It’s been just over two years since we held our first son in our arms. In those years, not a single day has passed where Aaron’s name hasn’t been spoken in our household or when he hasn’t been on our minds. We think of who he would be right now and what he would be doing. We listen to the sorrow in the voices of his big sisters as they speak of missing their little brother. We see him carefully sketched in the sky of every single family drawing they make. We find ourselves absentmindedly running our fingers over the treasured keepsakes that are the only tangible evidence of his brief little life.
Aaron is, was, and will always, be a part of our story and a part of our lives. These days, it has begun to feel like those around us have all but forgotten the tiny little baby who stormed into our lives, stole our hearts and was gone again just as quickly. There is this mistaken notion sometimes that grief is supposed to follow a linear path and should get easier over the course of time. Unfortunately, this just isn’t typically the case.
Our children spent this past weekend with my parents so that Chris and I could spend some much needed time focusing on one another. On the way to drop them off, we stopped by the cemetery to “spend some time with Baby Aaron” just as we do every time we head that direction for a holiday or family gathering. (For those that don’t know, the cemetery is just outside my hometown and is just over an hour away from where we live now.) They love to sit in the grass and talk to Aaron while they rearrange every single trinket and keepsake that we have placed on his headstone. This weekend, they pulled up handfuls of little clovers so they could leave him bouquets of “flowers” and talked me into making a clover chain to leave for him as well. They blew him kisses, told him they loved him and then we continued on to see my parents.
When we picked them up yesterday, we had only made it about fifteen minutes into the drive before my oldest daughter asked to go back to the cemetery before we went home. The weather was terrible, everyone was tired and we were running behind so we reminded her that we had just been there and promised that we would go again next time. She quietly agreed but when we checked the mirror a minute later, we saw her tear-streaked little face and she gently explained that she missed Baby Aaron and really wanted to go see him again today. We pulled over so I could climb in the back to hug her and her sister. Then I tried again to explain why we couldn’t go to the cemetery today and promised that we would get down his pictures and keepsakes so we could look at everything when we got home.
So, that was what we did. We brought down three large black and white NILMDTS photos that sit atop our entertainment center, got out the blanket that he was wrapped in at the hospital, and carried in the weighted teddy bear that we had made to match his birthweight. Then we all sat in the living room floor as the girls carefully wiped the dust from the photos and our youngest snuggled his head into the belly of the teddy bear. We patiently answered questions that we’ve already heard a hundred times about why Baby Aaron had to die, how he got his “boo-boo,” what his head looked like, and why he had to wear a hat. We had to carefully navigate questions from our four-year old about why she couldn’t see the pictures of Baby Aaron’s head without his hat. I had to fight back my own tears as hers began falling when she told me that she was so sad because she couldn’t remember seeing him at the hospital.
It tears me apart to see such innocent little people struggling so hard to comprehend something that even their parents will never begin to understand. We wonder at every turn whether we’ve handled things in the best way for them or whether we should have done everything completely differently. We fight almost daily to keep our emotions in check so that we can help them to properly process their own.
Yet, they are often the ones who end up teaching us in the process. We marvel at the wisdom and the grace that they continue to exhibit at the most surprising times. We are often left speechless at the faith they possess and the untainted trust in God that they harbor. Their simple explanations, unbridled compassion, and awe-inspiring unconditional love for their baby brother are some of the greatest blessings we have been given in this lifetime.