Yesterday was your first birthday. Or what would have been your first birthday, had you been here to celebrate it. Instead, you are safe in the arms of God, which is the best place of all to be. I am glad that you are His, and that you are home, but I still miss you.
I have been dreading your birthday since you died. I didn't want a whole year to have passed, but of course it did, far too quickly. It seems like just yesterday that I was holding you in my arms. I expected this day, the first of a lifetime of birthdays without you, to be terrible.
But it wasn't. Sunday, the one year anniversary of the day you died, was very emotional and difficult. But your actual birthday ended up being quite lovely. I wore purple and put on a little makeup in your honor and spent the day visiting with various friends, going for a walk, and hanging out with your brother.
Every time I thought of you, it was only the happy memories that came to mind -- the way your hair was already dark and unruly like mine, the sweet pucker of your lips, the way your daddy buzzed you over to me making airplane sounds, the just-right weight of you in my arms even though you were so, so tiny. I remembered how much I loved you with this impossible love that made me believe in God all the more, and how happy and proud I was (and still am) to be your mother, even though I don't get to do the typical mothering things for you.
So when I look back on your first birthday, it feels happy.
I didn't expect that.
I think I figured out why your birthday felt so strangely lovely. I remember, back in the hospital with you one year ago, thinking that this was the easy part. That the hard part of the-rest-of-our-lives lay ahead in the grieving of you, and behind in the losing of you. But being with you (and when I say "you," I realize that it was not really you, but your body) -- that was easy. Because although it was sad, although you were devastatingly still and silent, it was still good. It was you and I and your daddy, our little family, and although you weren't truly present, it was the best we'd get for the rest this life, and so it became enough.
I remember feeling safe there in the hospital, with you so far and yet so close, with the future conveniently deferred. I'd survived birthing you, and death had not, as I'd feared, made you monstrous. You were my daughter, my firstborn, and although you were dead I had the mother glow.
I think that I have it still.
Because so much has happened because of you. Knowing you, and saying goodbye, have changed me -- are changing me -- and in more positive ways than I ever could have hoped for. Because of you, the way I think and act and feel and wait and love and speak and believe are different, better.
And did you know -- my friends and I, we are donating 100 books to the hospital to help other bereaved families in your name. One hundred families helped because of a girl that never breathed? If that's not a miracle, I don't know what is. It blesses my heart.
And something else -- my beautiful friends, both those from Before and those from After, who I met because of you, they remembered your special day and were not afraid to speak your name. My church family again showed what church really should be, entering the mess with God's great love to embrace me and remember you. I realized that because of how they have responded to your death has helped me to trust people, to trust what they say, in a way that I never have quite been able to do. Gift upon gift from you, because of you.
So here I am, one year later, still missing you but so very, very blessed because of you. I wish that you could have stayed, sweet girl, but death is not the end and one day we will be in God's arms together. Sometimes I wonder if we already are together -- if God is outside of time, along with Heaven, then could it be that we are all already home, just that our bodies haven't quite caught up? That my soul is both here and there at once?
It's crazy how much difference a year makes. That truth is both terrible and beautiful. A year ago, I wasn't sure that God hadn't forsake me. Now, it seems to me that no one else but Jesus could possibly make sense of this mess of a world we live in. I'm glad you are with Him.
I don't know how to end this letter to you, sweet girl. I opened up your memory boxes today and took out all the few things that belong to you -- the casts of your hands and feet, the wispy locks of hair, your tiny footprints. You were so small, so terribly small, all three pounds and three ounces of you, but you have inhabited my life in such a big way. I am grateful for you, and I love you (and your brother) more than I knew was possible. Happy birthday, my sweet girl.
“It is in the dark that God is passing by. The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by. God is in the tremors. Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can't see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us . . ."
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts