Charlie’s Birthday

(Topic: Grief, Birthday, Anniversaries. Picture-heavy post)

Dear Friends,

Tuesday was my son Charlie’s birthday, and if he hadn’t died, he would now be 2. Sometimes I tell people that it’s the “anniversary of his birthday”, or that it “would be his birthday”, so they don’t expect him to be alive, but for me, it IS his birthday.

We decided to celebrate fairly quietly, but I DID want to celebrate… acknowledging Charlie is extremely important to us.

The day before, I went to buy the last of the decorations, and then on Tuesday our plan was to visit the cemetery in the afternoon, and have a dessert picnic with family and friends in the evening.

Pookie helping bring home the birthday balloons.

Pookie was pretty much my constant companion this week. The comfort of holding him really helped, but I was still very tense the whole Father’s Day weekend and leading into Charlie’s birthday itself. While this year it fell on Tuesday, 2 days after Father’s Day, the year Charlie was born they were the same day. So in my mind, the days leading into Father’s Day are when I remember Charlie’s birth more than the days leading into the actual birthday. I think that’s because Father’s Day stays on Sunday, so my brain remembers Friday, Saturday, Sunday, rather than 17th, 18th, 19th. On the Friday, I remember how things felt “off”. On Saturday, I remember the moment I was told that there was no heartbeat, and how it felt like all the air was ripped away from me and my world was tearing in two. On Sunday it’s better: I remember holding Charlie after he was born, and the tender moments we had with him, though I also remember the nurse’s turquoise eyes, matching her scrubs, as she cried too while taking Charlie away from us for the funeral home to pick up. For me, Father’s Day weekend and the days after leading into Charlie’s birthday is probably the hardest week of the year.

To help remember Charlie himself and not just the terror and pain and heartbreak, it is important to me to memorialize Charlie. For me, this includes having family around us, and remembering it as a birthday and not just a death-day, including having birthday decorations and birthday cake.

Hubby took the day off work, and we had a leisurely morning, spending time with each other and not rushing. We decided to eat lunch out, and then drove to the cemetery, which is unfortunately about a 45 minute drive from home.  It’s a lovely historic cemetery with many former mayors and other big families from the town I grew up in, and the front half of the cemetery has many graves from the 1800s. Charlie is further back in the cemetery, actually in a section with many people I grew up with in my church, scouts, and community. I feel like Charlie is with friends and family. He is also close to the river that flows along the back of the cemetery, which is lovely.

Me decorating. There is a sash that says “It’s My Birthday”, and pinwheels, and I’m hanging up some ribbon that says “Happy Birthday”. You can see Pookie sitting on the blanket with the presents, and the cooler has flowers.

The decorations from our perspective on the blanket. When I bought the sash, the sales lady asked, “there’s a birthday coming up?” I just said, “yes.”

After I finished all the decorating, including some roses. The rest of the flowers were for later.
The flowers for later.

This was Pookie’s outfit 🙂 He’s sort of Charlie’s avatar, so despite the fact that we didn’t get Pookie till months later, we consider this to be Pookie’s birthday too.

The next thing we did once we got the decorations up, was to settle down on our picnic blanket and start opening some presents. We get Charlie one (though it ended up being two…), and we also had a package from my aunt and a package from my best friend. While the presents usually in effect are for us, or for Pookie, they represent Charlie and that is the point.

No name yet, this is Charlie’s brand new tiger! From Etsy, and I was super lucky that when I contacted the owner of that store, she only had 2 tigers left, so I snatched it up. She then personalized it for us. There’s a message embroidered underneath, too, that says, “In our hearts forever. Love, Mommy and Daddy”.

A beautiful art print from my best friend. She understands how Charlie will always be a part of our life. I cried….

A lovely tiger’s eye necklace made by my aunt! She remembered that tigers are our symbol for Charlie.

A new pendant for Charlie’s beaded name banner, from my sister.

Here’s a picture from after I put the new “feather” on.

Here’s a picture Hubby took of me, as we hung out with Charlie.

A visitor. The year we buried Charlie we saw many little blue dragonflies, so the dragonfly is a secondary symbol of Charlie, for us. This guy was a little bigger, but it still reminded us of Charlie and made us smile.
Pookie hanging out with us, after unpacking gifts.

Pookie and the new tiger getting to know each other.

The flowers were for an idea I had. Many people like to do a “release” in memory of a deceased loved one. While I like the idea, a balloon release is terrible for the environment, and butterfly releases are not cheap. But, with the river so close by, I thought of getting some relatively cheap bouquets of flowers, and we broke off the blooms and tossed them in the water, and watched them drift downstream. It was lovely, and I’m happy with how it went.

See the little blooms drifting?

The flowers drifting downstream. We weren’t sure if they would get caught along the bank, but most of them did manage to get to the current.

Packing up. We had to be careful with timing, to fit in dinner and be on time to the park where we were planning a birthday picnic.

Pookie helping pack up! He’s guarding all the presents in the basket.

Having the lunch and then the dinner on our own, which was not specifically planned, actually was really helpful, and allowed some of the tension to ease. Tension that only I was feeling: I desperately want everything to go smoothly for Charlie’s birthday. To have a moment with hubby to just eat and talk and relax was very nice.

We then went to the local park, and expected a few family members and a friend or two.

Pookie claiming a table.

He decided to hold the balloon for us.

Our cake. Almost forgot to get a picture!

This cake is extremely important to me. I bought one just like it (without the writing) when I was full term, and put it in the freezer with the plan to get it out when I went into labor, so that when we had a baby, the birthday cake would be ready. Since that never happened, we served the cake at the funeral reception. Last year, though, I got this cake again, with the message on it, and this year my mom helped me get it again.

Birthday table!

Everyone seemed to have a good time talking. I think every family finds their own way to honor their babies, and for us, a birthday picnic worked well both last year and this year.

Pookie after we got home. I was super tired by this point – emotion, mostly.

I also want to share 2 pictures of a memorial garden from where I once worked. A person from there shared these pictures with me, and remembered that tigers were our thing: the little tiger hung out at the memorial garden for Charlie’s whole birthday:

The other new tiger we got 🙂

Thank you for everyone who emailed us, messaged us on Facebook or texted us, replied to one of our Facebook or Instagram posts about Charlie’s birthday, or liked one of those posts. With a few repeats, I think about 70 people let us know that they were thinking of Charlie. And as a mommy, I feel my job is to make sure Charlie isn’t lost to time… so just letting us know you remember him means so much to us. THANK YOU.



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