchy paper towels while he protested the cold and turned a nice mottled shade of blue. I will never forget the scowl on his face. He was happy once he was dressed and back enjoying the sunshine, but for 5 minutes in that restroom, I was the enemy!
I want to share a very touching experience I had today. For the past couple of weeks, I have immersed myself in plans for my 20th high school reunion happening this weekend. It took my mind off of Tommy's birthday and missing him so much. But tonight my emotions got the best of me while I was at work and before I knew it, I was drying my wet eyes. As I am composing myself, a regular customer comes into the store. He buys scratch off lottery tickets and loses. He then asks my opinion on buying another, which he does. As he his scratching, I reach out to touch the jar sitting on the counter. Tommy's picture graces the front. My boss gave me permission to collect change to help with expenses. As I gaze down on Tommy's face, I realize someone has scribbled on the plastic with an ink pen across Tommy's face. Very annoyed, I speak out loud about who would do such a thing to MY baby! I reached for the glass cleaner and was able to clean it off.
The customer is shocked to learn the child is mine. My baby in Heaven. He quietly asks what happened and I give him the 4 second version. Softly, he begins to tell me of his own losses. His first child born 3 1/2 months premature passed away at 11 months old from SIDS. A second child miscarried, and a third also born premature doesn't live throughout the day. The oldest child, a girl, was born on September 26. One day after Tommy's birthday. I couldn't believe he had suffered so much loss. I don't think he's even 30 yet. He and his wife have been blessed with 2 healthy children now after all of their loss.
Shortly after he left, I had another customer ask me about Tommy. He shared that he lost a little girl when she was 3 months old. She had been a happy baby and never cried, not even when she was hungry. He and his wife went on to have 6 more children, the youngest a girl who turned out to look nearly identical to the daughter they had lost. He said sometimes it's hard to look at her because of the memories.
My tears were no more. I felt like God had placed these people in my path and let them share their stories with me for a reason. It softened the blow of missing Tommy. It let me know I was not alone. I spent the rest of my night at work in Joyful thought of Tommy. I am not saying I won't cry over him again. I will probably lose many tears tomorrow, but they won't be from misery. Sadness yes, but not misery. My misery has moved on. I am upbeat most days. The tears are farther and farther apart. Instead I have found that love did not stop developing when Tommy died. I love him more now than when he was alive. Not to say I did not adore my son when he was alive, but that love is ever changing and ever growing. I didn't know that was possible, but it is. My love for my son continues to grow.
Three years ago, my tiny son came into the world. Under the circumstances, we did not know if he would live through the birth. We thought he would be weak and frail. Boy, were we WRONG! Tommy entered the world with a lusty, loud cry! He APGAR'd at 9 and 9. Tiny lungs filled with air and his heart beat in a way that sustained his body. Our son was a miracle from the moment he was conceived. For 23 months, we got to enjoy his smile, his wit, his sense of humor and his unending love.
Happy Birthday, my sweet boy. I will hold you in my heart until I can hold you in my arms again.