Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ryan's 1st Birthday

***This is a long post, but I really wanted to capture this day. It was special in many different ways. I hope you have the time to read it to find out why...***

Ryan's first birthday was a day we will never forget. It wasn't quite the first birthday party we thought we would be planning a year ago, but we found a way to make it special and something that we felt good about. Thank you to everyone who took time out of their busy lives to celebrate with us and everyone who came to eat German Chocolate cake with us the night before. We are so blessed to have so much support from our friends and family.

Our day started out at Charlotte's school, we let her bring treats in for the class in honor of Ryan's birthday. She was really excited about it, and later, when the treats were handed out, Charlotte was given the opportunity in front of her whole class to tell about her brother, Ryan. When she spoke, her words were simple and heartfelt, "Ryan is with Jesus". Whenever Charlotte sees my cross, she says something about Ryan and Jesus. I am not sure she totally understands what she is saying, but I fully hope that belief in this promise stays with her her entire life. We walked in to pick her up, just after she had made her "announcement" to the class. When we walked in, her teachers were grabbing kleenex to wipe the tears in their eyes. I am so thankful for the way she reminds us how simple and sweet the love of Jesus is.

After we had dropped Charlotte off, we went to breakfast. Chris and I had planned to spend the day together, however, we hadn't planned to do anything. It seemed impossible to find "the right thing" to do to honor him. We went to breakfast to brainstorm. Finally, we came up with the idea of delivering "Birthday Cake" to all of the departments at SJMMC that had made a difference in his and our lives. We quickly planned to go to Sam's and buy 4 sheet cakes and enough plates and silverware for each department. Since what we really wanted to do was celebrate, this seemed perfect.

After breakfast, we went to Ryan's grave for some quiet moments together. We wanted to clean the headstone and remove the flowers from Christmas to replace them with flowers for later in the evening when our friends and family would join us. We stood out there quiet, prayed together, and told Ryan we loved him. We cleaned off his headstone, thankful that we had his picture and the memory of the background picture to look at and remember, God is always in our lives.

Then, off to Sam's we went, found 4 sheet cakes, decorated them with a big "Thank You" and headed to St. John's to deliver. We went to the Perinatal Lab first, then Labor & Delivery, NICU, and finally PICU. We left a note in each department and saw a few physicians and nurses that knew our family well. It was good to reconnect with them and to know that Ryan was remembered, dearly. As we went to leave St. John's Mercy, God, once again, made his presence known in my life. I was on the phone, trying to get ahold of a friend we were going to try to see, when down the corridor of the entrance into the hospital, one of the Wing's Nurses, Kim, was walking towards me, saying "Jenn??" My jaw quite possibly hit the floor. Tears immediately welled up in my eyes and I nearly ran to greet her. Kim was the nurse that was on duty the night that Ryan died and came to our house to ease us through those painful hours. She graciously gave us all of the time we needed and with him and held us up, along with our pastor, Robin, when we weren't sure we could stand. I hadn't seen Kim since Ryan's funeral, but had thought of her many many times since. Sometimes, I just want to submerge myself in people who really knew Ryan, people who I know haven't forgotten who he was. God placed her there, for me, at that very moment. And I looked up at my husband to say, "There are no mistakes in this world". He knew I needed to see her, and graciously, intricately, put her right there for me. We could have done a number of things differently that day, and so could she, and our paths wouldn't have crossed. She doesn't even work at St. Johns. So, we hugged and cried and knew what was in the other's heart before it was spoken. Thank you, Kim, for being there. You have no idea how much I needed to see you and how "perfect" that moment seemed to me.

We said our goodbyes and headed out. We wanted to get some flowers and a balloon for Ryan's grave for later that evening. After scouring a few florists and making some phone calls for anyone who had some "blue delphinium", we found a florist in St. Peters that had some. We went straight there to pick out the arrangement. As we pulled in the parking lot, I had just tried calling my sister without getting ahold of her. Then, we see their car, at the same florist. Nathan let us know that Sara was inside, and we went in. She and I looked at each other in amazement, but at the same time, she says she wasn't at all surprised that it was me. In fact, when she told them she was looking for blue flowers, she had asked if she was the person who had just called.... Sara and I hugged, again, God knowing I needed a sister hug, and she finished picking out her bouquet. We said our goodbyes, and Chris and I picked out the arrangement for Ryan's grave. The florist clerk said she remembered Ryan's funeral this summer, and expressed her condolences. She also told me that she understood that buying flowers isn't always for a "good" occasion, and she had lost twin boys at 5 months pregnant. She encouraged me to go to "share" an organization for grieving parents that I have heard of before, and I asked her to email me for their next meeting. It will be nice to see a familiar face, thanks Kelly.

