Yesterday at 6:30 pm, I sang 'Happy Birthday' quietly and through many tears to a little boy who I never met who would have been 15 years old had he not died by suicide 8 months ago.  I didn't know him but I met his mommy, daddy and older sister at the Afterdeath Communication Conference I attended in April. I don't know him, but I know how much his family hurts every minute of every day now that he is gone.  I know he was a special little boy and the baby of his family and that he left behind 4 brothers and sisters who feel lost and alone.  I do know that their story touched my soul and that my heart feels a little happiness whenever I see his mother's name in my email inbox.  We try to support each other as best we can through this terrible pain.  When she told me that friends all over the world would be singing Happy Birthday to her lovely son at 6:30 yesterday, I put it in my calendar with an alarm.  If he was listening, I wanted him to know how much his mommy loves and misses much so that she has an army of stranger-singers to make sure he knows how much he is still adored.  I set an alarm to go off annually in my iphone so that even when she doesn't remind me or if (g-d forbid) we fall out of touch, I will still remember to contact her each year on this important day.

I am terrible with birthdays.  I have a general idea of when friends birthdays are but since I have never been big on my own birthday, I flail with other peoples.  I have been chewed out more than once by friends who have reminded me that just because I don't care about my own birthday doesn't mean that I am dismissed from having to remember other people's.  It was obviously hurtful to certain friends when their birthdays slipped my mind.  I started putting birthdays in my calendar a couple of years ago.  I am getting better at it.

These days, my calendar is filled with birthdays of children I have never met, who no longer exist on earth.  These birthdays are more important to me than anyone else's birthdays.  These birthdays represent lost dreams....something that hurts the very core of my being.  I fill my calendar with these birthdays because I know that these days are more important to their parents than their own birthdays are or ever were.  And even if you are someone like me, who doesn't feel the need to go big on your own birthday, you know that you want to go big on your kid's birthday.  I was getting so excited for Maxie's first birthday before he died.  I couldn't wait to see the happy look on his face as we sang to him and brought him presents and showered attention on him all day long (in some ways, it would be like any other day when we did all of those things for him but BETTER!)  But, Maxie never got a first birthday and if I think about it for more than a second, my heart collapses.  I will be deprived of his birthdays for the rest of my life...and thus far, the day he was born was the best day of my life....a day I would want to celebrate with my whole soul but that instead will be (at least in part) a day of mourning for me.  I have filled my calendar with the birthdays of all of the babies whose parents I have connected to because I know that in a few years, people will forget about those children's birthdays - maybe not everyone will forget - but many will.  Most will be so caught up in their own worlds, planning their own children's birthdays (and their own) to remember the birthday of a child who is no longer here.  I want to make sure that someone remembers.  Every child deserves to be remembered.  Every child deserves to celebrate their birthday.  Every child and every life counts and has meaning.

On that note, and with the one year anniversary of Maxie's death approaching (July 19th), and with the birth of Maxie's little brother also around the corner, Ted and I have set up a fund in Maxie's name at First Candle - an organization dedicated to making sure that children reach their first birthdays.  The fund we set up will support SIDS awareness, advocacy, prevention, research and will also support grieving families.  We feel blessed by all of you to have reached our goal with Maxie's Forest within only one year!  Over $100,000 was raised to plant thousands of trees in Maxie's sweet memory.  It's really remarkable!  Thank you so much for the support you have given our family over the past (almost) eleven months.  I don't know where we would be without you.


greg said...

It's really amazing to think that an entire FOREST will be planted in Maxie's honor. I'm sure I'll see it one day...

First Candle sounds like a seriously great (and very necessary) organization...we'll be honored to give in Maxie's name.

Susan Ireland said...

Lovely post Abby. That is some serious fund raising you've done. First Candle sounds a wonderful next choice.

Catherine would have been six on Saturday. I am sure hardly anyone will remember.

robyn said...

i will make sure that an alarm is set to sing maxie happy birthday every year, he will always be remembered.