A Birthday Gathering

I apologize that this post is coming to you so late. I should have been posting this Tuesday night, on his actual birthday, but needless to say....that was a long day....and I needed time to process.

So, thank you for your patience. Here you go.....

A little over a year ago, on April 27, 2009, at 3:36pm, Ayden Brooks Jones was born to two young parents who were beyond thrilled to know that their first child had finally made his arrival into their world. They were smitten from their very first glimpse of him. He was absolutely beautiful and oh, so sweet. He weighed 7lbs 14 ounces and was 19 inches of preciousness.

I couldn't stop looking at him.....

I couldn't believe he was finally here. After 9 months of blissful pregnancy, here he was, breathing, living, all ours to love, hold, and care for.

My purpose was made clear the very instant he was born. I was his mother. It was my/our purpose to nurture, protect, love, and raise this child. Wow. It's amazing how that switch flips on so instantly.

Sometimes, I wish I had known, in that instant, that he wasn't going to be with us forever. However, I'm glad I didn't. It wouldn't have mattered anyway. We lived every day with him as if it were our last. I've written several times about the prayer I prayed every, single (yes...every, single...I'm not exagerrating) night - a prayer of hope but also acceptance....one in which I told God that I knew Ayden didn't belong to us; I knew how much of a gift he was; and I knew that he could be taken from us at any moment. And while I told God I knew all of these things, I desperately pleaded for Him to allow us to keep him and that He protect Ayden. As I've learned, God doesn't always respond to our prayers as we would have Him to. He saw fit to take Ayden long before we were ready, and since I prayed those words, and I meant them, I'm now living that prayer I never imagine I'd have to live.

I'm living without my baby boy. He would be a year old. I see one year olds, or kids close to that age, and wonder what Ayden would be like. I feel certain that he would be a very inquistive child. He always seemed to be trying to figure everything out....always observing. You could see his mind hard at work. I also feel certain that he would be a joyful, exhuberant, happy child. He would probably laugh and smile all of the time.....until he became sleepy....then he'd want snuggles from Mommy and Daddy. I long for those cuddles and kisses from him. I long to have him back in my arms. I just want to hold him and touch him....feel that sweet, soft skin he had. And I so miss brushing his hair and trying my best to get that cowlick in the front to lay down.....but it never, ever would.

On his birthday, we were determined to remember how happy we were a year ago. Ayden was, and always will be, one of the happiest and most fulfilling moments of our entire life. He brought us so much joy and completion. He made us a family. And he made us so happy. I wish those of you who don't know us could have seen the three of us together.

Throughout the day of his first birthday, we kept ourselves busy. I woke up and went into the living room and looked at pictures from the day he was born. I haven't looked at those in almost a year. I gazed in awe at how much he changed over the course of 4 months. He went from the typical, "cute" newborn stage to the developing, chubbier-by-the-day infant stage. He transformed before our eyes into this handsome, beautiful boy with a smile that could light up the darkest of rooms. I spent my time that morning recalling all of it, and of course, shedding plenty of tears. I was resolved, though, that his birthday was not going to be a mournful day. Every other day is one of those days. So, I got some cleaning done around the house, got myself ready, and then we went to pick up the balloons.

While we were out, we gathered materials for the note tags that would be attached to the balloons. I thought it would be nice to find some pretty stamps to put on the note tags, so we found some.....and as we ate lunch, we stamped. They turned out very nicely. You can see pictures of them in the slideshow at the end of this post.

I also paid a special visit to my dear friend, Jill. I've written about Jill several times. She and I have shared our personal grief journeys together, and it has been so enlightening to me. I don't know how I would have endured those first few months without her. She taught me how to grieve with hope....to truly understand why we believe what we believe....and to live each day with hope for our new life, with a new body, in a perfect world. A world where she will walk, run, and be pain-free again....and a world where I will forever be with Ayden. Because she has become such a special part of my life, I wanted her to be a part of our gathering that day. So, I made sure she and her husband got a balloon so they could remember Ayden with us. You can see a picture of Jill in the slideshow! I finally got a picture of the two of us together!

