One year ago today, I buried my baby.
It was grey and drizzly as we made our way from a nondescript funeral viewing room to a soggy graveside. As my husband and our fathers lifted the tiny, white casket out of the hearse, I couldn’t help but picture blue booties and a tiny baby clad in airplane pyjamas.
I had never gotten the chance to dress him, never seen him smile, or felt him burrow against my chest. I had never even seen the color of his eyes. And yet, here I was, saying good-bye.
A pile of red roses spilled out over the top of the casket; each flower carefully laid in memory of one we’d never met. We huddled under a tent and waited as a worker in coveralls gently placed Landon’s miniature box into a waist-deep, muddy hole. We watched until the pit was filled with sand and dirt, and a thick layer of browning grass pressed tightly on top.
These are my last memories of Landon.
Today, as I sit here remembering the weight of his little body in my arms, the tears flow freely. And on this sunny, August day, I feel as if we have come full circle. We have survived a year of “firsts.” We have tentatively bumbled our way through holidays, family vacations, and birthdays without one. And while we still hurt, our scabbing hearts no longer feel raw.
While it’s impossible to wrap grief into a tidy bow, we find ourselves in a place of quiet contentment – a place that one year ago, we could only dream of. Breaking through the rain clouds, we find ourselves standing on a patch of surprisingly green, solid ground.
But as the one year anniversary drifted closer, I knew that it would be yet another murky milestone to wade through. The past twelve months had vanished amidst a flood of baby milestones, late night diaper changes, and jars of pureed peas, but it had still been a long year.
Because a year without someone you love can feel like forever.
Sure enough, July crept up and caught me in a tangle of emotional flashbacks and wishful musings. Misty-eyed, I chopped carrots for dinner and imagined what life would be like with two babies army-crawling around the floor, sucking on spatulas, and banging wooden spoons against the dishwasher.
Is it possible to miss something you never even had? Because I do.
This world is substantially tidier and less chaotic than my daydreams. I miss the mess and mayhem caused by two. I dream of a bathroom mirror tattooed in handprints, and a laminate floor littered with blueberries flung from the fists of two giggling babes.
While I don’t have many memories of Landon to mourn, I have an abundance of daydreams.
And so, at this one year marker, I wanted to do something special to remember Landon. Setting aside our busy schedules, I decided that August 12 would be a dedicated “family day.” We would head to the zoo, the park, for ice-cream – anywhere as long as it was together. We would appreciate some of the many lessons that Landon has taught us: the importance of togetherness and the fragility of life. And we would remember.
This, of course, is easier said than done. After juggling vacation plans, I circled the date in my day-planner and simultaneously discovered that Andreas had been assigned to an intensive two day work project. Bye-bye, family day.
I felt frustrated. I had wanted to set aside a day to remember a life that had left such a definitive mark on our lives. I had wanted to be able to point to the calendar and declare that this was Landon’s day; that although we had nothing else left of him, here was something that belonged to our firstborn.
But these feelings gently fizzled away against the quiet reminder that our son will never be forgotten.
While the pain no longer throbs and burns, we still carry a rough scar that is mostly hidden, but forever etched into our lives. Landon has imprinted himself on our hearts. The memories cannot be erased. And the reminders – a ring around mommy’s finger, a baby boy who shares his brother’s DNA, and a tiny bit of daddy’s skin – are there whenever we need them.
This one year anniversary feels like a natural place to mark the end of a chapter. But just because a chapter is finished, doesn’t mean that the story is. There will always be days washed in memories and scattered with tears. There is a plot line that will forever weave its way into our story, however subtle. And as we turn the page and place pen against blank paper, we remember how we got to this place.
We remember Landon.