July 4. Independence Day. It’s the day on which we celebrate the great freedom of living in the United States. It’s the day we celebrate my in-laws’ wedding anniversary and the birthdays of several friends. It’s a holiday filled with joyful celebrations, parties, cookouts, and fireworks.
And it’s the day that will forever remind me of when everything changed.
Last year, we spent the holiday weekend hanging out with friends and family. We went to the fireworks on Saturday the second with my friend TJ and family and talked about how different it would be next year celebrating with our little boy squirming in his pajamas as he saw the fireworks for the first time.
We went to church Sunday morning, and I can vividly remember several conversations that morning with people telling me how good I was looking (maybe it was the shirt I was wearing that is still hanging in the closet to this day) and asking about how I was feeling with so much excitement, as we were still riding the high of a wonderful baby shower thrown by youth group parents and students the Wednesday prior. We talked about getting all of the new outfits and toys and books put on the shelves in Alexander’s nursery, as we continued our preparations for his arrival, which was still supposed to be a month away.
That Sunday afternoon, our friend TH road tripped with us over to Columbus for an afternoon of fun and an evening Spoke Folk concert to see some dear friends. We walked around Restoration Hardware, enjoyed a delicious dinner at Melt, and then headed to Jacob’s Porch to see the Spoke Folk program. I remember my friend KM coming up to me at the program with so much excitement and asking to feel the baby kick. That night is the last time that I distinctly remember feeling Alexander kick.
On the fourth, we hung at home for a while in the morning and then headed over to John Bryan State Park and Young’s Dairy to hang out with my parents who were nearby on vacation, touring Ohio State Parks. That was the day we picked up the car seat from them that they had bought us as a baby shower gift earlier in the month of June.
I remember Scott and I having a conversation later that night. I felt a little off, and worried because I wasn’t sure if I had felt Alexander move as much as normal. At that time, I didn’t know that was a warning sign of a problem. We decided then that we’d just call the doctor first thing in the morning to see if we could get our Thursday appointment moved up a couple of days, just to be safe. We were watching A Capitol Fourth on PBS while Hiro snuggled close next to us because of the fireworks going off in the neighborhood.
I didn’t sleep well that night. I must have known something was wrong. I don’t know if it would have made any difference at that point if we had gone into the hospital that night instead of waiting for the morning to call the doctor–a decision that still haunts me to this day. There are so many what ifs that I wrestle with each and every day. Because I just wish that things were different.
I just wish things were different.
The next day, our whole world was shattered.
We lost our son.
We lost our dreams.
We lost our future.
We lost a piece of our family.
This year, the Fourth of July is a painful reminder. Even with two different opportunities in the past few days, I just couldn’t bring myself to go see fireworks. It’s just too hard. This year’s fireworks should be Alexander’s first. He should be dressed up in an adorable patriotic outfit and experiencing the wonder of a fireworks display for the first time.
Tonight, as I watch the sunset over Lake Erie from an intentional week away, it just feels heavy.
It feels heavy knowing that when the sun rises in the morning, it will mark on year since we lost our sweet Alexander. It will mark one year of putting one foot in front of the other and taking one breath at a time. It will mark a year of moments lost and memories lost. It will mark a year without our sweet boy.
This year has been the most difficult year of my entire life. Last year, on July 5, I didn’t know how in the world I would survive another hour, let alone a year.
And yet, here we are.
365 sunsets later.
Oh, my sweet Alexander.
I miss you.
You are loved.
You are loved.
You are loved.