When Birthdays Stand Still

November 28, 2016

When I woke up this morning, I was just going to repost this article.  About the beauty of a birthday…the one I wrote last year and was just going to reshare today because I didn’t have words.

And then, driving away from my son’s school holiday shop, I found words. Angry words. Hot tear-filled words. Last week he told me he had previewed the shop but didn’t need money for his brothers to buy them something because they were dead. Simple, honest, blunt but true words.
Today, those words burned my soul.
I posted this on my Facebook wall:

“Today I am mad.
I am mad they’re dead.
I am mad this peek-in on my son is the only son I get to see on this earth.
I am mad that he doesn’t have to list his brothers on his holiday shop Christmas list because they. Are. Dead.

I am mad because I am never mad about his death– anger is pointless so I *try* not to give in to it when I think about this day seven years ago. Most times, I’m betrayed and disappointed, but not mad.

Today the rage prevents me from even speaking much.
I can’t easily without the venom spewing and today is a day where I have obligations that require me to be happy and grateful and maintain perspective and I AM MAD that I act like I am not mad.

I am mad that my sons don’t get to be brothers and Luke misses out on them and grandparents that cancer stole and a million other things that should come with being the middle child of a boisterous, decent-sized family.

I am mad that his death changed me and changed John and not in the “We learned so much together and grew so much,” way but the “Our hearts were never more broken and we are different, often non-recognizable people because of it,” way.

I’m mad that people scream about miracles when they happen and act like they’re so thrilled with how God orchestrates things but when the inverse is implied, those left with no miracles are just supposed to sit on the sidelines and say, “Yay!” for others’ miracles and get little grace when mourning our non-miracles. It’s easy to thank God when it works out. It’s not so easy to STILL thank God when it doesn’t. Yet I do…

I’m mad that people think that time makes things hurt any less than they did the day they happened. It doesn’t, and many people suffer silently with flashback after flashback of the most traumatic events of their life.

I’m just mad.
It should have been different and it wasn’t and I’m mad.

That’s how grief goes… all the emotions are always there… some just take spotlight more than others every now and then.

Today, when my seven-year-old perfect boy should be blowing out candles and talking about what he and his brothers are getting for Christmas, we will instead decorate a tree with memorial ornaments. Things bought before he was born and after he died, and he doesn’t get to put a single one up.

I’m mad about that too.

Because at this time of year, the only thing that I desperately cling to is the Hope that came with the Child for whose birth that tree is decorated.

Revelations 21:4–He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

When my beautiful friend Francesca started Still Standing, I didn’t really feel I had any place in it. I had a one-year-old and was pregnant again. What could I add?

She told me she wanted Still Standing to be about living again…embracing life…being glad to be alive again after you maybe once wished you were dead. She thought that I was a voice to support that, and so…I joined.

Years have come and gone. Here I am in charge of Still Standing–a resource that did not exist when my son died and for which I am so thankful exists now so that no one ever has to be alone in their loss and heartache. I remember a friend telling me that she hoped one day I’d not just be still standing, but that I’d be jumping for the joy-filled life I’ve lived, and you know what? I do. Most days.

But today…on his seventh birthday…the rage took me over.
Today it is hard to be still standing because his birthday is, as will always be…standing still.

I hate that.
I hate that so much.

I want to celebrate his birthday today but honestly?
I am too angry to.

And I won’t.
Because it doesn’t matter to him and it’s not going to make me feel any better.
Today, nothing really will.
That’s just how it goes sometimes.

That’s how grief is. Some days you literally cannot breathe out of gratitude for your life and that you survived the greatest tragedy(ies) you’ve known and others?

There are no words for the rage inside.
This beautiful boy’s birthday should be full of life and laughter and today?
It stands still, and I bow under.


  • Lori

    I'm small, but scrappy! I have a fierce passion for my family, friends and life in general...I'm a military spouse who has battled infertility for over 13 years, as well as the loss of two babies gone too soon. I love to laugh, and am grateful for every second I celebrate with the ones I love. You can find me at Lori Does Maryland


    • Cheslea Renninger

      November 28, 2016 at 10:56 pm

      Thank you for this! I am still standing after I lost my pecious daddy unexpectedly while pregnant and 3 months later my beautiful son was born sleeping. A beautiful 7lb 7oz boy who went straight to the arms of Jesus and to the arms of my daddy! I am hardly standing but still standing as I get closer to his first birthday as I pass through all his first holidays with out him and without my daddy!

    • Dear Talia: Happy Birthday – Still Standing Magazine

      November 15, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      […] Related: When Birthdays Stand Still […]

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