19 September 2011

Ewan's 1st Birthday

I had no idea how I'd feel when I woke up yesterday.

I'm not the first mother I've known who, over the last several months, has marked the first birthday of a child she has lost. From what the mothers I know shared of their experiences, I had some ideas of what I might expect in terms of what I might feel. Never having celebrated a first birthday for a child of my own before, I had nothing to which I could compare it.

Writing the Photo Reflection series over this past week had me diving deep into some incredibly poignant and painful moments in the sixteen days that Ewan was with us, and in the many days that followed. The photos recalled memories not that had been forgotten, but that had faded in their particulars, lacking in the vivid detail that the photos inevitably sparked in my mind. In many ways, it seems like the events captured with our camera transpired decades ago and in others, it feels as fresh as yesterday. There were days I left my writing exhausted, weepy, and emotionally spent. It was not just about remembering things that had happened, but feeling all the things we did when it was all happening with the added weight of all we've experienced in the time that has passed since.

There were points during the week at week at which I looked ahead to Ewan's birthday with a sense of anxiety and foreboding. We weren't going to be there to visit Ewan ourselves. Instead of getting cake on his face with his parents capturing every moment, my one-year-old is buried some three thousand miles away from here. And here is another first we were missing out on. All of these things crossed my mind as Sunday approached.

But when the day came, it really did feel like a celebration. We were happy for the milestone. We felt grateful that his life was and is a part of ours, proud of who he is, and that he got to be ours. And oddly (or maybe not so oddly), I think the writing series of photo reflections and working on his tribute video -- delving into some key moments in our journey -- helped to make the day this way. The reflections recalled some painful moments, but they also reminded me of the beauty weaving through it all: a beautiful son who was so engaged with us at every moment, bringing more love into our lives than I could ever know what to do with. We both miss Ewan every moment of every day -- nothing is going to change that. But Ewan's birthday was a gift to us: a celebration of his life, a recognition of the beauty he brought into the world, and a day to be grateful for exactly who he was, is, and continues to be.

And you know what? I really could feel like he was celebrating and laughing, partying along with all of us. I'm a proud mama.

Back home in Washington state, my family and some of my friends were able to visit Ewan to mark the occasion, and they remembered and partied with Ewan, too. I sent some things to my Mom earlier this week so she could take them to the cemetery: a framed picture of his little sister, a T-shirt that proudly announces "I'm the birthday boy!", and a card. I also had flowers sent to mark the occasion.

visiting ewan for his birthday
Flowers, balloons, cupcakes, birthday attire, and a picture of his little sister -- all for the birthday boy!!
par - tay!!
I have to think that heaven-side, Ewan was giggling and partying right along with us.
I think Kaari's words for this photo were:
"Sorry, Austen. You don't stand a chance of not being kooky."
auntie kaari & grandpa dale party with the birthday boy
Auntie Kaari and Grandpa Dale: getting cake on their faces in honor of the birthday boy

We certainly had a party of our own! Our friends Kirk and Christianne joined us for a celebratory birthday lunch. Heavy rain stymied our plans to send Ewan his balloons from the park across the way, so we went back to eat some cake first instead. What can I say? Sometimes you've got to take one for the team!

cupcakes for the birthday boy
We sang happy birthday ... (Ewan would approve of chocolate cupcakes, don't you think?)
cupcakes for the birthday boy
And we ate cake!
sending off the birthday balloons
... and eventually the clouds and rain cleared to allow us to send off the balloons.

birthday diptych1
And here they go ...

birthday diptych2
And they're off!!

... and everywhere else!
But the celebration didn't end there. There was a whole party going on online! I just have to say ... there are so many people out there who have never met us personally. But because they've followed Ewan's story, because they know what it's like to lose a child, because they are wonderful, because they care, and/or (did I mention that they're wonderful?) just because they didn't want us facing this alone -- made sure that we knew that they remembered Ewan, too. Many Facebook friends changed their profile pictures to pictures of Ewan. People left notes and beautiful birthday wishes on our wall, and on the Team Ewan page on Facebook. I got some of the most beautiful e-mails. It was, in a word or two, breathtaking and beautiful. And humbling.

So, thank you. Really, really. Thank you. You truly added to the beauty and goodness of the day.

happy first birthday ewan
Looks like there's plenty of candle left for another first birthday!

It makes us even prouder to call Ewan our son, and to call you our friends.