Tomorrow would have been Emily Rose‘s ninth birthday, except that Monday will be the 9th anniversary of her death. She lived for one hour and fifty-three minutes. In that whole nightmare of diagnosis, preparation and birth, I didn’t get the one thing I kept praying for, but got one little thing that was important to me: her birthday and her death day were different days.
It’s not always bad. Nowadays it’s not something I think about with tears, although sometimes I think it really stinks to have one baby who died. It was a nightmare to go through, but having gone through it, nine years later, I can tell you it’s survivable. I’m glad to have had her for as long as we did: 23 weeks before her diagnosis, 20 weeks afterward, two hours after birth. The day after she died, I was praying and heard myself say “Thank you.” Thank you for her, for Emily, for the community that pulled together around us. Thank you for a hundred photos, stronger friendships, a deeper marriage, a different perspective, a gravestone.
That last is the problem. The gravestone is sixty-five miles from us, and as at Christmas, we’re simply not going to get there for her birthday. We may be there next weekend, but not this one.
For the past seven years, I would go to the cemetery on her birthday and on the day she died. I’d leave a balloon and flowers and sing Happy Birthday, and once I brought my guitar and played a haunting Irish melody while alone in the cemetery. At night, at home, we’d have a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday To You. The next day would be for being sad.
I’m out of my element here. How am I supposed to honor her birthday when I can’t go for a visit?
It’s not as if she’s there. I know she’s not there. But when it comes to cemeteries, there are “goers” and “non-goers” and I’m a “goer.” I always found it peaceful there, just to sit and be silent or to feel like I was close to her.
What am I going to do for her on Sunday? On Monday? I’m not sure. I was hoping you guys had ideas for me. I’m not sure how to carve out a sacred space when her sacred space isn’t nearby any longer.