12 years

It was not particularly my intention to pick up the blogging threads on a somber note, but it’s someone’s birthday today, and we still remember him.

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I picked up a cake mix for his birthday cake. I wonder if he would have liked this vanilla creme one with chocolate glaze, or just chocolate.  I still sometimes wonder if he’s a redhead or flaxen haired like half his siblings. Did he have brown or blue eyes?  Part of the grief is the not-knowing.

Why bother with the birthday cake? Someone will ask, I’m sure. It’s simple. We believe that all life is sacred from conception to natural death. We celebrate every member of the family, even this little guy, taken from us before he was born.  The children know they have a brother in Heaven, even though only Trooper ever saw Jacob.

Besides, it was actually Rascal’s own idea to have a cake, years ago. Likely he wanted an excuse for an extra dessert back then, but it launched a little tradition that I’m glad we do.  There will always be sorrow for Jacob, our sweet baby Jacob, but there is after all, cause for joy, too.

As God wills, we shall one day see him again.

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(The hands and feet of a baby born at 23weeks gestation)

 

 

 

 

 

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A bittersweet tenth birthday

Some years ago I wondered just how the children would want to commemorate Jacob’s day. After all, the only one to have seen Jacob was the Trooper, who himself was only nine months old and probably has little memory of it, if any. But even as I thought and fretted, the Rascal had the answer.

“Let’s sing for him! Doesn’t he have a cake? You said it was his birthday…”

Thus the tradition of a little something to celebrate Jacob began. It fulfilled my hope that our sweet baby would be remembered by his brothers and sisters; that he would be recognized as part of our family even though he passed away before most of them were born.  It keeps the day from becoming overwhelmingly sad, as it would, if I had to keep the memory of him to myself.

It is a perfect way to affirm that every life is precious and worth celebrating.

Every life, no matter how brief.  And his was so brief.

Happy 10th birthday, Jacob Dominic. The hour we had to hold you was too short. We look forward to being with you in Heaven.

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9

It’s Jacob’s day again. He would have been nine this year. Kind of funny to think that had he lived, he and Trooper would have had two months of being the same age. I wonder if that would have amused them. Of course, Trooper likes numbers but doesn’t care much for birthdays or parties so maybe not.  😉

I put Jacob’s picture out on the hall foyer shelf this month. Usually it stays with the other family pictures or, after the mantel incident where all the pictures were pulled off in a resounding crash (Toddler Mischief Squad), in my room.  The children all know it’s a picture of their brother, those old enough to know, anyway. Rascal especially is loyal and is willing to offer any information about Jacob to listeners, whether or not they wanted to know. I love that about him–I love that he understands that we are still family whether we’re here or in Heaven. And Jacob is in Heaven.

Growing up Catholic and going through Catholic (homeschool) high school and then Christendom College, I figured I had a pretty sufficient knowledge of the Catechism and eternity and the Last Four Things (death, judgement, Heaven or Hell) and all that. But in the days following the heartbreaking news that our baby had died–and then the stillbirth, the graveside service, the burial… suddenly in all that sorrow Heaven became more real to me than ever before. And though I always wanted to strive for the good and live a decent life, etc., suddenly it became an absolute must. I want to be with God, and I want to be with our baby again.

Don’t misunderstand: I always miss him, but I’m not always sad. I think that would be impossible for my personality. There is a place in our hearts for Jacob that is his and his alone. Seven other children have their places (–yes, there is room for everyone. I know it’s hard to comprehend but it’s true), but he’s no less our son because he only had 23 weeks in this world, and one hour in our arms. So while it is always bittersweet to think of our little son today, his ninth birthday, I know someday eventually, maybe decades hence, I’m going to see him again.  Someday, God willing, I will be with all my children again.

Happy birthday, Jacob Dominic. Mommy and Daddy love you.

