It happened eight days before Lucy’s birthday this year. My own personal, gray grief cloud rolled in to hang out with me through my every move. Dread set in, sadness, and a paralyzing apathy towards normal things in life. I stopped caring about the growing laundry heap, working out, leaving the house, accomplishing anything. I could most often be found in my pjs, binge watching One Tree Hill on Netflix whenever I was alone.
Lucy’s second birthday was on January 28th, three days ago. It was hard and I was so sad, but it wasn’t nearly as crushing for me as her first birthday was. I had gone to the store with Oliver and Ezra the day before to pick out some new flowers for her grave. We have previously always purchased flowers from the cemetery, but they are never quite what I would choose. So this year, I browsed the aisles of Hobby Lobby and grabbed two of each flower I liked, because she would be two.
Shaun’s boss is so kind, and she gave him the day off of work on Lucy’s birthday. I was so thankful for that, because I needed him. We pulled Oliver out of pre-school and headed to the cemetery, as a family, as soon as we woke up in the morning.
Going to the cemetery in January is the hardest time of year for me to go. The cold, nearly frozen ground, bare trees, and gray sky takes me back to burial day, the second worst day of my life. But once I am there, standing in front of her spot, reading her name and the Bible verse on her marker, holding my boys, I am okay. Oliver decorated some rocks for her with stickers and we blew some kisses to his little and Ezra’s big, sister.
Shaun and I have talked about Lucy’s birthday a lot, discussing what we want it to be for her and for our family. It is very important to us to make sure to take the day to stop and celebrate her. It is only our second year so we are feeling our way through it. Both years we have spent the day with just us and our kids. We visit her at her grave, the kids release a white balloon up into the sky for her, and we spend the day together. The boys are still too small to completely understand, but as they grow we want them to know that her day is special, just like she is, and that we love her and miss her so much. We want them to know that even though she is not here with us, she is still and will always be their sister.
There is a range of things that people do and ways they celebrate their babies who have died. We are still not sure where we will land on the celebration spectrum. A full-out pink party with guests just does not feel right for us, because the birthday girl will not be showing up. But treating it just like any other day does not feel right to us either.
This year we visited Lucy, we picked up some cupcakes from Sprinkles and sang Happy Birthday to her. We had dinner at Chick-Fil-A because we thought it would be a likely choice for a two-year-old. In the afternoon I sat on my bed and looked though her wooden box filled with all of the things we have to remember her by: photos, a lock of her hair, her still birth certificate, her footprints. I pulled up some photos of Oliver at his second birthday, remembering how big he was and what he was like back then. I wish I could see her face and know what she looks like at two. When I think of her, she is still a tiny baby in my arms.
There is a lot I am not sure of, exactly how to celebrate her birthday, how to make sure the boys know about her even though they never met her, how to hold hands with my January grief cloud, how to face every single day without her, etc. But, there are some things that I am sure of; I am not alone in this, there is not a wrong way to do this, Lucy is still my daughter and her little life has mattered a great deal, and God is with me. Sometimes I underestimate that last one, God is with me.
A friend of mine sent me a sweet gift and a card for Lucy’s birthday. We were chatting over text messages and she mentioned that she found a verse on one of my blog posts and that it was the same verse that she felt led to put on the flowers that she sent to us when Lucy died.
“For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’” Isaiah 41:13
She said to me, the Lord obviously wants you to know He is with you.