Today Ben would have been five. I say “would have” because I don’t know if he is. Is he is 3 ½ forever or is he is continuing to grow and age? This is one of the many unanswerable mysteries that now make his absence so despairing. A trusted friend and mentor told me he believes everyone is in their prime in heaven – but I didn’t get the chance to know Ben in his adult life and that thought is traumatizing to me. What if he is older and by the time I get there and I don’t recognize him? Then I take a deep breath and remind myself that there is no way I could not recognize him. Those eyes. I will know him. What I should probably worry about more is if God will let me in after the amount of swear words I have uttered towards the sky over the past three years.
But today is not as much about my eternal salvation as it is about remembering Ben. Five years ago today at 2:34pm he entered this world, forever sharing a birthday with our Cousin Janie. We had no idea the height of love and therefore the depth of loss we would experience. Our lives were changed because Ben lived. It is his birth day. It is not “Happy Birthday” – for “happy” no longer exists for us the way it used to.
How does one celebrate your child’s birthday when they are not here? Last year we knew how to proceed because Ben made it quite clear before he died saying, “When I am four I get to have a Mater cake.” And so we had a Mater cake. This year has felt different in that we have no instructions and therefore we have felt very lost – as I suspect we will experience every year at this time. I thought, okay – maybe we should just get a cake. But then what kind of cake? And who/what is on it? Does he still like Cars? We have 97 individual cast iron cars from the Cars movie. We could do more than one a year and still not run out! I decided to involve Ryan, but he isn’t quite old enough to engage in any kind of plan, nor understand celebrating a brother he does not know. So I took him downstairs to Ben’s Cars collection and attempted to be quick and specific. The conversation went like this:
Me: “Ryan, which one of these cars should we put on Ben’s cake?”
Ryan: “Ryan have a cake!“
Me: “Yes, but which car should be on the cake?”
Ryan: “Ryan have ice cream?”
Me: “Yes. Ryan, listen. Point to which car we should use for Ben’s cake.”
Ryan: “RYAN HAVE A CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE!!!”
Needless to say the planning session ended in tears.
Jeff and I finally made a decision. No cake this year. Instead we picked up a few of Ben’s favorite donuts from the Poulsbo Bakery this morning – “Gingi-mans” as he used to call them. I thought about putting candles in one, but again how many? Five? It should be such a simple question. I am his mom. I should be allowed to know this. I knew how many weeks he was when I was pregnant with him. I know what time he was born at. I know what time he died. And I knew everything in-between. But I don’t know how old he is anymore.
It is your birth-day Ben. I hope you get to celebrate wherever you are. We love you and miss you more than words could ever say.