Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Samuel's First Birthday

Sunday was a pretty huge day for us, marking what would have been Samuel's first birthday.  Over the last 11 months, I worried a good deal about August 1st, 2010 and how it would go, how we would feel, and if I would have any dry-eyed moments.  I have to say, I was rather surprised by how the day passed in reality.  I knew what the day would look like as far as events were concerned, but I couldn't predict the emotions that would accompany the day, and that part made me downright nervous.  I feared a day of unstoppable tears and gut-wrenching churning in my stomach, the constant gnawing of grief in my insides.  But that's not really how I felt at all.  The day was bathed in peace, had many moments of joy, and included quite a few tears.  It was a blessed day, a quietly peaceful day where I could celebrate the birth of our Samuel and thank God for bringing him into our lives albeit it briefly. 

The night before we decided to skip church on Samuel's birthday morning.  We went back on forth on whether we should go, but in the end we thought it would make the day easier to stay home.  I'm glad we made that choice.  It enabled me to start my day peacefully, laying in bed and praying God's grace over the day, thinking about what the day would hold, remembering the start of August 1, 2009, and simply thanking God for our Samuel and asking Him to carry us through the day ahead.  If we'd been going to church, my day would have started with a flurry -- scampering out of bed to get in the shower before Bryan, so we could get the boys up, dressed, breakfasted, and out the door by 8:20.  I would have had to start my day by steeling myself for the gauntlet of sympathy and compassion, "I'm sorry's," and looks of pity.  Don't get me wrong, I so, so appreciate the love and support we get from our friends and acquaintances.  I wouldn't trade it for the world.  But it's hard to remain composed through all the hugs and sympathy, and I was so afraid that once I started crying, I wouldn't be able to stop.  Instead, Bryan went out and got us bagels for breakfast, a rare treat -- and the first gift from my mom's envelopes.  And we had a calm and quiet start to our day. 

At 11:15 we headed to my aunt and uncle's house for Samuel's little party they were throwing.  We walked in their door to hugs and smiles and joy.  They had planned a pirate party for Caleb and Joel, hoping to make the day a fun and happy one for Samuel's brothers.  They had costumes waiting for the boys and a treasure hunt all set up with burnt-edged clues and all.  It was precious, and the boys loved it, of course.   We played "pin the treasure chest on the island" and found hidden treasure. 

After lunch, we had Samuel's birthday cake that I baked and Bryan decorated.  Bryan chose to do a Pooh scene because we put a Pooh in the coffin with Samuel's body.  We didn't sing or blow out candles, but we ate Samuel's cake with smiles and joy.

Colleen had bought helium balloons and had sharpies out for us to each decorate a balloon to send to Samuel in Heaven.  It was a great idea.  We each had a balloon and either drew pictures or wrote a letter to our sweet boy.  Once we were all finished with our messages, we went outside and released them.  We watched them float up in the sky until the dots became so tiny our eyes hurt from straining so.  Somehow it was a comforting thing to do -- letting those balloons go.  I can't explain it and didn't expect it, but I think it was calming and soothing to all of us.  The Thiels were so kind to plan the party for us and to work so hard to make sure Caleb and Joel had a joyous time celebrating their little brother.  Bryan and I felt tremendously blessed by their effort and care.

We came home for the boys' naps, and I spent the next two hours reading my journal from last year, journaling about the day, and copying Samuel's birth story on to here.  It was good to spend that time remembering and thinking.

Once the boys woke up, we opened the presents my wives' group brought for them -- labeled "To Samuel's brother, Caleb" and "To Samuel's brother, Joel."  They loved doing that.  And then as a family we sat down at the computer and picked which World Vision projects to give Samuel's birthday money to.  Joel immediately wanted to give his portion of the money to help the children in Haiti, and Caleb chose to give his to help the vulnerable children in India.  I didn't lead them to either of those choices, but those are the two countries continually on my heart and in my prayers.  A friend with whom I used to teach sent us some money to add to Samuel's birthday funds, so we got to give even more to places we feel God has laid on our hearts.  The boys have loved giving Samuel's birthday and Christmas money to help those in need, and I love their enthusiasm and joy in doing it.

Then we ordered in pizza (part two of the day's envelope activity from my mom), and we spent a quiet evening at home.  When I tucked Caleb in, I asked him about his day, and he said, "It was good, Momma.  I had a good day."  The night before when I had tucked him in, I had started to cry and had said, "Caleb, I think tomorrow is going to be a hard day."  He worked so hard to comfort me.  He held me tight and rubbed and rubbed my arm, patting my cheek occasionally, doing everything he knew to soothe my heart and calm my tears.  When I pulled myself together and sat up, he burst into tears and sobbed and sobbed for a long time.  I scooped him up and did everything for him that he'd just done for me.  He told me how sad he was about Samuel and how much he missed him, and I just held him close.  I went and got one of Samuel's stuffed animals from his month in the hospital and gave it to Caleb to cuddle, and I moved his picture of him and Samuel on to his bedside table so he could see it easily.  He brightened up immediately to have those two tangible things by him.  So it was kind of a big deal that Caleb's assessment of the day was joyful and good.  In the end, it was my assessment too.

By the time I went to bed, I felt so thankful for a day that held mostly joy and a lot of peace.  The day was far gentler than I had expected, and it was very blessed.  Of course it was sad and had hard moments and many tears, but it was also genuinely joyful.  It was easy to celebrate Samuel's birth, for I am so glad he was born.  I am so thankful for how he has blessed and changed us, drawn us closer to God, deepened our hearts and our faith, and given us an appreciation for the simple blessings of life.  And I am so thankful for the month I had by his side.  Though the month was heartbreaking, it was also full of miracles and God's abundant presence, grace, faithfulness, and peace.  It was a holy month, and I would never trade even a moment of it for something else.  And so far this August I have felt buoyed up by the prayers of many -- just as I felt last August.  So...thank you, prayer warriors, and thank you, Jesus.


  1. What a sweet and thoughtful day and party to celebrate a precious life! So thankful that the day held so much joy and peace for your family. Continuing to think about and pray for you!

  2. Such a sweet way to celebrate Samuel...Caleb's tender, compassionate spirit comes through these blogs so clearly. And Joel makes a great pirate on a lighter note. I just want to hug that kid. Love you guys, praying for you today. My soul is so moved and encouraged by your authenticity in this both in the sorrow, joy, and faithfulness to the Lord.

  3. So glad that you all had a good day and that Samuel's birthday was a fun day of celebration. Sending you lots and lots of hugs tonight.