Sunday, January 29th, will be my son’s 24th birthday. It is also the fourth birthday of his that I’ll be spending without him since he passed away on August 7, 2008. He was 20 years old when he became an angel in the car accident that took his physical life. I am now faced each year with the heavy task of accepting that the child I brought into the world January 29th will not be here to share the day with me. I carried him 24 years ago this week, and his birth on the 29th filled my soul, yet, without him here to share this day with me, I find myself questioning whether or not he was ever really here. I know, it’s a strange question, for I am his mother, and I know I carried him and that I almost bled to death giving birth. However, the question remains, haunting me each year and filling me with doubt. I honestly wonder how I could even question this in the first place, for my heart knows this child grew within me, and of course I also have his birth certificate and the memorabilia which documents his life. But, in all honesty, when he died I noticed immediately that it felt like he’d been plucked from my womb; that the child who grew within me literally and whom I’d carried figuratively for almost 20 years, disappeared in an instant. I have not regained the sense that he grew inside me, and the emptiness I feel within prompts this question every year, “Was he really here?”
I still have not figured out whether or not to celebrate his birthday either. The first year without him, I invited family and friends, including those of my son, to join me in celebrating his birthday. I baked his favorite cake, and we all sang “happy birthday” to Carmen. The second year, I baked another cake, yet this time I lit candles for him by myself, alone, family and friends were busy. Last year, I think I worked, but honestly, I really can’t remember. This week, just the same as in the previous three years, the sadness and hopelessness of anticipating the birthday of a child who now resides in heaven fills my days and nights. I am restless this week, sleeping only three hours a night, still wishing that I could somehow undo what I know is true: that my son will not be here on Sunday, and again I will not be able to tell him know how much joy his birth brought into my life. I will make him a cake, which he will not be able to taste, topped with candles that he will not have the breath to blow out. Yes, it will most certainly be a sad day again for me, as I grapple with the fact that he is not here. Maybe I will struggle with the meaning of this day for the rest of my life, but I really do not have the answer to that question.
This new, lifelong journey presents a whole new world of emotions, actions, and thoughts that I am struggling to integrate into my new identity as a bereaved mother. I wish I had more answers, but all I can do is shake my head and shrug my shoulders in disbelief. I realize that if nothing else, this loss has definitely taught me the true meaning of acceptance.
I guess I’ll make a cake for my angel son again this year. So please, you’ll have to excuse me now, I have a chocolate cake drizzled with caramel to bake. It will be my son’s 24th birthday on Sunday, January 29th, you know, and I want to make sure his cake is perfect.