Today you would be 9 years old. In the place of 9 years of memories with you, I have just longing. Longing to know what kind of little boy you would be, what you would have wanted for your birthday dinner, what your favorite kind of ice cream would be, whether you would love legos like brothers. On this day, your birthday, we ask those questions more than other days. And our minds trail off as we imagine you. There’s a longing to know you and a longing for the day when I will get to see you again, when all things are made new.
Your birthday is special to our family, a day we set aside to remember you and celebrate you. I imagine it may seem silly or strange or uncomfortable to others that we celebrate your birthday but it is our small way of keeping your memory alive; of cherishing the gift that God gave to our family through your life.
Our birthday traditions change a little from year to year but typically include pizza and movies and donuts and a trip to the beach. There is always a birthday cake and ice cream. We look through all of your photos, wondering what you would like. And we talk about you and thank God for you and we imagine birthday parties in heaven. The order of things and the details differ from year to year but one thing that has remained constant in celebrating your birthday over the past few years has been The AadenSage Birthday Project.
Your birthday could easily be one of the hardest days of the year for me, your mama. And if I’m being honest, the weeks leading up to your birthday are especially tender. There is nothing easy or simple or uncomplicated or more emotionally weighty than planning a child’s birthday who has died. The mere question “what should we do for Aaden’s birthday?” typically sends me in a hundred different directions emotionally, none of which I am able to articulate well, which can be equally frustrating when you just want to make sense of your pain.
But over the course of 9 years without you I have learned something invaluable, that I am never the only one hurting and that loving others in the midst of their own grief helps me to honor your life. Through your life and your death God taught me what it looks like to not be afraid of my pain or the pain of others and instead to meet them right in the middle of it. So to honor your birthday we started The AadenSage Birthday Project, a tangible way to love parents who were right in the middle of it; in the middle of their own loss and their own grief.
There is no greater honor than to walk alongside a hurting mother. To tell her that her baby mattered and matters still. To tell her that her baby is never forgotten and forever loved. I can tell her that with confidence because after 9 years I know now for certain that you will never be forgotten and you will certainly be forever loved.
Happy birthday Aaden. I love you. I miss you. I can’t wait to see you again.
p.s. I’ll take any excuse to show off the few photos I have of you. 😉