Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Family Time Inspired By Him

Toren's 2nd  birthday was an important time for our family. We received so many messages of love and support from our friends. Candles were lit, friends in Hawaii wrote his name in the sand and we knew that for some part of the day, he was remembered. So grateful for those friends.

Before his birthday, we went away for a few days to Whidbey Island and did some beach combing and treated ourselves to some yummy seafood. The guesthouse where we stayed was run by a friendly, cheerful woman who told us that she has 5 kids and 15 grandkids, and that her husband had died within the last year. Cue the compassion! She was explaining why the DVD player was broken because that was the sort of thing he took care of, and that she was on a "steep learning curve". No kidding. Grief is a steep, steep learning curve. Learning to live without someone you love takes work. Figuring out that the relationship is not over, that it continues in a different form, is a harsh lesson. I spent much of our time there thinking about him, wondering what he was like, about how difficult this past Christmas must have been for his family and how many people must miss him.

Pete said he wanted to be home on the day of Toren's birthday so we travelled back the day before and spent a lovely day doing things inspired by him. In the morning, we baked cupcakes and packed them up to take with us on our day out. We went swimming - nice to do on a weekday, when it's not so busy. The swimming was my idea. It seemed like a good day to float. The hot tub was nice too. We had lunch at one of our favourite restaurants and then headed to the infant area of the cemetery to lay some flowers. It was a sunny day, not mild but not raining, so we spent some time walking the paths and reading the stones carved with babies' names. Afterwards we went to our friends' place to take down the decorations from Toren's Christmas tree. By that time the sun had gone down and it was freezing cold so we did it really quickly, no time for emotion, let's just grab these things and go! It was kind of funny. I decided to make a soufflé for dinner. I had made it only a couple of times before and it's a nice recipe. It's not that I think he would have liked it, I just wanted to do something "special", or at the very least, something different. The results were disastrous (possibly even hazardous!) and we ended up having leftover spaghetti. Pete's still annoyed that we wasted 6 eggs! Ah well. Our friends had left some treats under his tree and we left them some (frozen) cupcakes. Later they texted and said, "We want to eat the cupcakes with you!" so they came over for a visit in the evening and we had cupcakes and tea and talked about our babies. All in all a really nice day. The sadness is always there, but you can have that and have a lovely day too.

We're going to try to take a little trip every year and then spend time together as a family on or around the day he was born. I think ahead to when our daughter is older and has her own busy life. Toren's birthday will be another time during the year when we can reconnect and share our experience as a family, whether we actually get together or connect in other ways. I have read accounts from grown-up bereaved siblings, they fascinate me. I hope our daughter never says "We just did it for my mom." I want her to continue to attend to her own feelings about Toren, not just go along with mine. I'm the mother, she's the sister, it's going to be different. If she doesn't want to keep going to the cemetery, or doing the things we want to do, that's totally fine. We can still meet for lunch and spend time together as a family. Or talk on the phone or skype or whatever exists when I'm an old lady. I'll try to keep up with the technology.

Whidbey Island Photos

1 comment:

  1. 1) I love Whidbey! I was stationed there for a few years. It was always amazing... I just fell in love with the whole PNW.

    2) I really can't speak for anyone else of course, but I for one wonder if the nature of their remembrances... whether ultimately too sad or painful or in no way representative of how they would've wanted to remember their sibling.. or if it was more personality-based, in that I personally enjoy traditions, ritual, ceremony, and my brothers certainly do not ... that led them to only participate for their moms? I feel like I personally would've been thrilled to do something to acknowledge, if not actively and regularly honor, my little sister. I remember hesitating to say her name - in fact, I *still* hesitate to say her name, even though I know my mom is waiting for my call on her birthday, and I know I may well be the ONLY person in my mom's life who still speaks it out loud - but I don't remember being told not to speak of her... it was just implied by the prevailing attitudes at the time.

    I like to think that your openness with your daughter, the way you so clearly give her permission to honor Toren in her own way, letting her experience her emotions and work through them naturally, not dictating them to her, and are willing to give a wide-open framework to how you spend his birthday, keeping it under a heading of "family time" vs. It Must Be This, In This Way, Always, will go a very long way to making it an annual thing she looks forward to being a part of, for the long haul.

    When I was younger (much younger, school-aged) I used to be so disappointed in myself and in my family if I didn't remember to do something, at least take a quiet moment for myself to think of her. There were years when I didn't even know for sure *when* her birthday was, and that made me so sad. I was upset I didn't know, and nervous to ask, afraid I would be told it didn't matter or wasn't my business. Sigh. The good news is that those days and my confusion are now gone.

    It sounds like Toren had a beautiful birthday, full of love.