A Day To "Celebrate"

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It’s a dichotomy for those of us who have lost children. We do not wish to forget their birthdays, but “celebrate” isn’t exactly the word we want to use to describe what we do on that day either.

Add to that the fact that Emily was born on the 4th of July. How do you NOT celebrate that day?
(We also buried Emily on a holiday because it just seemed right and fitting).

So, what do you do to celebrate the birthday of a child you no longer hold this side of Heaven? Well, I guess you “celebrate” the best you can.

For us, that means

a new summer wreath along with other momentos placed at her grave,

sparklers for the children,

and a prayer from Daddy.

We also indulge in a treat like a cake or giant cookie in honor of her birthday. The children see all of this as fun…a celebration of sorts. I am happy for them.

For Ty and I it is edged with sadness. There is no way around it. We smile and laugh with the children as tears well up and silently spill over. We brush them away and keep going.
It is what it is.

I cannot curl up into a ball of oblivion. My children need to see stability and strength. Yes, they need to see tears too, but not the kind that send fear and desperation stabbing to the core of their fragile hearts. They lost a sister. That isn’t pleasant. They grieve. They hurt. They cry. But they need to know they will be okay. They need to feel blessed for having had Emily in their family. They need to know we feel just as blessed to have them in our family.

You might be wondering how you ever find your way back to a place where you can celebrate. Maybe you wonder if it is somehow sacrilegious to smile. Perhaps you feel a stab of guilt whenever you begin to feel happy about something. Surely, spending the rest of your life pining away shows just how much you loved your child.

I beg to differ.

Several months ago, a woman stopped me in the hallway during a conference and told me she had just found out my daughter had died. She spoke of how joyful I am and how by looking at me she would never have guessed what tragedy had struck our family.

At first, I felt guilt…overpowering, soul-searching guilt. Was I not acting the part of the grieving mother? Was my ability to find joy amongst the ashes dishonoring to my child? How could I just move on?

But the truth is, I am changed. I am less likely to mince words. I have less patience for petty things. I have a clarity I didn’t have before when it comes to my family. I love more fiercely and feel more deeply.

And one of the emotions I feel more deeply is joy.

When you’ve felt the deepest, darkest grief a person can feel, you will know true joy when you see it. Don’t be afraid to embrace it.

I don’t sit around with a sappy mindless smile on my face all the time. I am thoughtful and reflective when I need to be.

Grieving isn’t pleasant. It never seems quite finished. Sometimes it feels like I am paddling upstream.

But it really is just taking one day, one moment at a time.

So, as the country celebrated their independence, we celebrated too. We celebrated a life we were blessed to hold for 7 months. We celebrated her freedom from the cares of this world. We celebrated a family forever changed and a family forever changing.

We are blessed and that is something worth celebrating.

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10 Comments on A Day To "Celebrate"

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10 thoughts on “A Day To "Celebrate"

  1. I have been following for a while, but this is my first comment. I just wanted you to know I really needed what you wrote. I lost my mother 2 yrs ago on September 7th. due to breast cancer although she fought a good fight against a brain tumor for almost 20 yrs. the last 4.5 yrs. being very hard to watch. Yet…I could never imagine going through the death of a child. I will be praying for you. But then, I could never imagine losing my mom either…And God is faithful to give us strength when needed.Missy

  2. Your post brought tears to my eyes. We have prayed for your family many times. As a mother, I always think especially of you. It seems our most painful times in life are the ones that help us see the world as God sees it. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  3. Missy,
    I am always so thankful to hear that what I’ve said here somehow blesses another person. The road of grief is never easy, is it? I lost my dad 51 weeks to the day prior to Emily’s death, so I know your loss as well. It just hurts, but there truly is beauty amongst the ashes. Many blessings to you.

    and Natasha,
    I so appreciate the prayers. I truly believe there are days the prayers are the only thing getting me through. (ps-I’ve been enjoying reading about your “journey”!)

  4. I am sad with you Amy. I was sad with you when you said good-bye, reading of what happened. At that time I was sitting on the couch for 2months straight with Caleb, 3, as he waned back and forth with Influenza, to the hospital, 107′ fever, getting better, getting worse. My heart was broken for you, and I faced many fears and times of unknowing during that time.
    Today, reading this, I am still sorrowful with you, but I also rejoice with you in the Joy you have too.

    Be blessed. Be abundantly blessed. And may you have abundant joy.


  5. Oh Amy – it seems you “celebrated” Emily’s birthday as best as you could. Sparklers, fun for the kids, a prayer from daddy, and tears. How else could one spend such a day?
    I know many people have probably told you this, that you have endured every parents worst fears – and you have. It is encouraging to me to read that you can survive – and feel joy after such pain.
    Your little boy looks just like his Daddy! He’s getting big!

    About your blog – to your questions –
    The blog didn’t take long to load, it is very pretty, easy to read – and I love all that you write! Always inspiring – and honest.

  6. I wish my mother had been like this when she lost my sister. I wish she could have accepted and lived peacefully with it like you appear to have. Instead she let it tear her apart, she stopped loving her other 4 children, and shut down, hating the world, blaming my father, hating God, and becoming a very cold woman. 15 years down the track and she has allowed my sisters death to destroy her life and destroy her family.

    Your family is so blessed to have such a strong woman who can be at peace with this, through the pain of grief, as their mother and wife. Being joyful is nothing to apologise or feel guilty for, think, how would your baby want you. sad and pinning, or happy and living life with the knowledge you’ll see her again.

    Thank you for showing me the death of a child doesn’t have to cause what it caused in my family.

  7. Amy, it’s as if we think the same way! I suppose that’s what happens when two mommas have walked a similar path in losing a child. I have found joy in the midst of tragedy, I don’t focus (too much) on petty things, and I’m not bothered by much like I used to be. I try, and would like to think, I have a much more eternal perspective than I did before June 5, 2010. Thank you for your post, and your honest sincerity. Grief isn’t fun, it’s clean, and it never goes away. But we can find joy. We can celebrate that our children are with Jesus and they feel no earthly pain or sin that we do on a dauly basis. I am at peace that my son is with Jesus! Have a blessed day and I am sending a huge hug to you and your family!!!