Yesterday was the first birthday of a special baby boy who left the world too soon, like Ryan. His mom's blog and Instagram were among the first that I stumbled upon in the early days of Ryan's death. I reached out into the great expanse of the internet, grasping for something to give me hope. To make me feel less alone and isolated. In her words I saw pain and loss. But also hope and light. Her words are real. She speaks truth about loss and the love that still exists despite it. A truth I have always hoped to capture here.
So when she posted that in celebration of her Reid's first birthday, she wanted people to share one word that her boy has taught us about life and loss (#reidsreads), I knew I wanted to participate. I wanted it to be my way of showing her that her journey, and her baby boy, helped me find my way on my own journey with my own sweet baby boy. How to exist in this world without him here with me.
My word is inclusion.
When Ryan died, I thought "That's it." That's the end of this family I've spent 9 months treasuring and preparing for. I didn't realize that beyond his death we could still be a family. We'd be much different than I ever expected, or hoped, or dreamed. But we'd still be a family. Because there's still so much love there. Maybe more than there had ever been before.
Her family showed me that even though Ryan is not physically here anymore, he can still be included in every single part of our lives. He's a photo and a candle by the tree on Christmas morning. A bouquet of flowers perfectly arranged in the living room. He's a note in a card on a holiday. A stuffed bunny or dog under a tree in the cemetery. A necklace, a bracelet, adorning me in all moments, giving me courage when I "got back to life," and still now everywhere I go.
He's a teddy bear who once snuggled Ryan in the hospital but now cuddles me on the couch. Who gets dressed up for a special occasion Ryan couldn't be here for.
He is included in all things. Because even in death, he still is so much to us. He's everything.
Inclusion stretches further than to just us including him in our lives. It means surrounding myself with people who include and acknowledge him too. He's real. He's a part of me. And on my journey, it's been so important for me to be around people who include him too. Who send a note saying he crossed their mind. Who share photos of butterflies and the letter R and say they were visited by him. Who visit with him. Who light a candle, make a donation, say a prayer in the name of our baby boy.
All I ask, is that you let me know. Knowing he is as included in your life, as he is in ours, is the greatest gift.
On Reid's first birthday, I am reminded that we're not alone in this journey. Not alone in the lows. Not alone in the highs. Ryan is there. Our friends and family are there. And this community we've found, beginning with Reid's mom, is there.
Thank you, Emma and Reid for this gift. For reminding us Ryan can be included in everything. And for including us in some small way your journey. Happy birthday, to you.