I woke up this morning to a Facebook memory that made me pause. I had gotten used to the pregnancy memories. The happy moments with Ryan growing inside, anticipation building, preparations and plans being made. This morning was my first loss memory. One year ago today I published Ryan's birth announcement.
Richard and I had wished for a baby but were sent an angel instead. On September 7 at 1:02am, Ryan Kendrick Russell came into the world but only to live in our hearts. 5 lbs, 14 oz, 20 inches long, a head full of hair, and the most perfect of everything. We know our hearts will take time to heal, and we appreciate your care and support in this most devastating time.
Bits and pieces from other similar announcements I found online, it still chokes me up and takes my breath away to rewrite those words here. But the last lines, written one year ago, are still so true and profound I read and reread them over and over this morning as I laid in bed.
Our hearts still have not healed, nor do I now believe ever really will. Healing from the loss of a child is a forever-type journey. But it's one I have been able to wake up to every day because that care and support I hoped for back then, I have felt nearly every single day since losing by first born son.
I was especially reminded of that love coming at us from all around the world this past Wednesday as we celebrated Ryan's first birthday.
I was terrible at thanking people for their help, consideration, compassion, and support one year ago, and I'm sure I won't do an adequate job even still. But I wanted to take a moment today to say a giant thank you to everyone who celebrated Ryan's first birthday, to everyone who acknowledged the day in some large or small way.
In a selfish way, I'm posting today to keep a lasting memory of all the ways my baby boy, Ryan was shown love on his special day. So here we go.
Thank you to my family and friends and their coworkers who made donations to the PAIL Network in Ryan's name. We know first hand how their work can help with healing, and it's a beautiful gift to be able to support other families like mine.
Thank you to the Farrell family who sent me the most special Ryan pillow that now has a special place on our bed. Right between his mom and dad's.
Thank you to my parents for the butterfly necklace. Every day since Ryan died I've worn a little piece of him in some form of jewelry. And I know I will continue to every day as my way of keeping him close. Thank you for understanding that, getting it, and supporting it. It's beautiful and I love it so very much.
Thank you to Rich's parents who drove to visit him at the cemetery. Who took us for lunch and chatted for hours with us about life and our boys. These "little things" are really not so little to me.
Thank you to Kelly who brought me a September-blooming flower to add to Ryan's garden. Not even an 8 months pregnant belly and 100% humidity could keep me from planting it as soon as I could.
Thank you to the friends who wore some special jewelry of their own on Ryan's birthday as their way of carrying him with them throughout the day.
Thank you to Amelia and her son Jake who spent some time enjoying the day blowing bubbles, and having some fun with Ryan on their minds and in their hearts.
Thank you to the Whitesides who donated a sweet Blessing Bag to their local hospital full of gifts for the first baby boy born on September 7.
Thank you to the Santoros, Stilins, Caputos, and former student, Caitlyn, for sending love up to my boy with your balloons.
Thank you to the MacIsaacs, for the beautiful handmade garden sign, and for enjoying some cupcakes with your little ones. Thank you especially for singing him Happy Birthday and making a few wishes, too. (And sending me the video. My heart quite nearly exploded at the sight).
Thank you to Jessica for having the most beautiful cookies made for Ryan. Thank you for sharing them with the little ones in your life. And thank you for bringing some to my parents. I'm glad they could enjoy them in celebration of their grandson on his special day. That gesture alone means so much to me.
Thank you to the Bainbridges for celebrating with some birthday cake. These kinds of "normal" birthday celebrations are so important to me. Just seeing his name on a cake was a very powerful thing.
Thank you to Ange for taking time to put together a thoughtful and creative bit of word art for Ryan. I can imagine the time you put into it and thinking of him and that means everything to me.
Thank you to the Sudbury woman who is a stranger to me, but who was moved enough by our story to commit a random act of kindness and then share Ryan's story to have that kindness passed along. Words fail me to express how very much this means to us. We always say how much we want Ryan's life to mean something more -- to do some good in the world. This act is an embodiment of that. So thank you.
Thank you to everyone who sent a card. To everyone who called. To everyone who lit a candle. To everyone who wrote us a special note. Not one went unread or uncherished.
The only way Ryan's birthday could have been any brighter was if he was here with us. Your never-ending love and support carries us through the difficult days and makes the bittersweet, happy moments a little less bitter and a lot more sweet. I know I don't say it enough, so I'll say it one more time.
From the bottom of my always-healing heart.