He is heartbreakingly innocent — still. Truly, it breaks my heart a tiny bit to think about how sweetly and deeply he loves. One Monday morning a little more than a year ago, he woke up with a sister in the room beside him.
A sister who had been his for nearly 14 months. A sister whose name he had known for months longer than that. A sister who often stole the attention, a sister who sometimes wanted all his favorite toys, a sister who took up his mama’s arms so much of the time. A sister who listened to all of his favorite books with him, a sister who played on his floor and made silly noises when I rocked him in his chair, a sister who laughed with him every morning during breakfast. A sister he had grown to love with his perfect, big brother heart.
And then, that night last year, he went to bed upstairs alone. Her room was empty, and he knew only what we told him — that her heart and body had become very tired and just couldn’t work any longer. That she had a new home now called heaven. That she was so happy there. That we would miss her, but we were happy too because heaven is the best place. But these were just words, and he was just 3. He had a sister, and then she was gone.
And yet, somehow, he is still so innocent. Life has asked too much of him. We are adults; he is only a child. And here he is, full of love. I write a lot about how proud we are of Bethie; we are equally as proud of Freddie.
There is so much doubt, so much hesitation, and there can be so much guilt that comes along with mothering the other child, the sibling of a child who is critically ill. We missed Freddie’s 3rd birthday because we were in California for Bethie’s first surgery. We missed one month of his life for Bethie’s second surgery because we sent him to his grandparents in Illinois while we were with her. We missed several other weeks during her first hospitalization.
He has watched his mother cry more times than many children, and while we help him work through what this means, he is still so young. He did not ask to be part of our lifeline, what keeps us going on the days when sadness falls heavily, but he is. He did not ask for his childhood to be interrupted, put on pause, filled with confusing days, tears, and sadness.
He had a sister beside him one day, and the next day he did not. He did not ask for this. But he also did not ask to be part of a miracle, and he is. He did not ask for us to love him better each day, but I believe we do. And he loves his sister. And he loves God. We thank God and love God more every day for making him ours, and I will try every day to mother him in a way that celebrates this great love.