Guest post by Michelle Williams
As the sun casts its glorious rays against the late-summer sky, the change in seasons creeps up on us when we’re least expecting it. The hazy days slowly get shorter and once-warm summer evenings begin to show signs of autumn’s chill. The tips of the trees start to let go of their green hue in one final salute to summer and in a beautiful blaze of oranges, reds and yellows – fall arrives, right on time.
For the past three years I’ve been dreading this change. Hoping it wouldn’t hurt my heart as much as I had anticipated. My husband and I kept busy with our two children, making sure we squeezed every last drop out of summer before my 5-year-old began her first year of kindergarten.
That first day came as fast as they all said it would. I was so incredibly proud and overjoyed at the wonderful little girl my daughter had become. This was one of those times where leaving your child to watch them blossom and grow is an amazing gift – one that I think a lot of people take for granted.
When our daughter was two-and-a-half, our first son was born very premature, fighting for his life. Sawyer lived just shy of three days and died while I held him in my arms in a hospital hallway. He had a broken heart and nothing could have saved him. Our lives instantly changed. Our hopes and dreams for his life, for our lives together? Were instantly shattered into a million tiny pieces.
The triggers began almost instantly. Other friends had their babies. Those babies took their first steps. Spoke their first words. And now those babies have grown into beautiful little children ready to take on the first day of school. My Facebook feed is full of “first day” pictures. Tiny little bodies with giant backpacks, smiles on their faces along with the occasional tear.
My heart stings with the pain of knowing that Sawyer should be here too, starting his first day of preschool. Would he have loved to get his hands messy with finger paints? What backpack would he have picked out? I wonder if he would have ran into the classroom, excited to begin a new adventure. Or perhaps, he would have been a little hesitant to walk in that door – hanging onto mommy’s hand just a little bit longer. I will never know.
Instead, there is no first day. There’s no backpack hanging on a hook in the hallway. No colorful art project sloppily stuck to the front of our fridge. No first day, ever.
I will never stop counting the years, I will never stop wondering what grade he would be in or what kind of person he would be today. The grieving mother never forgets.
I now have a new appreciation for the things that some families may value too lightly. The priceless gift of watching our babies grow up. To place our child on the bus and put our trust into what we’ve taught them so far. To watch our children spread their wings and fly.
And as my other children grow and blossom right in front of my eyes, I will forever be thankful to our angel for showing me how important it is to savor every day, every moment – every “first.”