John & I are introverts. We prefer a night in opposed to a party, a quiet walk together over a dinner party, and a netflix-and-chill night over a crowd any day. We like people, but we're pretty happy over here in our cave o' the Castros, pajama pants and kids giggling on the rug. So, I guess the fact that we are so open about Eli's passing comes to surprise a lot of people. The truth is, talking about him heals us. And it heals the world of child loss one outburst at a time. My child may be dead, but he's not gone. He's not forgotten. He lives here in our hearts and minds and we celebrate him, and we rejoice for him, and we involve him in our family's' life.
We will always miss him.
We will always dream of what could have been.
And we will always hurt for the touch of his hand, his heartbeat at night, sleeping peacefully, his smile, his life.
But we will always be grateful for the short time he was here. And we will always celebrate his birthday. And we will always hang his ornaments at the top of our tree.
It's a little hard sometimes, for the people looking in.
What to say? How to act? It's not natural to bury your child, especially when he's only 6 pounds and 5 ounces. When they're the perfect image of their daddy. When you'd give your own life to trade places. When all you have left is handprints, footprints, a lock of hair, and a death certificate, stained with tears, wrinkled from the grasp of a newly-made angel mommy, she, herself, crumpled on the floor.
What can you say?
We have a small chest in the closet with a few memories from the hospital, a baby book with blank pages, stuffed with cards, and a shadow box hastily put together one day and it hangs in our bedroom. I wear a necklace with his footprints on it constantly. It never comes off. In fact, when I filmed the Dr. Oz show, they had to tape it up because I wasn't removing it for a necklace that was a better length. I love those little feet. They fascinated me from the second he appeared. Tiny feet, so perfect.
A lot of parents have their child's foot or hand prints tattoo'd on themselves in memory. I'm not a tattoo kinda gal, but I love the fact that they have a life-size reminder of their child, not in a book or a certificate. They can see them, and touch them, and picture them all the time.
BUT, last week, I received the most AMAZING gift in the mail.
I literally lost my breath as I pulled it out of the packaging.
It was Eli's actual footprints, in sparkling gold.
It took me daaaaaayyyyyys to find the perfect place to hang it, because, well, is there really a perfect spot for something like this? I wanted it to be bright, so the gold would shine. I wanted it to be somewhere that I could see it all the time. I wanted to keep it in my pocket, really, and if I had a pair of jeans with a 12x12 pocket, I mighta tried. :)
But, finally, I decided on this little wall in the dining nook, surrounded by the brightest windows in the house, and in the place we spend most of our time.
And it looks perfect.
This fall, it will be ten years since those little footprints were taken.
Ten years since we held him for the last time.
Ten years of life without him.
How big would his feet be now? Would they be chasing his siblings around the yard? Jumping on the trampoline? Peddling his bike to school? Racing in pace with his daddy?
A decade we've missed you, sweet Eli.
So THANK YOU, Minted, for making this special gift for us. For taking the time to make sure the measurements were exact, for thinking of us and our son. You have made something more special than you could ever know.
(They didn't ask me to write this or promote them in ANY way, by the way... just LOVE them!)
So, to my new angel families wondering how they can live life in this storm, know that in ten years, we still hurt, but we've healed.
We still cry, but we rejoice.
We still miss him, but we have faith he is here with us, and we'll see him again.
We will always be broken.
We will never feel whole.
But our hearts can still beat, even covered in band-aids and duct tape.
And yours can, too.