Storm clouds rolled in and out all day long, but they were no match for your sunshine which continued to break its way through the clouds on this September 7th. Your second birthday.
We started the day at the waterfront. I like to celebrate you, you know. Not always with the heavy stuff. But with some light-heartedness. This desire becomes stronger and stronger every day as your little brother gets bigger and bigger. I want him to celebrate you, too. And so I want it to be fun. I want your celebrations to have spirit and joy. So we picnicked on the waterfront and (tried our best) to fly a kite. A butterfly kite I bought in the spring specifically for this day.
Kite flying is a skill apparently. Not just a fun activity for kids as I assumed. So naturally, as I struggled to fly while juggling your baby brother and his needs, my anxiety grew and grew. When there it came. The biggest, brightest orange monarch I've seen all summer long. He danced around us for quite a few minutes as the kite struggled to stay in the air, and I just knew it was you. The most beautiful hello. You made me laugh, my boy. Coming to me just when I needed you. Thank you.
After lunch we headed home where we had a visit with your Gramma and Grampa and then Brayden got to nap. (It's tough work flying kites, as I said). After nap we headed off to the cemetery. We brought you some new flowers to get you through the winter (I hope) and read to you, "Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You." I always get choked up when she writes: "You are loved. You are loved. You are loved." Because no matter how many times I say it, I just hope, hope, hope you can hear us. Because you are. So loved, my boy.
From there, we made it to the hospital to deliver our gift this year. Another bereavement box for another family who will someday leave the hospital without their baby in their arms. This year we included: a teddy bear, two journals, an engraveable necklace, a candle, an imprint kit and picture frame, two books that I found helpful after you died (Empty Cradle Broken Heart, and An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination), and a framed quote lovingly donated by a local artist who felt compelled to contribute after hearing our story. I also included this year two resource pages. One, a list of resources for the family to explore when they leave the hospital, and the other a list of gentle suggestions/ideas for how to spend their time in the hospital. Things I wish we had known, had been offered, or told to do with you. We could only create one box, but we brought several copies of the resource pages so hopefully we can reach more families this year.
This got me thinking about your "reach." Ryan's Reach as I've come to think of it. I know your story impacts many in ways I can't really compute. But so much good is done by so many in your name all the time. I always keep track of those tangible ways you've helped others since last September 7, and I'd like to recap them now:
Today was beautiful. But it wasn't easy. In fact, this year 2 celebration was considerably more difficult than your first. I woke up heavy and anxious that no one would remember. Or that maybe they'd remember, but not feel it necessary to celebrate you anymore. But as the day went on, and the wishes and celebrations rolled in, I realized that you matter to more than just me. There's a whole world of family and friends who will never stop celebrating you on this day. I will always take a step back from my every day and give you this one thing. This one day. It's all yours, baby boy, and it always will be. From now till forever.
And with that, I want to take a second to thank every single one of those people who sent a message, called, mailed a card, made a donation, did a good deed, visited my boy, sent up a balloon, sang "Happy Birthday," ate a cupcake, wore blue, sported some butterflies... However you celebrated him. Thank you. "Thank you" actually doesn't seem enough. It's hard to express how grateful I feel when he is so outwardly celebrated. I know he's held safely in the hearts of so many, but to hear his name said over and over today was overwhelming in the most incredible way... "Happy birthday, Ryan!" on the lips of little ones who would be his friends, his cousins... I'm truly at a loss for how happy it makes me. Thank you for not only celebrating him, but for sharing him with your little people.
I have two special thank yous.
The first is to my October Baby mom group. This is a group I joined for Brayden. It's (mostly) online, but it's been a great support through Brayden's first year. I've been fortunate to feel comfortable enough sharing both of my boys with these ladies. And as I went about my day today, the messages came pouring in from these women who have only known me "virtually" and for such a comparatively short time to others in my life. I read each and every message and was touched to have such love poured into my first born.
The second thank you is for Mariana. Mariana's daughter Olivia is a friend of Ryan's. Ryan was there to greet Olivia when she slipped away from this world too soon. And Mariana reached out to me not long after to tell me how Ryan and I saved her after her loss. I'm still so touched by this sentiment, but this woman lifts me up again and again by her incredible generosity in helping others and always speaking openly about Ryan wherever she travels. I feel so lucky to have a friend in her halfway around the world. Today she surprised several unsuspecting strangers with beautiful gestures and gifts all in Ryan's name for his 2nd birthday. She goes above and beyond and for that I'm so grateful!
I suppose I've said all I can about how special you are, Ryan. And how much you mean to me and to the world around me. I'll just wish you one more Happy Birthday, before I go sip some chocolate milk and snack on a bit of watermelon (your two favourites from my pregnant days).
I can't wait to see what your 3rd year will bring.
Happy birthday, baby.
You are loved.
You are loved.
You. Are. Loved.