Monday, August 1, 2011

Samuel's Second Birthday

Dear Samuel,

Happy 2nd Birthday, my little love!  How I love and miss you.  Today you would be turning two if you were here on earth.  I have no idea how time works in Heaven -- or if it even exists.  I don't know if you're growing up in Heaven, if you arrived there already grown, if you'll be a baby forever, or some other option I don't even know to consider.  But here on earth we are celebrating your second birthday and thinking of wonderful, sweet you.

Tonight we are going to the Thiels' for dinner and a little celebration of your life.  We will have a birthday cake that I baked and Daddy and your brothers decorated.  Joel wanted Grim from Cars 2 on it, and Caleb wanted something "a little gentler and calmer," so he picked a sunshine and clouds.  We will also each write a message to you on a balloon and release them.  I think we'll play some fun games as well and just spend time be grateful for your life, that YOU came into this world on August 1, 2009 and forever blessed and changed our lives.  I wish you could be there with us, eating birthday cake and getting covered in frosting, giggling at the silly games we play, and opening presents just for you.  But I know this day in Heaven is better than a thousand of the best birthdays on earth, so I rejoice for you.

I am so glad that you have a birthday 30 days removed from your death day -- that it's a day I can spend in true celebration of your life and how God gave us you.  It's easy for me to smile today because I am so deeply thankful, so genuinely glad that you came into this world.  I smile when I remember that you were born because you are one of the greatest and most profound gifts of my life.  I am not sure that anything or anyone has impacted and changed me as much as you have.  You have shown me God in ways I couldn't have imagined.  You have sealed my heart to His in an irrevocable way.  You have enabled me to trust God with all my heart and to joyfully accept His path for my life.  You have taught me to find hope and joy in the hardest and darkest of days, to keep my feet firmly planted on the unwavering Truth of God and not stumbling through the unevenness of life and circumstances beyond my control.  And your life has opened my eyes to what the body of Christ should be.  I am still in awe of how our friends and family have grieved with us in our grief and rejoiced with us in our joy.  Your daddy and I have experienced Christ's body at its very best because of you.  And you, Samuel, taught me to love with abandon, not withholding love for fear of pain or loss ahead but simply bestowing it, showering it on you.  I will never, ever regret loving you with all my heart, and I will never, ever wish away a single moment of your life and the time I spent with you.  Those hard, painful days are among -- perhaps they are -- the most precious, holy, beautiful moments of my life.  I cannot possibly thank God enough for you and your life, Samuel Erik Apinis.

We do have good news in our house these days, Samuel.  You have a baby sister!  Anna Patricia Apinis joined our family 5 weeks ago, and she is a true Beauty as your brothers named her and call her still.  She is 23 months younger than you -- which is how far apart Caleb and Joel are.  I can't help but wonder what life would be like if you were here too.  I'm sure I'd be far busier with little two year old you to chase around.  Daddy and Caleb were imagining what it would be like if you were here, and they envisioned Caleb calling downstairs, "Daddy!  Samuel's on the steps again!  I'll help him." and Joel shouting, "Momma!  Samuel broke my toy!"  It's not hard to imagine.  I wonder if you would be enamored with your baby sister like Caleb and Joel or if you'd find me hard to share and be pretty ambivalent to the little baby crying in our house.  I sure wish Anna could grow up knowing all her big brothers, and it makes me teary every time I think about how she will never meet you in this life.

We are all crazy about Anna, and she has been a healing balm for our souls as we miss you, but she will never replace you, sweet son.  Your place in our family is forever.  Always you will belong with us.  Always you will be our third child, our one and only Samuel.  Not a day will go by when I won't think of you and miss you and look forward to seeing you again one day.  My heart will treasure you all the days of my life.

Yesterday at church I had Anna with me in the service.  She was sleeping contentedly in her carseat, and I had planned to leave her in there.  But when the band started playing "Blessed Be Your Name," I immediately bent over and pulled Anna out, tears streaking down my face.  I needed to hold your baby sister as I sang the words to that song, which we sang at your memorial service.  I needed to cuddle her close as I sang:

"Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out,
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord,
Still I will say,

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name.

You give and take away.
You give and take away
Still my heart will choose to say,
Lord, blessed be Your name."

Your death is "the road marked with suffering," my "pain in the offering," and Anna's life epitomizes "the sun shining down on me."  I can't sing this song without thinking of you and your baby sister.  Each of you is a blessing God has poured out on me, and each of you has taught me to turn blessing into praise.  God has given, and God has taken away, and your life, Samuel, has solidified my faith in a good God to whom I can say, "Blessed be Your name."

Samuel,  I love you.  Happy Birthday, my two year old boy.  I shudder to think  of my life without your fingerprint on it.  I miss you.  I am so  thankful for you.  Happy Birthday, dear little love of mine!

Love, Momma

Our few seconds holding Samuel after his birth before he went to the NICU

Caleb, Bryan, and Joel with Samuel's 2nd birthday cake


  1. Hello. I have been following your blog off of a friend's blog for sometime now. I just wanted to thank you for sharing your journey. Our family praises God for your sweet Samuel and for the lessons we have learned through your journey. We are praying for your family today.

  2. I just had to stop by on Samuel's second birthday and tell you what a profound impact his life has had on mine.

    I've wanted to write this so many times, but I've never been able to find the words.

    My son, Alex, was born just 25 days before Samuel (and my son, Andrew, just 24 days before Anna). Alex is my firstborn, and when he was born, I was not prepared for the fierceness of love that accompanies having children or the flood of emotions that comes with becoming a parent for the first time. I followed your blog from the very first days and cried with every entry you and Bryan wrote. I simply could not imagine.

    From the first entry I read, I was captivated by yours and Bryan's faith. Even the faith that Caleb and Joel seemed to have stirred my heart. It made me evaluate my own relationship with Christ and see that I had drifted off course where He was no longer center. I was inspired to start finding my way back.

    Samuel's life was just wonderous to me. He opened my heart to a deeper, more intentional love for my family. He taught me to never, ever, ever take even the most difficult of days for granted. And his sweet memory often reminds me to cherish it all and to soak it all in while I can because tomorrow isn't a guarantee for any of us, and I don't want any regrets for how I spend my time.

    There are few things in my life that have impacted me the way that Samuel's life has. And I will be forever grateful for how he's made me a better wife and, most especially, a better mother.

    Happy birthday to your sweet boy. And congratulations on your newest joy.

  3. This is a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing this letter for us to read as well. Think of you all often and rejoice with you in the life of Samuel and the gift of Anna! Much love to your family.

  4. Thank you guys for the encouraging words and the prayers. It is a blessing to know that Samuel's life has made a difference. It always lifts my heart to hear that he has blessed or challenged or changed someone. So thank you for sharing -- truly!