As many of you know, this last Saturday, July 30th, was our sweet angel Everett’s 1st birthday in Heaven. As we spent our day as a family focusing on the many lessons his short life taught us we were reminded to take every moment we are given and cherish it as it’s our last.
It is hard to put into words what it feels like to celebrate a precious life taken from your family too soon and although we chose to focus on celebrating his life and not mourning his death it was still one of the hardest days of my life. A day, that I’m sure as the years go on without him will continue to bring just as much joy as it does pain.
Despite it all, I can say this, we felt him. We felt him in every moment we spent as a family on Saturday soaking up the time we have together in his memory. We felt him there with us honoring his first birthday as we made him a cake and his brother’s picked at it just like he would’ve for his smash cake session if he would’ve been born alive and well into our arms. We felt his light and laughter there with us as we sang him Happy Birthday and sent up his 1st birthday messages on a balloon to him in Heaven; sending all our love and kisses along with it. We felt him as we tucked his brothers into bed that night answering seemingly endless questions about their brother that continue to bring tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.
No matter where we are, no matter what we do, we will always feel his presence, he will always be a part of our family, he will always be celebrated. Everett may be our missing piece, but his memory will never be missing from our lives. Our children will grow up knowing and loving their brother awaiting them in Heaven; celebrating his birthday and honoring his short life here with us.
Just fifteen short weeks after our son Everett was born still into our world I find myself beginning to repair the heart I once believe to be broken for all eternity; the pieces may be clumsily glued back together with the love of my friends and family, forever tattered at the edges, but here I sit, just fifteen short weeks after Everett’s birth beginning to heal. I am dreadingly “moving on with my life” because, as a mother, I must face the facts: I am still here. I am still living, still breathing, still standing. Everett may be gone, but my life lives on and what kind of legacy would I be creating for him if his life & his death were my destruction. What kind of life would I be giving his brothers and father if I lived out the rest of my days wallowing in my grief and letting it consume me?
It’s simply the truth of life after child loss; your world crashes around you and comes to a halting stop. Your heart shatters into what seems like a million irreparable pieces. Everything changes and you feel like you can’t go on. But reality is, the world keeps spinning around you: a fact that often seems unfair and cruel in the midst of your grief. But I promise you, one day you will get out of bed, take a shower, and continue living in a world without your child. You will move on.
I know, I know, for many of you the mere thought of “moving on” without your child is unimaginable. We’ve been trained to believe that “moving on” means forgetting, but, let me assure you, it does not. Whether it is days, weeks, months, or years from now there will come a day when you can read this and see it for the truth that it is: Moving on does not mean forgetting. It does not make you a bad mother or lessen the love you hold for your child. A mother’s love surpasses time and space; a mother’s love continues from now until eternity from this life into the next. Nothing and no one can change that.
So, all you fellow bereaved Mommy’s out there (and I’m speaking to all you women out there who have experienced child loss, at any stage; whether through early pregnancy loss, miscarriage, still birth, or the loss of a child after birth) whose hearts are still beating in spit of being battered and broken do me a favor and repeat after me:
Four months ago, before the fated day we found out Everett’s heart had stopped beating, I was anxiously planning all the cute pregnancy photos we should take and how to do so without taking away from our recently promoted middle child’s 1 year photo shoot with the talented T. Marie Photography. Dreaming of how big my 6 month baby bump would be and all the adorable ways to announce if we were adding a little Mr. or Mrs. to our growing King crew. You see I am that Mom. The over sharer that uploads way too many pictures of her children on social media (Yes, I am aware of what I’m doing & No, I do not plan on stopping). The one who has her kids faces plastered over practically every free wall in their home. The one who gets yearly family photos taken several times a year and would pay whatever the cost for those priceless moments captured in time. The one whose life revolves around her children. Being a mother is my identity, it is what I was born to do; it is ingrained into my DNA.
My children are the life force that runs through my veins; their love and laughter is what fuels me through my hectic days and living without one of them is the hardest things God has ever placed before me. I wake up every day to a world where one of my children is dead. I know, I know, harsh words, but that is the reality that I live in and a lifetime of memories with my sweet sunshine babies won’t change that. Everett may have only lived 20 short weeks inside my womb on this Earth, but he is just as much a part of my soul as Jack and Lucas are. His DNA will literally forever be entwined with mine; it is called maternal fetal microchimerism and it is the most amazing biological after effect of pregnancy. The emptiness in my womb his death left behind is constant aching reminder of the life we must live without him.
In just three short months without him, that life has taken a toll on all of Everett’s family; but it has been especially hard on me. I am not the same mother, wife, friend, or person I used to be. I will acknowledge that some of that change has been for the better but the fact of the matter is, my reflection is no longer my own. Everybody grows and changes over the years, but this change was drastic, sudden, irreversible and unwanted. When I look in the mirror I no longer see the woman I used to be staring back at me; I am unrecognizable and everyday I pray to catch glimpses of my former self peaking through the dark clouds surrounding me. I pray to see the rainbow at the end of the storm; a sign of the promise God made to his people, a sign of His never ending love.
I found myself sending up that same prayer of hope in our driveway as I held onto the only piece of Everett we have left; our Everett bear. Instead of capturing my growing baby bump that day at Lucas’ 1 year photo shoot we would be capturing our family without Everett. Our Everett bear would replace my growing belly and represent our missing piece. I prayed that Tiffany would find the perfect way to honor and memorialize Everett and that I could look at these pictures and see love and light in our eyes; not pain and sorrow. I longed to see my family whole; not broken up and separated into the dead and living. I wished beyond all logical thought that somehow, someway, I could look at our family photo and not see a family ravished by the loss of a child.
Let me start by saying this: I know Tiffany is not a miracle worker, but I do believe she is one of the most genuine, caring, empathetic, God driven women I have ever met and that God sends people into your life for a reason.
That day, Tiffany captured our family; not a family torn between Heaven and Earth, not a family lost and finding its way through a life without one of its members, not a family trying to mend their broken hearts, but our family. She patiently (what can I say, my husband and children don’t love pictures as much as I do), captured the beauty behind our emotions. She capture smiles, tears, and tender moments of love. The pictures we received from Lucas’ 1 year photos where everything I dreamt of, everything I prayed for, everything our family needed. They will forever be loved and cherished just like our sweet baby boy and will serve as a reminder that God hears our prayers:
Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth. -Genesis 9:16