Tuesday, August 1, 2017

To Samuel on his 8th Birthday

Dear wonderful Samuel,

Happy 8th Birthday, sweet son of mine!  Each time a son of ours has turned 8, your dad and I have commented that 8 seems so much bigger than 7.  I don't know why exactly, but it does.  How can it be that 8 full years have gone by since you entered the world and changed us forever?  8 years feels like a long time.  For many people, 8 years seems like plenty of time to have "moved on," but as time continues to go by, I realize more and more clearly that there is no "moving on"; you are not something to move on from.  You are part of us.  Forever.  I felt that way in the beginning, of course, but the feeling hasn't changed.  You are our forever son.  Caleb, Joel, Anna, and Eliza's forever brother.

Grief has certainly shifted over the years.  For a long time it was the predominant emotion and experience of each day.  It pounded in my ears, dominated my thoughts, and was the lens through which I saw everything.  Gradually it lessened.  It ebbed and flowed.  It ebbs and flows still.  Eventually grief became the undercurrent of my life -- the steady rhythm beneath my feet but no longer the overpowering heartbreak in my face every second of the day.  And now grief is the quiet stream in my soul that, on days like today, can rise up and flood its banks a little, but it's no longer a tidal wave that crushes me and holds me under its power and might while I gasp frantically for air.

But sometimes grief does catch me unawares, like the last couple of days.  We visited Egleston Children's Hospital for our annual cookie delivery on Friday, and the day I spent baking was a tough one.  Tears sprang up, and my heart was heavy.  And the drive down to the hospital and the visit there were weighty and teary, too.  This time of year is always tender, but the last few years our annual trek to the hospital and your birthday coincide with the week school starts back up, and I struggle with that.  I lament the end of summer all summer long.  If you were here, you would know how much I love summer with your siblings home.  Sending everyone back to school is one of my least favorite times of the year, and when it's coupled with missing you extra lots, I get pretty blue. August is my least favorite month (with the major exception of your dad's birthday -- he's going to be 40!! this year!).  It's always a doozy for me.

This morning I woke up with my stomach in knots and feeling the weight of today and you not being here, but I went for a run (I swear sometimes I still can't believe I run -- and that it helps me feel better!), and decided to make Matt Redman my Pandora station because I knew I needed Truth today. Wouldn't you know the first song that came on was one I discovered shortly after you went to Heaven and became my favorite.  It starts with my favorite lines: "Who, oh Lord, can save themselves?  Their own soul can heal?"  And I was reminded anew that Jesus is the Healer of my soul, and He has already done profound healing in me.  And He won't abandon His work; He will continue to be my Healer.

To make today more fun, we met our dear friends at the pool for a few hours, which was a welcome bright spot.  This afternoon we'll go to meet-the-teacher for Joel and Anna, and then tonight we'll eat your birthday cake (I tried something new.  How do you feel about chocolate and strawberries?), and do our balloon send-off.  I am continually grateful for our traditions on your birthday.  They are comforting, and they give the day intentionality.  They help your dad and I remember and celebrate, and they help your siblings, too, stay connected to you.  And thankfully, your brothers and sisters seem to enjoy our traditions, which was what Dad and I hoped seven years ago when we put them in place.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to share your story at a women's retreat in California.  It was a great experience for me.  I was very nervous about getting up in front of a room of people to talk about you because I cry really easily in those situations and the first time I practiced it, I cried the entire 45 minutes, but God blessed my time of preparation and enabled me to share about you and many of the ways He has redeemed your story -- how He has brought such beauty from ashes.  It made me thankful in new ways for you and how God has written your story.  It really is beautiful.  You are one of my greatest treasures, and I'm so thankful God gave you to us.  And I'm thankful that the story isn't finished -- that we have Heaven together still to come.

In the meantime, I celebrate you.  I celebrate your birth, that you joined our family on August 1, 2009, and that your Dad and I will never be the same.  I celebrate all the beauty God has brought from our Samuel Erik Apinis -- not the least of which is what He has done in my own heart.  You, my sweet, are treasured, valued, cherished, and loved.  And, Samuel, you always will be.

I love you.  Happy Birthday, Samuel!

Love, Mom  (I'm thinking that 8 is probably about the time your brothers switched from Mommy to Mom, so I'll make the switch for you, too. :) )