The relentless march of time. That’s how I think of it sometimes. We’re already to what would have been Kevin’s 4th birthday, and I wonder how a year and a half could have gone by so fast. On his last birthday, it was only 6 months after he died and I could imagine him being just a bit older. But now another year later, I find that I can’t really imagine him at age four. I don’t know how he might look different, what he would sound like talking in full sentences, what games he would like to play, and what toys he might be excited to get for his birthday.
Today was a beautiful day outside - temps in the 70’s and perfectly clear. I kept thinking of what a perfect day it would have been for a birthday party. Friends and family would come over, Rich would take some pictures of the kids outside in the leaves, cake, ice cream, etc. I wonder what kind of little boy he would be growing into. Would he still be kind of shy and goofy? Or would he be loud and the life of the party? When he died, life kind of split into "what could have been" and "what is", and his birthday lies on the "what could have been" path. As time goes on, that path grows farther and farther from the one we’re on now, and it’s hard to see it slip away. I find it hard to imagine Kevin at age four. He’s forever age 2 1/2 in my mind, even though life keeps going forward.
Unfortunately, Emily came down with strep throat this morning. So instead of doing something as a family outside in the warm weather, I spent most of the day camped out with her while Dawn took care of Ava to keep her away from her sick sister. Some parents who have lost children choose to do something symbolic on the child’s birthday like letting balloons go or putting flowers at their grave. That is fine, but those kinds of rituals aren’t really what feels right to me and Dawn. We tend to spend the "important" dates quietly remembering Kevin, looking at pictures and watching video. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to have these dates come, because it feels like there is some expectation of things we should do or how we should feel or what we should say. It’s not always easy to know what to say or do and how much is too much or not enough. We just go with what we feel.
I find it hard that we obviously don’t have any new pictures or video to post and share. I still love Kevin and he’s still my son, and I find that at times I want to share how he affects my life. But I don’t have new pictures from school or him in this year’s Halloween costume. I can’t just say the same things and post the same pictures over and over, even though I want to acknowledge what a day means to me and that he is still special in my life.
We went to a second "grief retreat" a few weeks ago in Iowa City. It was similar to the last one, but we found this one a little easier to get through. There were new people there. People whose child had died since the spring retreat. Everything was fresh and new and raw to them in a way that was so familiar and sad. It was a strange feeling to be one of the parents whose child had died over a year ago. Time keeps marching on.
While we were up there, we also brought all the blankets that our family and friends had generously donated at Ava’s party a couple months ago. We included a note about Kevin’s life and where the blankets came from. They are always so appreciative at the PICU, and the blankets will go to good use. Hopefully some young kid there will have a smile on their face when they get a nice new special blanket.
We also finally did something with all of Kevin’s toys. Over the course of a few weekends, we sorted through them, put all the parts together, and made sure they were clean. We saved some of the toys that held the most memories for us, but really the things he played with most were DVD cases and other odd items. We saved a few toys for Ava, but we donated most of them to the Children’s Therapy Center. They will make use of them in their work or give them to families who can put them to good use. It’s comforting to us to know that his toys are now in the hands of other little boys who can enjoy them, rather than having them sit in tubs in our basement.
We’re fortunate to have family and friends who continue to think of us and remember Kevin, and we appreciate it when you keep us in your thoughts.