Today Ryan is three. It seems impossible. We were just celebrating Ben’s third Birthday. And yet, in approximately five months Ryan will have out lived his brother. I loathe that day. But on this day, November 28th, I offer up thanksgiving for this boy. For his life. 

In the darkest moments since Ben’s death there has only been one person who has the ability to pull me out of complete and utter despair: Ryan. His laughter, his smile, his joy, his abundant energy have been flotation devices along the way. He is funny and sweet (except when he is not). In his bright blue eyes I see hope. Ryan’s presence does not erase Ben’s absence. His laughter does not wipe away our sorrow. They co-exist, the bitter with the sweet. They share the same breath now. But we have been grateful for his life and the ways in which he is willing us to survive.

I am trying to be present in my grief. I am attempting to use the “proper” mediums to work through this journey: our support group, our therapist, and our friends. I want to be present for Ryan, to love him for who he is, to let him live his own life – separate from Ben. But the reality is “Ben” is everywhere. His death is the defining moment for our family. That is our reality, it is our truth. It is how we live into this truth that will determine Ryan’s ultimate health and well-being. I am well aware of this. And yet, I am also aware that without him I would have surely drown. How strange to be saved by a boy who doesn’t even know how to swim.  

I am conscious that this is a lot of pressure for one so small. Sometimes I am thankful that he doesn’t know the magnitude of our pain, as he bounces joyfully and endlessly through our house, but mostly I am profoundly saddened by the fact that he will never know his brother in this time or space. He will know loss and the loss of Ben will affect him – I know this. But it will be the loss of not knowing him – the loss of no conscious memories. And that is different. 

We will do our best to fill in some of those memories for him. We will tell him about his 1st Birthday. About how Ben was so very sick, but he held on. He even picked out a cake for him – “Sally” from the Cars movie. Ben told us that someday Ryan would turn three and be a big boy just like him. 

And two years later, he is indeed three. We will celebrate this milestone of Ryan’s today with our families. Our little city slicker wanted a John Deere party, so John Deere it is. I even baked cupcakes for the very first time, “chocolate and yeh-yow”, per Ryan’s request. But don’t think I didn’t consider calling Trophy.

Happy Birthday to our sweet sweet Ryan.