By the time the note tags were finished and dried, it was time to head to Ayden's garden at our church's playground. I can't even begin to tell you the whirlwind of emotion I was feeling. I don't think I even knew what to feel. I knew what I wanted to feel. I wanted to feel the elation and pride of seeing my 1 year old open his first bithday present, eat his first birthday cake, probably taking his first steps, and soaking in all that is in a birthday. I desperately wanted to experience that with Ayden. But since I couldn't, I just went with it. I remember almost feeling as if I had stepped out of myself because I found myself wondering, "How can I be smiling or laughing today? How can I voluntarily put myself in crowds of people today? How can I pick up these balloons knowing what they're for....and still function right now?" But I did. And I know the only thing that kept me moving was that I was doing this for Ayden. I wanted to be able to share his first birthday with the people who were so anxious to meet him a year ago. The people who were waiting outside of the room for the word that he had been born! The same people who were there in the waiting room the day we had to say goodbye. I needed them because I knew that they loved him as much as we did (well, almost...). It meant so much to see everyone there....the people who we have relied on through everything....giving up their time to do something out of the ordinary and, let's face it, very difficult. Their encouragement, smiles, and willingness to share memories and say his name.....to sing Happy Birthday to a child who wasn't there to receive it.....I'm just in awe.

So, (sorry, I'm all over the place) we all gathered in the garden. Jeremy and I handed out balloons as everyone wrote their message on their tags. Once the tags were finished, we attached them to the balloons. At this moment, I wasn't sure how the actual balloon release would go. I figured, we'd all pray....or count to three....I don't know. I looked at Jeremy and said, "How do you want to do this." In his brave voice....the one he uses when he's trying to convince himself of something he still isn't quite sure of yet....he says, "Well, I figured, you have to sing Happy Birthday on your birthday." To which my response was, "I don't think I can do that, and I definitely can't start it." So, our friend Lauren volunteered to start everyone off. I couldn't get the words out. I just stood and cried.....hearing our friends and family singing.....and then as they got to "Happy Birthday dear Ayden...." the voices trailed off and you could hear the tearful voices in almost a whisper finish, "Happy Birthday to you." At that moment, we released the balloons and watched them float away. We all stood in silence for a few minutes....not knowing what to say. I very quietly thanked everyone for coming as I was still wiping tears away. Finally, we began picking things up....giving hugs....and conversations began again.

I was so apprehensive about that day. I didn't know the right way to go about "celebrating" when my child isn't here. How do I do that? I knew I couldn't handle a big "party" complete with a cake and such. I know some people are able to do that, and that's great! I'm so glad that that is comforting for them. For us, though, we needed it to be simple....small....yet sweet.

Thank you to all of you who prayed for and thought of us that day. I can't even tell you how many messages, emails, texts, cards, etc. we received from friends, family, and perfect strangers telling us that they were thinking of us and of Ayden. I know I couldn't have gotten through the day as I did without all of you. I needed people to remember Ayden....especially on Tuesday. I know that as the years go on, April 27th will become another day....and most people will faintly recall that that day has some sort of significance. But for us, April 27th will forever be a day where we remember our happiest and proudest moment and also dwell in silent grief on the rememberence of what should mark another year with our sweet, sweet boy.

Thank you for loving Ayden. We sure do....more and more every day.

Please enjoy some pictures from our Birthday Gathering:

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  1. Sometimes I too wish I'd known that Laynee would not be with us forever. But I think that if I had, I would have mourned her before she was gone, instead of loving and enjoying every moment.
    God is good and He knows our pain.

  2. Oh sweet friend...I'm just a puddle of tears right now. I lost it imagining the Happy Birthday song....

    And I so, so, so know the prayer of which you write--I prayed it so often to God myself. Never dreaming that I'd be called to live the life I promised God I would, thanking Him for the mere miracle of every second we had with Matthew and that if it all ever went wrong, wrong, wrong, I'd be so grateful to God for the blessing of my sweet baby, I'd still praise Him for His faithfulness.

    So hard...to live the promises we promised.

    Sending you so much love right now. I wish I could give you a big hug...and give sweet Collen a little love pat too!! xoxo

  3. The pictures are beautiful, Lindsay. I hope you keep finding strength in knowing that so many of us continue to pray for you and your family and that, even though many of us never met him, we love Ayden very much.

    When you look up at the sky tonight, remember this: Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our loved ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.

    (P.S. I love your Collen bump.)