Milestone birthdays are the worst.
That first year knowing we’d spent an entire year without our son was torture. February 20th would have been his fifth birthday. Five. That number just seems so big. Five years without him and this milestone feels huge.
There’s something about this fifth year that feels different. Our school district’s kindergarten enrollment opened, and I watched the lines of parents bringing in birth certificates and immunization records. I know that I should be standing in that line. Instead, I’ll watch from afar as my fellow mom friends buy new backpacks that are nearly the size of their child. I’ll see those first day of school photos and it will all feel bittersweet. I’m so happy to see their little one’s milestones and catch glimpses of what it would be like to have a five-year-old boy.
But it’s not our boy.
His little sister, our rainbow, played t-ball this spring. Watching her do the things we never got to see him accomplish just stings. She gets so excited to catch the ball as she stands near the “pitching mound.” I wonder if her big brother would have a good arm on him too. Would we spend hours in our backyard just watching the two of them play catch?
Five years old.
I look at my friends with five-year-olds and I see the way their faces have completely changed from the sweet babies they once were into a true little kid face. I can catch glimpses of who they will become in their energy and their eyes. I’m not even sure what color Joshua’s eyes would have been.
Five years without him.
I try to imagine what he would be like now. Would he want his room decorated with trains, superheroes, or dinosaurs? Would he still be willing to cuddle with his momma or would he be too busy fighting dragons and pirates to sit down for a cuddle? Would he be into Minecraft and Legos like his cousin or would soccer be more his thing?
Five years of missing him.
He should be starting kindergarten this fall, and soccer with his little sister. He should be complaining about having to go watch another one of his sister’s dance classes. And he should have friends, play dates, and birthday parties to be invited to.
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He should be here.
Each moment that passes without him seems like it takes him further away from me. The memories become a little more faded and tiny details harder to recall. I know I will never forget him, but I’m so afraid of forgetting the way his curly hair felt under my hand. Or the weight of his body as I held him in my arms for the first and last time all at once. I’m scared to forget him.
The details of him.
What will be forgotten in another five years? With his little sister, I take photos every day. I have thousands. I have hundreds of videos. Documenting each milestone and memory. I can’t even fill an entire photo album with photos I have of him. If you look at their two baby books side by side, it is heartbreaking. Hers is overflowing with photos and memories carefully written down so as to never be forgotten.
His is nearly empty.
The pages describing our pregnancy and the anticipation of him are full of such joy and hope. And then he was born. And the memories became painful and sad.
Some days five years feels like an eternity. It’s been 284 weeks and 3 days since I was able to hold him. It has been 41,991 days since I was able to see his precious face. It’s been 47,784 hours since I was able to kiss his soft cheek.
These milestones missed are the hardest of all.
Photo Credit: Roseanna Smith on Unsplash