I woke up with a heavy heart this morning. Our girls woke up with a feeling of excitement. It is a birthday. Thomas’ birthday.

I wonder why I feel so sad. It has been eleven years since the day of our baby’s death. Surely that is enough time to get over the grief? I have come to the conclusion that grief never really disappears. It is put into a compartment where it becomes manageable, hidden under layers of more immediate concerns. Life moves on and joy and hope return. It looks like grief has gone. Then a crack may appear and all the pain and suffering seep out to once again cause a heavy heart. This can happen on those expected days like anniversaries and birthdays, days like today. But sometimes sorrow can return in a flash when I am quite unprepared.

I remember talking to a friend last year about the time I spent in hospital with Thomas. I shared a room with three mothers who were all busy with their newborn babies. The babies were breastfeeding or snuggling up to their mothers or sleeping peacefully in their cribs. But there was no baby and no crib by the side of my bed. Thomas was a few floors away in the neo-natal intensive care ward. The other beds in the room were surrounded with flowers and presents and cards and visitors. The mothers were on and off the phone accepting congratulations. As I was telling this story to my friend, a huge wave of sorrow engulfed me and tears streamed down my face, much to my surprise. And the cause of the pain? The memory that we didn’t receive even one congratulations card. Unlike the other mothers, no-one had congratulated me on the birth of our son.

Thomas died and there were endless expressions of sympathy. Our home was filled with flowers and sympathy cards and home cooked meals. Everyone offered help and prayers and their time just to listen. We were so blessed.

So why is the absence of a congratulations card so important? I didn’t even realise it was that important until the conversation with my friend. I think I just wanted someone other than us to be glad Thomas had been born. I wanted him to have the same welcome into the world that all the other babies had been given. I wanted everyone to be happy that we had a third son instead of just feeling sorry he’d died. My friend’s empathetic ear had stripped away all those protective layers over my heart, and sorrow bubbled over.

But today I expected my heart to be heavy and it is. We have had our usual picnic outing to the cemetery. We have taken birthday photos of all the children around Thomas’ grave. We have given him a new bear which we have called Mary McKillop and we have all written in a birthday card which we tied to the flower bowl by his headstone. There will be birthday cake for dessert tonight. Yes, we have celebrated our son’s birthday.

Thank you, God for the gift of our son. His life may have been short, too short in order for us to be congratulated but it was long enough to realise how blessed we are, and to want to celebrate this special day year after year.

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  1. Hi Sue, we may not remember his exact B'day but we do pray to him to intercede for us with the Most High. He is fully grown in Heaven and he has the full beatific vision, full of Grace. I know you grieve because you miss him and want to be with him but he is always with you and loves you completely without all the hiccoughs of childhood disciplinary moments and teenage rebellion etc. A perfect relationship, wouldn't you say, God Bless you and your family on this day, Toni and family

  2. Thank you, Toni for sharing my Thomas story. And for taking the time to comment. Your words are very true. We have been friends for a long time now. I am blessed to have friends who were with us in those Thomas days and are still here with us today. May God bless you and your family, Sue

  3. My Celeste's birthday is this coming Monday. I know so well what you are speaking of - you put it so well!
    People still say, "I'm sorry she died" and I say "I'm happy she lived."
    Thank you for sharing. Please keep me in your prayers, especially in the next week.

  4. Thank you for sharing my story, Cathy and understanding. Imagine the joy of Celeste and Thomas together in heaven with God! Though our mothers' hearts are full of love and gratitude, we still sorrow. Yes,I shall keep you in my prayers. May God bless you.

  5. I can relate. However, I had an aunt who lost a teen-aged daughter. She spent many years in a grief group and met a woman grieving the loss of her baby and she expressed the same feeling... that there were no congratulations sent for her baby. I received one and only one congratulations card when our son was born in the summer of 2007 - from that very dear aunt. Isn't it interesting how through grief we learn how to help others in their grief?? SO, to you I say (12 years later...)

    Congratulations on the arrival of Thomas! Your life will be forever changed, but I am sure you will cherish every moment. Wishing you joy and blessings!! Best Wishes today... and always.

    You can tuck this little comment (from an unknown kindred soul) away for any time you want to look back and feel the joy of having a baby to love. :)

  6. Elm, it is great to meet a kindred spirit. What you say is so true: "through grief we learn how to help others in their grief??" It is not until we experience the pain of grief ourselves that we can really understand how the bereaved are feeling.

    You said you had a son born in the summer of 2007. It sounds like you are a bereaved mother too. Thank you for your congratulations! Yes, Thomas changed my life forever. And I will add my congratulations to that of your aunt. She sounds a very special person.

    Thank you for sharing!


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