My thoughts are jumbled, overwhelmed, stuffed full inside my head that is trying in vain to focus on mundane things like swim meets and finishing the Christmas shopping and how good this pumpkin spice creamer is--Anything to distract me from the knowledge that my son Tyler would have been one today.
A year ago, this day, I was different. I was still pregnant, sitting in a bed, strapped to monitors as they prepped me for what was supposed to be a routine C-section delivery. I remember laughing with my mom, listening intently to the anesthesiologist--he was a jokester--and telling myself excitedly that even though I couldn't find a comfortable position, I wouldn't be pregnant much longer, and holding my baby in my arms would be infinitely more comfortable than holding him inside a belly that entered the room ten minutes before I did.
I was also different inside. I had no idea what was to come.
That's the thing I think about most today. How different I am inside as a result of losing Tyler. The grief and loss is unparalleled. It is unlike anything I've ever experienced or will again (provided I outlive my other two.) It never goes away and as I'm finding out today, even when I think it's faded, something like a birthday will come around and tear it open and it's as fresh as it was day one. But there are positives as well. I have learned not to take life for granted. To take chances and risks if it means LIVING. To embrace new experiences, more than that, to go out looking for them every single day. You only get one shot at this life and no one knows how long that shot will last. Time is limited. It can be taken from you in a blink. You don't get any do-overs. So, seize the day. Take a chance. Try something new. Make your time count.
There is no question that Tyler's time counted. For him--I know he was aware of us holding him for three days straight without putting him down because every time we let go of him, his vitals crashed. And for us--people I'd never met were emailing and sending messages that their entire church or family or organization was praying for us and for him. Tyler almost died in delivery but he was revived. He almost died again the next morning in the NICU before the ambulance from UVA Children's Hospital could take him, but he didn't. We were told by his doctors at UVA that he wouldn't make it through the night but he did. (If he hadn't, I would've never gotten to hold him.) Every day he was still here, the doctors were amazed. They called it a miracle. They shook their heads because they couldn't understand it. But I know it's because of strangers that prayed. People I will never meet were impacted by the miracle of Tyler being here for those 5 days instead of 5 minutes.
I gave a lot of thought as the day approached to the appropriate birthday celebration for Tyler. And this is what I came up with: Tyler's life was SO MUCH about the kindness of strangers. The people praying, the doctors and nurses who helped take care of him (Naomi, Kara, and Amelia--you are SO MUCH on my heart today and I love you), the staff behind the scenes who made it easier by giving us a room right inside the NICU with Tyler, and so many more.
Because of these kindnesses, it seems fitting for Tyler's birthday that I would give back in the same way.
This morning, my kids and I sat at the computer and bought Tyler's birthday present through a website called Kiva. Here's a little about it:
We are a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.
Basically, you give $25 in the form of a loan to someone in another country who needs it. Could be for business, housing, education. Lots of reasons. Over time, that person uses the money to increase their income and repay the loan back to you. At the end of the loan's term, you have your money back and you've helped someone who otherwise might've fallen further into poverty. My 9-year-old daughter chose who we lended to. A group of teachers in Sierra Leone that needed money for their school funding. Here's the link to read about it.
It's such an amazing Pay It Forward concept. I love that I am helping, even in some small part, a group of strangers I will never meet, and that I don't need to meet them in order to make a difference. It's beautiful. And I think it's the perfect way to celebrate Tyler. Happy Birthday, baby.
Photo by Bowman Art
This picture is going around Facebook in light of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary yesterday. My heart goes out to those families and I just love this image because it reminds us our kids are in a safer place where no pain or harm can come to them. I hope that is a small comfort to the parents who've lost.