"The love, the love is overwhelming. It's huge, and, at least for now, it's painful. I realized a little bit ago that I love my children exactly the same, exactly the way a mother should-- the same. It's strange to love these two people the same-- one who I have watched grow for five years, and one I only got to hold after he was gone. It took me several weeks to realize that, and for now it hurts. It hurts because there is nothing I can do to show my son this love. I hope it gets better with time."
This comment made me ache.
The desperate love I had for my son and the awful feeling that I had no way to lavish it upon him after he died made me crazy in those early days. I think it's why I spent so much time choosing his grave marker, and why it felt like the most important thing in the world for me to do. I believed it was all I could do. Ever.
Because the love you show to a baby is so physical. We kiss, we hug, we tuck in, we rock, we nurse, we pick up, we swaddle, we cuddle. Our bodies are in almost constant contact with a newborn, as they were when we were carrying them.
So when your child dies and you find yourself with empty arms and too much time, that terrible and confusing feeling of having all that love and no one to give it to is agonizing.
It's probably why I still occasionally find myself tucking in My Beloved - a 37-year old man who is quite capable of pulling the blankets up by himself.
But as time has passed, I've settled in to a comfortable rhythm with Thomas. When I let myself think about it too long and too hard, my arms still find themselves empty and useless, but most of the time they don't. My love for him is about more than what I can physically do for him. It's about so much more than that - as is every mother's love.
I talk to him. A lot, actually. And I remember him and love him with a fierce passion I can't begin to put into words. And I keep his spirit alive by speaking his name - by making him part of conversations with family and friends. And, of course, I write about him here.
My greatest fear has always been that he'll just fade away, eventually becoming something people are too uncomfortable to talk about. By keeping him alive as part of my life, I show my love for him. Every day.
And Julia, you do too. I know you do.
As Thomas' birthday draws near, I've been reminded in a very tangible way that people do remember our beautiful boy, and I'm more grateful than I can adequately express for the comfort and happiness it brings me.
It's not even his birthday yet, and donations have been made to:
United States Fund for Unicef
St. Jude Research Hospital
Children's Wish Foundation of Canada
The Heifer Project (a donation of a flock of geese to a family in the third world)
St. Louis Zoo (a sea lion adoption)
Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (for pediatric cancer research)
A hospital's NICU (local to the donor)
Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis
S.O.S Children's Village, BC (Family care service for Foster children and Foster families)
B.C. Children's Hospital
Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago
Red Cross (Blood donation)
Make A Child Smile
TEARS Foundation (offers financial funeral assistance to bereaved parents)
A donor's Church's school (which aids community youth)
Walk America (March of Dimes)
I don't take any credit for the incredible and overwhelming generosity of the people who have made these donations in Thomas' memory, but I do believe that the love that My Beloved and I show for him is at least a small part of the reason why people are moved to specifically remember him.
So I know that he sees my love - and I know he feels it. It's not your average mother/son relationship, true, but it's every bit as strong, important and real as it would be if he was still here.
And it always will be.