Monday, November 10, 2008

The rules of cake

Last night I got to thinking about the way people recognize the birthdays of the children they have lost.

I do it. Most of us do, in some way.

For me, it begins with cake. Every year on Thomas' birthday I make a small cake for My Beloved and I to share, complete with candles which we both blow out together.

We take the day off, do a special annual good deed in remembrance of our boy, have lunch together then come home for cake. There's a great deal of comfort in the repetition of this now annual rite; In wrapping ourselves in the warmth of shared love and collective sorrow as we take the same familiar steps every March 9th.

Some people release balloons, some make donations, some light candles, others take flowers to the place their child is buried or to the spot where their son or daughter's ashes caught the wind and swirled up to the heavens.

But more interesting than what we do, is the fact that we do something at all. I don't celebrate the birthdays of any other dead people. Well, except maybe Jesus - but his is kind of hard to avoid. And somewhat mandated if you're Christian.

I think about my Grandmother on her birthday, but I don't stop to ruminate on how old she'd be, what she'd be doing, what present I'd get her, how excited she'd be - or any of the other things I think about when Thomas' birthday rolls around.

Dead baby birthdays are a whole different animal.

Sometimes I worry that I'm walking the fine line between remembrance and morbidness (a fact that is in itself a hard thing to reconcile - that anything about your child should be even remotely morbid). Is it "off" to make a cake for a dead child? Is it strange to make a point of doing something to mark the day?

Maybe it is. But maybe only to people who've never had to.

The rules are different for the rest of us.

And until the world at large learns to feel more comfortable dealing with and acknowledging our sorrow, we'll have no choice but to continue making the rules up as we go along, teaching them to those who will never have to use them, and gently passing them on to those who will.


Naomi - I'm so sorry. In three and a half years I haven't read a story that is so much like my own either. I just wanted you to know I'm thinking of you.


Polka Dot said...

I think it's sweet and right to do something to mark your child's birthday. I think it's necessary - not just to honor that they were here, but to acknowledge what you've lost.

I'm almost embarrassed to say that I don't do anything to mark our daughter's edd. Maybe it's because we lost her so early? I don't know. I do find myself wondering about her, though - who's temperment would she have had? who's coloring would she have taken after? All of those things that would have made her who she would have been.

And I so desperately want to know who she would have been.

Shinyung said...

I think it is beautiful -- and what's so nice about it is that you and your husband take the time together to remember together. That has to be good for the soul.

Lori said...

Dead babies are different. We have so little of them... at least give us their birthdays... Maybe that's part of it?

I also think there is something to the loss of a child in general along these lines though. I have a friend who lost her son at the age of 5 and I know his birthday is very, very poignant for her (of course) and I do think they do something to honor him. I think it's because children and birthdays should go together. A child should have had at least all of their childhood birthdays. Maybe that is what we are trying to give them?