After picking out flowers, we headed home for some down time and I had some homework to do. As I sat at the kitchen table, I glanced up outside to see a beautiful display of puffy white snowflakes falling to the ground. It snowed buckets the day Ryan was born last year, and secretly I was praying it would snow today too. The flakes came down so beautifully, just enough to cover the ground and transform the deadness of the ground into a winter wonderland full of beauty.

The snow was brief but so special.

As we got ready to leave and prepared to bring all that we needed, we took some pictures of flowers that were sent for us to lay on Ryan's grave. This bunch came from my brother and his wife, Laura. It was very beautiful.

After picking Charlotte up and the flowers, we went straight to the cemetery. The flowers that are at the base of the vase were from my mother. White and blue, just as we had picked out. The snow made the cemetery look like a wintery garden, swans in the lake, and a feeling of peace surrounded us as we stood out in the cold.

Charlotte stayed bundled in the car until everyone who was joining our get together had arrived.

Terry brought balloons for us all to release. After saying a few words, we lit Ryan's cupcake, which he blew out very quickly, and sang Happy Birthday to him. At precisely 5:14, we let our balloons sail up into heaven for him and all of his new buddies to enjoy. That moment for me was probably the most awkward of the day. There was so much I wanted to say, to convey to the wonderful people who had joined us, and the right words didn't seem to come out. How do you tell someone "thank you" for celebrating a first birthday in a cemetery? As much as it seems weird, it was something I had to do. I didn't want the day to go unrecognized, and I want Ryan to know that we will ALWAYS celebrate the day he came into our lives, planted like a little seed that is still a flower in bloom. His life, so fragile, so delicate, but his will and his presence, so strong in our hearts.

Anyone who attended was invited to leave their flowers at his grave, thank you to Ali, Kelly, John, William, Amelia, Joyce, Maureen and your grandson, Brian & Rebekah, Pat & Kristy, Matt, Kim, Terry & Steve, Amy, Brad & Becky, Kelly, Grandma Crutchfield, Sara, Nathan & Ian, and Pastor Robin. Your continued love and comfort have made a difference much more than you know.
As we left the graveyard, we bowed our heads for a prayer of thanks and gratitude for the 183 days our lives were blessed with such an inspirational little boy. The evening was setting in and the sky growing darker. Had we not had to leave and hadn't it been so cold, we probably would have stayed longer... I know I for one, didn't want to leave as I feel every time I am there. But, we have to leave, we have to continue on, we have to put one foot in front of another and welcome the rest of the blessings that we are meant to enjoy in this lifetime. So we left the cemetery and a few of us went to dinner together to continue our "celebration". Many of us were dressed in our "pig" shirts, including Charlotte.

Ryan's birthday was expectantly hard. I cried when I needed to cry, and smiled at the thought of our sweet little boy, toddling around in heaven with cake plastered to his face, celebrating with other angel babies in heaven. I was reminded that God is always in our lives, by a few of the "coincidences" if you will that happened throughout the day. But, I really think that there were actually no coincidences, just sweet little moments, planned from above to let us know, that He is still in our lives and so is Ryan.
The day was as perfect as could be...


Anonymous said...

Jen,though you don't know me I read your blog often. Your words are always written so beautifully and heart felt. You are a very strong person for all you have been through. Happy 1st Birthday to your little one who is in Heaven now. May God continue to show his presence to you in unexpected ways.

Rebekah said...

Thanks for writing that all out - you are so brave and beautiful. God is good; you are special. I'm glad we could be there to celebrate with you, even if it was just for a few minutes. I wanted you to know how much we feel with you guys. Blessings to you all today.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear that Ryan's birthday was such a special day for you. Thanks for sharing it!
Angie Stonner