Happy 10th Birthday, dear son! 10 always feels like a milestone birthday -- a whole decade, double digits, last year you can tell people how old you are by holding up fingers. With this birthday it takes on an even bigger significance as it's been 10 years since I got to snuggle you and see your perfect face and hold your hand and pray over you and sing to you. A decade since I was able to greet you with "Hello sunshine!" and feel that joy wash over me of seeing you again after leaving the CICU for a meal or for the night. That's a long time to be separated. A quarter of my life -- which feels impossible. Too long for this momma's heart. And yet, I know without question that this is the story God has written, and it is a beautiful story, so 10 years is just as it should be. But it does feel so long to me.
Believe it or not, your bothers and sisters started school today! I can't help but wonder how you would have felt about sharing your birthday with the first day of school. Maybe you'd be like Anna and think the start of school is the best.thing.ever, and so having your birthday today would be utterly amazing. Or maybe you'd be more like Eliza who would really rather not go back to school and would surely grump about school commencing on her birthday. Perhaps a breakfast donut with candles would have helped to ease the blow? However you would have felt about it, I am not a fan. Too many emotions in one day!
On Friday we went to Egleston with 22 dozen cookies to say thank you to the remarkable people who work in the CICU. Not surprisingly there has been so much turnover in 10 years that we only saw one person working who took care of you, and he was the overseeing doctor of the unit back then, so I'm certain he doesn't remember us. But then to our delight Nurse Richard drove out just to see us! We met him in the garden, and it was so good to hug him and see him and thank him for his tremendous care of you and of us. Samuel, he was so good to you and our family. He was patient, gentle, thoughtful, attentive, and so kind. I have half a dozen "Richard was amazing" stories, but my favorite was the day Caleb and Joel finally got to come and meet you. Previously your brothers hadn't been allowed on the unit because of a prevalent illness at the time, but they made a somewhat hard-fought exception when we all knew you were dying. By God's grace, Richard was our nurse that day. Your dad and I were in some turmoil because not only were Caleb and Joel going to see a puffy, sick baby brother, but we had to tell them you were probably not going to get better and that you were dying. When Dad and I arrived on the unit that morning, Richard had two gift bags. He told us you asked him to go to the gift store to buy your brothers each a present -- an ambulance and a fire truck. He handed the bags to us to decorate and then when the boys came back to meet you, Richard gave you all the credit. It was your idea, he said -- he was just doing what you asked him to do. I have tears pouring down my face as I remember it. We were so moved by his thoughtfulness. And he greeted your brothers with gentle joy and love and even tried to take them up to see a helicopter, but there wasn't one currently there to go see. I will never forget his many kindnesses, and seeing him last week was the best thing a visit to Egleston could have held.
I wonder what you would have been like at 10. Your siblings are so different from one another, that I imagine you'd be uniquely you, too. Verbose or of few words? Calm or wired? Joyful or more serious? Impulsive or reflective? I don't know, but I do know I would have loved you just the way you were -- just how God made you. And I do. Though I don't know those things about you, I do know God made you just right, and I am wild about you. My love for you doesn't fade as the years go by, and your place in our family doesn't diminish. We're forever knit together, forever mom and son, forever better because of each other. My heart is full of love and gratitude for you. You have made our family a richer, deeper, more connected, more forgiving, more joyful, more trusting of our good God family, and I am so thankful for you!
Happy Birthday in Heaven sweet one! I hope you get to celebrate by doing what you love -- leaping through fields or talking someone's ear off or reading a great book or throwing a ball or singing to Jesus or creating a masterpiece or soaking in a quiet sunrise. Whatever it is you love, I hope your day holds it. I look forward to one day celebrating your birthdays with you in Heaven. Will you show me all the things you love there and introduce me to all your friends and let me shower you with hugs and kisses even if you're a grown man? I hope you will. Because I can't wait to share in all the wonder with you.
I love you, Samuel Erik Apinis, and I always will. Happy 10th, my love,