Dear Sweet Baby Zane,
As the end of summer approaches, I am watching my Facebook feed fill up with pictures of kids heading off on their first day of school. As I read posts from other mothers, either celebrating or crying, sending their children off on this new journey, I am sharply reminded that this is one of many milestones I won’t experience with you.
Though I only had you on this Earth for 39 short hours, I’ve been your mommy for nearly 6 years. I’ve missed so many “firsts.” I’ve missed your first smile. I never got to see you sit, or crawl or walk. I’ll never know what it feels like to have you hug me or say “I love you.” The word “mommy” will never cross your lips. And now, I’m faced with the knowledge that you, my baby, my sweet little man, should be starting this new journey with your peers.
I’ve lived with the grief of your absence every single day since you left. Balancing it ever so carefully with the joy your brother and sister have brought to me. I struggle daily with the desperate need to honor your memory while experiencing complete joy for your siblings. The pain ebbs and flows. It is always there, lurking. Sometimes it is a quiet pain of which I’m vaguely aware as I go about my day. And then there are times, like now, when I am so acutely aware of it, it hurts to breathe.
You see, sweet angel, somehow this first is different. Bigger. The start of kindergarten without you isn’t just about me missing a first. It is a harsh reality that the world has gone on without you. Other babies born that year are off to school. Friends. Your friends. Friends you won’t get to know. Friends, who will not only not get to know you, but are completely unaware of you. Mothers will go to the bus stop and take pictures of their precious little ones. Though you’ll be missing from the photo, no one will notice.
Teachers will take roll call and though you are absent, you won’t be marked with an “A” in the attendance book. Zane. Your sweet, sweet name, will not be written in block letters, in alphabetical order with the others. It will not be called. No one at the school knows that a little boy named Zane should have been starting school this year. The principal, the teachers, the other parents, and the children will start a fresh new year without missing you. And that hurts because I miss you. You existed. You are my child and though you aren’t here, I know you should be in class and your name should be called out. You should be shouting “here” and allowing the teacher to memorize your beautiful face.
Oh, sweet child, I remember getting coupons and other parenting material in the mail, long after you had left this world. And I hated it. I cried more tears than there are drops in the ocean. I wondered why these people would torture me. Why didn’t they know that I didn’t need those materials? And now, in retrospect, I understand that at least it was an acknowledgement that you should be here even though you are not. There is no longer that acknowledgement. Six years later, there is no external validation of your existence. It is up to me, your mommy, to tell the world about a brave little fighter who would be setting out to conquer the world this fall, if only he’d beeb given the chance.
I love you, sweet Zane. While your classmates are heading out to kindergarten next week, I hope you and the other children in Heaven are starting a new journey of your own with the knowledge that you are not forgotten.