Forgiveness

I’ve read that the principal fault of “mommy blogs” is that we write only things that are happy, warm, fuzzy, and perfect. We make ourselves so ethereal that the “common mom” cannot hope to aspire to be as spiritual/beautiful/organized/spic-n-span/coordinated as ourselves. Those of you who have been following my blog these past few years will, I hope, admit that I’m not perfect. I speak often of projects that may or may not come to fruition. I rarely have a picture of my house in a perfect state. I rarely have my house in a perfect state. There hasn’t been a picture of my family taken in about four years where everyone is facing the camera. And smiling. Ok, make that maybe six years. I just do not choose to write about most of our terrible days. We have them, trust me. I didn’t choose to write about the troubles we were having with a particular child and a particular homeschool curriculum because that is his story and he can tell it later if he wants to, and also because I wanted to make sure the next curriculum was really a better match before I wrote about it (it was, incidentally). I didn’t tell any of you about Baby Posy (and is that how you spell it? I was thinking Posie or Poesy but Merriam-Webster says Posy. Sheesh.) because as with all my girls, the first trimester is one long Hurricane Hormona. It’s bad enough my family and I had to deal with it. Going into hormonal hysterics on the internet was not what I had in mind. We were and are very excited about our new little one, but the thought of what I might have said if someone commented adversely about  my family size was enough for me to keep it under internet wraps until the first trimester–and hormones–subsided.

All this to say, life kicked me in the teeth today. So finally I can keep myself off the ethereal podium by announcing I HAD A BAD DAY.

Ok, so it wasn’t all bad. Actually, some things happened that would have kept me in the Perfect Mommy Blogger Zone. I was able to wash out  most of my refrigerator! Two small condiment shelves had to wait, but they weren’t harmed by the Quart of Chicken Stock that was dropped into the nether recesses of the fridge, or by the splash of milk that ensued when some toddler got her sister’s open milk cup out of said fridge and with the door open, proceeded to baptise the shelves. Also, they weren’t anywhere near the Vegetable Crisper of Doom that was harboring unknown organisms. Anyway, it looks pretty darn good right now in there. AND I made a smashing good pear apple cranberry crisp for our homeschool potluck today. Let me tell you, that’s a divine concoction.

Shortly before arriving at the potluck this afternoon something happened that hurt me greatly, but I’ll save that for last. We do so enjoy our potlucks. We get to visit with the people we see nearly every week at co-op and then some others whom we might not get to see as often. We’ve been increasingly more involved in the group for two or three years, so pretty much everyone knows us, and knows our Trooper. But today he had the chance to interact with some kids in his “peer group” who didn’t know his case that well, and misunderstandings ensued. Sure, he was hogging the swings at one point. It’s a fault of his, and I came out to remind him to share. Later though, when he was highly amused by the game the big kids were playing and wanted to watch, the girl turned to him and just gave him a look. I happened to see it because I was looking outside to check on the whereabouts of Sunshine, and my heart broke. It was the “retard” look.

Almost before I could recover from that, Rascal approaches me with eyes swimming. Apparently another friend, an older boy, had taken the opportunity to make himself look ‘cool’ by belittling and humiliating Rascal to his face. So there I was in the dining room of my friend’s house comforting my big second grader while still smarting from the “retard” look and also from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that I’ll go into next.  I reassured Rascal that his friend probably didn’t mean half of it, and to just smile and go play with someone else. Later when he brought it up again on our way home, I was able to calmly remind him that people will misunderstand us or say things that hurt us, but we must show compassion and understanding in turn. I should have summed it all up in one word:

Forgiveness.

Yep, that’s a good word. Forgive others when they misunderstand, when they misjudge, when they forget to see beyond the outward appearance of things. After all, how often are we guilty of the very faults we see in others?

And sometimes we have to forgive things that we don’t understand. Like when driving up to a cemetery to pray on this All Souls Day morning, stopping the van next to the side of the hill where your baby son is buried… only to see that someone has removed the brass vase from his gravestone. I stared at the gaping hole in shock, the artificial foliage limp in my hands. That brass vase didn’t blow away in any storm. It didn’t wash away in any flood. It was chained to the stone, for heaven’s sake! I know this because I frequently lifted it out to pour away the icky rain water that would collect there in between visits. I hoped for a second that the maintenance guys had hit it with a lawnmower in a moment of mental abstraction (hey, they hit a solar light my parents had left there), but it would be hard to hit the vase. I couldn’t call the cemetery office today, so I will call first thing tomorrow morning if they are open. I don’t know how long the vase has been missing, and really, in the scheme of things, it’s just a vase. I googled “stolen cemetery vases” to see if this was really going on, and apparently it’s been pretty popular during the recession. Ironically, although these vases retail in the triple digits, they only garner you a whole whopping $13.75 in scrap metal cash.

