I didn’t write a post last week on Ezra’s birthday. This was partly because we tried to keep that day gently busy, and partly because I didn’t know what to say. How do you mark the birthday of a lost child? The actual worst day of your life? Like so many other things about this process, it’s a matter of figuring out as we go along and inventing the rituals as we encounter the holes.
I could never have imagined how much I would miss my son, and how that loss would change shape over time. It gets deeper and wider even as the sharpness fades, with every milestone he doesn’t pass and every detail I don’t know about him. My daughter loves Cookie Monster and blackberries and lift-the-flap books, she nods seriously when you ask her a question and claps whenever she hears music. I know so many things about her and I learn something new every day.
But my son, my firstborn, that tiny, tiny boy who weighed so little in my arms….what I know about him is all I’m ever going to know. I know more about what was wrong with him than anything else. The details I have I hoard, to feel like his mother in whatever ways I can. He had brown hair, my mouth and chin, long fingers and chubby knees. The rabbi named him in the hospital, so that we could welcome him to our family in the only way we had left.
So many other times of the year are coloured by loss, something that we already knew from being motherless. There’s a gap at the table at Christmas, holes in birthdays and Easter photos and Passover Seders. It’s a constant thing that you learn to honor quietly and move on.
But his birthday – it feels like his birthday should be just about him. We visited the cemetery a few days before, and on the actual day we started a new ritual. We bought Ezra a birthday balloon and let it go in the local park, a place we had hoped to visit with him. We told Moose about the brother she will not meet (although, understandably, she was more interested in the balloon), and we stood quietly together, letting that moment be what it is, whatever it is. I’m not sure what it is.