Today was Aaron's first birthday - our little guy would have been turning one today. We should be planning the last steps for a first birthday party for this weekend. We should have been gathered around our kitchen table tonight so the girls could sing "Happy Birthday" to their little brother. I should be sketching exactly what I want his big birthday cake and cupcakes to look like.
Instead, we went to Hobby Lobby so we could all pick out something to take to the cemetery. We went to the party store to pick out balloons so the girls could "send a balloon to Baby Aaron in heaven." I stayed up late last night making a little Noah's Ark cake for just the four of us. We drove an hour and a half to the cemetery where we ate cake in the back of the van and picked up the pieces of the tiny angel statue that had shattered in the cold weather. We watched as the girls carefully picked just the perfect spots for their pinwheels and rearranged the froggy statues for the hundredth time.
We spent the entire day acutely aware of the fact that this day wasn't the way it was supposed to be. A first birthday is supposed to be about celebrating the completion of your little one's first year on Earth. It's supposed to be a day where parents get to plan this cute little party for a baby who will never remember it but is thrilled at the opportunity to eat way too much sugar.
For someone who has lost a child, it is instead a day where we spend the entire day wondering who our baby would be right now, wanting to know what milestone he would have just achieved and pondering what his personality might have been like. It is one more day where we face the reality that our child is no longer with us.
On a day like today, the greatest presents aren't what you might expect on a normal 'first birthday.' The most precious treasure is for someone to simply acknowledge that our baby existed. It's a text from a friend to let me know she's been thinking of Aaron. It's a Facebook status by another mommy who knows just how I feel today. It's a family member who checks in to ask how we're doing and let us know we're in their thoughts. It's the toy fire truck and the "Happy Birthday" balloon left on Aaron's grave.