March 16th, 2017. Somehow we made it a year since he was born and I have no idea how it happened; I’m not sure I participated in the world beyond showing up on autopilot, paying bills and making an occasional appearance with friends. I’ve gone around in circles, chasing my tail over what to say here because nothing feels right; I should be able to tell him right here in front of me. We should be able to celebrate together as a family with cake and decorations and a theme that would make him smile so hard he’d close his little squinty eyes. The only gift I have for him today is the same one I’ve received from him each of the days since I held him – sharing lessons I’m learning as his daddy, hoping to touch just one person in a way that carries his legacy forward.
Through everything, I’ve learned that I don’t have to be the same person I was yesterday let-alone who I was before we lost our two children together. I’m not anywhere near as productive – personally or professionally – and I certainly don’t have the same level of patience that I used to. I’ll never be who I was before my children but it isn’t because of grief or loss or any of that stuff; it’s because I’m a dad now. It’s something that I’m proud of it, all this other baggage be damned.
I’ve learned that grace is one of the most important things we could give, be-it for myself or for others. It isn’t about forgiveness, understanding, or accepting but about room to grow. Each day has its own lessons and struggles and I’m stronger today than yesterday because I’m allowed to heal my heart through messages sent on Jonah’s wings.
There are things that I’m somewhat grateful he’ll never have to experience like the rest of us. Mending a broken heart, in love or in friendship. Discussing racism and prejudice, and how to combat them in today’s world. Holding onto integrity when it’s the last thing you want to do. My heart burns with the fire of a thousand flames to watch him grow into the kind of man who builds bridges while others around him are being torn down, but I’ll gladly settle for watching his spirit give a voice to people who felt it had been taken from them. Nothing will ever fill his void, but I hearing his voice jump from these pages gives flight to my soul.
I understand a relationship with God differently than I used to. Where I had been introspective and thankful, I am now angry but still hopeful. The premise that being in Heaven is better than in his parent’s arms is conflicting – while nothing could be better than in the arms of our maker, I don’t know that I would ever be glad not to have him in my arms. I clench my fists in rage while I raise them to the heavens, thankful to have such a God who heals him in a way I never could but broken hearted that I will never get the chance. I pray with a frustration that is ever-present even while I’m listening for just a glimpse of my son in response. The days are hard and many are long, but my faith will carry me through in both sunlight and in rain. A love between father and son is strong, even more so when it’s a son and the Father.
More than anything else though, I understand the bond between parent and child. I realize how hard we all work to do the best thing for our children and how we all pretend to have an idea of what we’re doing, whether they’re here in front of us or in our hearts. Jonah has brought such depth to my soul in this last year and has helped me find ways to deal with grief I have held onto for most of my life, and that’s a gift I’ll never look beyond. He was with us for 37 weeks. We held him for six hours. His lessons carry on forever.
Happy Birthday, my sweet Jonah. I’ll never stop loving you