One of the things I've really struggled to learn throughout this grief journey is that if you need something, you have to ask for it. Most of the time, especially early on, I didn't know what I needed. And for the most part, that was okay. People from all walks of my life came through and filled the needs I didn't know needed filling. Now, nearly a year later, sometimes, though not nearly as often, I find myself still "in need" of something specific, but can find myself left longing, mainly because I'm afraid to ask.
I haven't always been good at asking for things. I have never wanted to seem demanding, or needy, or nagging. It always seemed easier to just hope people could figure out what I wanted or needed on their own, without my telling. The truth is, especially in grief, if you need something, you have to ask for it. Or else sometimes you can be left waiting, and the waiting can lead to extra hurting.
Which is why, one week away from Ryan's first birthday, it felt prudent to say that it is okay to celebrate him on September 7. In absolutely no way do I want that day to slip by without feeling he's been joyfully remembered.
And I know he is remembered every day. But I also know that sometimes, people want to do things, or mention him, and are afraid it will make me sad. And it's true that sometimes (a lot of the time) people will do things, and mention him, and it brings tears to my eyes. But that's only partly from the sadness that he's not here. It's mostly from the joy I feel that he is being so lovingly thought of.
Nothing would bring me greater joy than a flood of messages on September 7, showing me all the ways my boy is being celebrated on his birthday.
I've been asked a few times if there's anything I need or want for his first birthday. But the answer is as simple as just doing anything you feel is within your realm of possibility to celebrate him. In the past year I've seen and celebrated so many birthdays of babies who are no longer on this earth. Some of these celebrations included:
One of my family members has plans to donate a basket of baby boy things to her maternity floor to be given to the next baby boy born on or near September 7. A beautiful way for Ryan to be part of a new life.
Richard and I have put together a memory box we will be donating to the labour and delivery ward of the hospital where Ryan was born. It will be given to the next parents who will leave the hospital without their baby in their arms. The box contains a teddy bear, picture frame (to encourage lots of photos -- I always regret only having the one), a mould for hand/footprints, a kit to make hand/foot ink prints, and two engravables (a necklace and a keychain they can take anywhere to be engraved). The nurses will add the hospital related mementos, like the crib card and certificate of life. I remember feeling so lost at the hospital, not knowing what to do. I hope that by providing such a gift, the parents will be more confident in making memories with their baby in the short time they have together. It's something for us to do to help make more meaning out of Ryan's brief life.
And yes, we'll also visit him at the cemetery, and light his candle, and eat cake, and make wishes, and write, and just spend the day feeling our little boy surround us with love...
The point is, we will be celebrating him.
And it's absolutely okay for you to celebrate him too. And even more okay for you to feel comfortable sharing your celebrations with us. In fact, nothing could mean more to us than knowing how much he is still loved.