i should be planning your birthday party about now. i should be hiding presents from your eager eyes, negotiating how many things we can cram into one day and how many friends can participate. i should be explaining why you can’t get grenades for birthday gifts and agreeing that you shouldn’t have to do schoolwork on your special day.
i should be making yet another target run for balloons or streamers or the candy you want hidden in your cake. and while i often get overwhelmed trying to balance answering all of your demands with more realistic plans, i do truly enjoy making you feel special.
so obviously, there is a lot of emotion with this week. i can’t help but think about 7 years ago, waking up to contractions in the middle of the night, it becoming pretty obvious it was time to have a baby, calling a friend to come over and stay with our sleeping kids… and driving to the hospital (not nearly fast enough for me) and anticipating how much our world was about to change.
and then, watching the heartbeat monitors not recovering from contractions and listening to the nurses and doctor come rushing into my room time after time. that emergency c-section was scary. everyone moved so fast, so urgently.
you, of course, were fine. screaming your lungs out, but that was probably because surgery is a frigidly cold place. but you were fine.
i mean, you never slept, but you were fine. you were tiny and precious and completely perfect. i held you in that hospital room, thankful for you and thankful that in spite of a scary delivery, everything worked out ok. and i rode in the elevator, holding you on my lap and carried you out of the hospital and my world changed forever with your spunk and spirit and laughter.
we took you home to your older siblings who loved you fiercely and embraced you and delighted in you and just couldn’t get enough of you.
and i thought, or i guess hoped, that you’d always be fine. that you might cry and you might not sleep, but ultimately, you’d always just be safe and fine.
and then 6 years later, you woke up with a bad stomachache. and i still thought you’d be just fine. i mean, with 4 kids, we’ve had plenty of stomach flu in our house, and we all get through it and everyone ends up… fine.
and then i carried you into a hospital, still thinking everything was fine, but you know, just wanting to check and make sure. and they wheeled you down the hall for an ultrasound and discovered appendicitis. and then you had an emergency surgery and everything looked like it would be fine…
but then, it wasn’t.
and we transferred to another hospital… and you weren’t fine. and for a brief eternity, i had to wait in the hall while they did all kinds of things like central lines and intubation, and i listened to people run back and forth down the hall, rushing into your room. that PICU was scary. everyone moving so fast, so urgently. but still, i thought you’d be fine.
and then it seemed pretty obvious that daddy needed to get there quick and so we called a friend to come over and stay with our sleeping kids and daddy sped to the hospital as fast as he could, reading my texts begging him to “hurry.” and we couldn’t possibly anticipate how much our world was about to change.
one more hospital transfer, one last look in your eyes before the medical team took over and did everything they possibly could. everything.
but you weren’t fine.
you were gone.
and i laid in the hospital bed with you and hugged you for what could never be long enough, and i talked with amazing doctors who couldn’t figure out how this all happened. and your daddy and i looked at each other over and over again wondering, absorbing, crying… suffocating in disbelief.
and we walked out of that hospital without you. and i stood in an elevator, clutching your quilt (which you called a “kilt”) (those q’s… so hard to pronounce), the only item you asked to bring with you to the hospital. i hugged it tight to my chest. and i watched a woman get on the elevator and push a button and i couldn’t help but think, she has no idea how much my life has changed forever.
and i thought back to my first elevator ride with you. how did this happen? you were once so tiny, so little and helpless.
and daddy and i walked through the parking garage, trying to find a car that was parked in a hurry, and paid a parking attendant who had no idea we just watched our child take his last breath, and drove home in a daze. i’m getting text reminders about soccer pictures and people are driving past me living completely normal lives. and i have to go home and tell your siblings that the brother they loved fiercely, the brother with whom they spent every day of their childhood… laughing, arguing, joking… the brother they expected to come walking through the door with us, had died. and their life will change forever.
but before all of this… long before my first contraction, before my first ultrasound, before i ever even knew about you… before your first stomach pain that saturday morning, before your ultrasound discovering appendicitis, before i ever knew about septic shock, God wrote your story out in a book.
“you saw me before i was born.
every day of my life was recorded in your book.
every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.” psalm 139:16
God knew you would call yourself “motorhome” and “moose.” he knew you would spend the first year of your life crying and not sleeping. he knew you’d have a mohawk, and love cars and legos and explosions, and he put a special sparkle in your eyes that will live on in my memory every day on this earth.
he knew your entry into this world would feel traumatic and that your exit would feel premature and horrific. he knew how it would feel for me, but more importantly, he knew the truth. he knew the details of every day and the purpose in all of it. he knew that while i long to hold you longer and that while my first year without you is filled with more crying than sleeping, he would be calling you to heaven.
ultimately, i want what is best for you. no matter what, when the emotion and motherly desires are stripped away, the deepest part of me wants the very best for my kids.
and really, there is no better place for you. you are being held in the beautiful arms of Jesus, grasping the depth and beauty of an almighty God in ways i never could now, no matter how many days i spend on this fallen earth.
i see the parallels between your entry into this world and your exit from it. i see the juxtaposition of the joy and the heartache.
i long to see you again. i’m grateful for every sleepless moment i held you. and more importantly, i’m grateful for the arms that hold you now. the arms of a perfect Author who wrote a beautiful story.
so many things in this life are a mystery. and while i wish we were planning a birthday party and celebrating you, i’m thankful for the Author of your story, who gifted me with you for a time that wasn’t long enough, but was perfect nonetheless.
mason, you know what it is about your story that makes me the most grateful? that when the Author wrote out your 6 years and 18 days on this earth, he chose me to be your mommy.
He chose me.
i wouldn’t trade in the crippling grief of the last year if it meant missing out on the laughter, the joy, the naughtiness, the sparkle… the memories, of the previous 6. you are a gift, mason. a beautiful gift. and while i never expected that your years in eternity would begin before mine, i just want you to know, someday i will be there with you. and we will celebrate together. and no matter how many years have passed before i join you, and no matter how many millions of years we spend together with Jesus, you will always be my little boy.
happy birthday, mason.