A Letter to My Reece on His Birthday

November 8, 2017

Dear Reece,
Happy birthday, my sweet littlest one! How is it that two years have gone by?

At 11:36pm on November 8th, 2015, you were born weighing 4 pounds 15ounces and spanning 18 ½ inches.
You had fuzzy red hair and giant feet. Your sweet baby skin was so soft. You looked like your
biggest brother but were well on your way to developing the feisty personality similar to our
middle mister. You were smaller than your brothers because you were early. You were early
because you had died.

That fuzzy line that stretches around our family is the place where you still
live here with us on Earth. In the time since you died and were born, we have grown. We may
seem to have shrunk, but we have grown because of you. Not just in height and weight like your
two big brothers but we grew in depth and compassion.

We have grown in our understanding of life and death. We grew to know the meaning of legacy.
We have grown in our concept of love and spirituality. In our struggle, we have grown as a
family. My oldest son now knows that all life ends in death. My middle son knows there is a place far far away called Heaven. My husband has less fear of death itself. And I…

As your mama, I carried you every minute of your life and I will love you until my the very last
minute of mine. When you died, Son, I knew my perspective on life would never be the same. I am
different forever, I feel you change me even two years later. I knew I had changed
before I saw the research that explained which changes occurred.

According to a study of bereaved people by Calhoun, et al., there are five areas of post
traumatic growth:
1. Self perception
2. Changed relationships
3. New possibilities
4. Appreciation of life
5. Spiritual growth

“Models of PTG focus on the critical importance of the degree to which the death challenges or
shatters world assumptions. When the death challenges world beliefs, the bereaved must deal
not only with distress, but a reassessment of guiding principles of how the world works.”
When we believe that only sick and old people can die, it shatters our world when death comes
unexpectedly for a healthy new human. But truly, death knows no boundaries. As sure as you
were alive, Son, you died as anyone else can. Despite being perfectly healthy, accidents can
happen. Your accident just happened to have taken place inside my body and was as simple as
restricting your oxygen.

“Those who have experienced PTG attribute the changes to the struggle with grief and loss, not
the loss itself.”

Just as your brothers have taught me more about parenting than any book I could read, you
have taught me about the human condition. I grew to see new layers of life on Earth. I see the
secret pain people shoulder on a daily basis. I see the warrior families, the forgotten mothers,
the ripple shock of unexpected death. The stiff blow that challenges world assumptions.

Sometimes I can feel myself daydreaming about what you would look like now, what would make you laugh, what stories I could tell about your toddler antics. Sometimes I can almost feel you next to me in the stillness. I see little bits of you in invasive acts of nature (like a dragonfly on my classroom ceiling), the fact our fire alarm has been checked and rechecked and still goes off for no reason, and the general soft feeling that I am never alone.

When our family was just weeks away from meeting you, we had visions of how you would grow
alongside your brothers. We never thought you could stop growing. But because you
did, we all grew in different ways. Growth is sometimes painful and I would much rather have
you here on Earth to smear my house and break Lego creations. If I have to give you back
to Heaven, then I believe that I am better for having had you in my life. And if you aren’t here to
grow with us, we will grow because of you.

Happy 2nd Birthday my sweet son!

  • Arica Carlson

    Arica Carlson is married and mothering three little boys, two on Earth, one in Heaven. When she isn’t writing or working, she can be found outside with her family.


    • Winnie Hoffman

      November 8, 2017 at 2:24 pm

      I hadn’t heard the term Post Traumatic Growth–So true! We have certainly experienced this after the death of my grandson during birth. God alone is the Master of life and death–I am so thankful for the new life He gives us when we trust in Christ’s sacrifice for us.

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