Someone please tell me that no one disturbed Jacob’s grave for $13.75. Someone please tell me this was an accident and no one disturbed my baby’s grave at all.

Because you see, I have to forgive this, and it would be easier to forgive an errant lawnmower–also because the vase would have dented it but good, leaving me with a mean satisfaction because you see, I’m not a perfect mommy blogger.

I’m me, and I struggle to forgive things too.

Never “Poor”

This morning Rascal happened to be snooping in my closet and pointed to a hatbox on the upper shelf.

RASCAL: Hey Mom, what’s in there?

ME: Oh, that’s Jacob’s box.

In there? The only outfit he ever wore, the funeral remembrances, cards, the handprint kit the Hospice gave us, and the ultrasound photos from when he was alive. Those make me cry still.

ME: Today’s his birthday, you know.

He would have been eight.

RASCAL: Awww. Poor Jacob.

ME: No, he’s not poor. He’s in Heaven. He’s happier than any of us.

RASCAL: (realization dawning) Oh yeah, that’s right. Happy Jacob!

Always remembered. Always in our hearts. Happy 8th birthday, Baby Jacob. We miss you, but know you are happy and that comforts us more than anything.

 

Now you would have been six.

We love you, Jacob.

Over the past year, Rascal asked who “Baby Jacob” was and we told him that Jacob is his big brother in Heaven.  We told him that Jacob was sick in Mommy’s tummy and so God called him home to Heaven because he would have been just too sick to stay here.  But, we added, as sad as it was to lose Jacob, we are so happy that we were able to have Rascal, Dinosaur, Princess, and Sunshine, that that Trooper was already with us.  So whenever Rascal brings up the subject of Jacob, he always ends with:  “And then God gave you us, and you’re SO happy.”

He’s right, of course.

This morning after we said the day of the week, and the calendar date, I mentioned that it was Jacob’s birthday, and that I bet there was a big party for him in Heaven today.  Rascal decided we needed to celebrate here as well, so while he and Dinosaur were playing in the other room, I overheard them singing “Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Jacob, Happy Birthday to you!”

I love these guys.

Jacob’s Day–5th Anniversary

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A bittersweet day.  Today, five years ago, our sweet baby Jacob was born.  Yes, that’s his real name.  The world can’t hurt him now, so I’m not bothering with a pseudonym.  The bitter–he was born because he had died within three days of his premature birth, and nine months after Trooper’s dramatic early entry into the world.  The sweet–our son is in Heaven.  I know this.  It would be impossible for most people to understand how much I feel his presence, how he’s interceded for me when I pray.

I will not pretend that the pain of losing a baby ever goes away.  It does not.  I still tear up whenever we visit his tiny grave in a child cemetary.  I still wonder whether anything could have been done to save him, and why exactly my body refuses to carry a child to term without progesterone supplementation (unless it is that simple).  However, there was a silver lining to this cloud.  The doctor who delivered Jacob ended up becoming my current OB, and came to prescribe the progesterone that enabled me to carry Rascal, Dinosaur, Princess, and (so far) Li’l Bean to term.

I hate those memorial gifts that always make it seem like you want the lost person to be back with you.  Of course we miss our baby boy, and wish that we had had more than that one hour we held him after birth.  But to wish him back on earth?  After Heaven?  Not likely.  No, I’ve read my share of grieving poems and heard music, but the best thing I ever heard was written by Eric Genuis after his son Joseph was born at five months gestation.  I can’t find the lyrics now, so I apologize if I butcher them a bit, but I remember it ending something like this:

“It’s good my child to know,

It’s so good Joseph to know

For eternity

My son, you’ll see…

You will see God.”

And knowing that, it’s impossible to stay sad.  We love you, Jacob.