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a year after

Yesterday was Desmond's... birthday? deathday? delivery day? I do not know what to call it. Anniversary doesn't seem right. I think we settled on just calling it Desmond's day.

We went camping this weekend. We were trying to distract ourselves, which sort of worked, but camping is a lot of work and pretty exhausting. Maybe next time we'll do something for relaxing.

A few days before his day, we went to the cemetery and released balloons and dragonflies and read a story and just spent time there. It was really nice.

I thought July 10 would be the worst, but the days leading up to it were much harder. On July 4 it was one year since I'd felt him move. On July 7 it was one year since finding out for sure that he had died. July 9 checking into the hospital. It was a macabre countdown in my mind. All of this compounded by the realization that I have cried every day for 365 days (plus) without fail. Not all day sobbing (some of those, yes) but at least some amount of crying. It has been the saddest, hardest year of our lives.

I've realized some bad things in this past year. I've realized that the people you expect to be there to support and love you sometimes treat you no more kindly than a slight acquaintance. This was our experience with Dave's siblings, who gave us the typical Facebook "I'm sorry" condolences, but that's it. No phone calls, no personal reaching out. I had even asked for a copy of a photograph one of them had taken at our Montana trip last year to put in Desmond's photo album, and never received it. Then on the other hand, family members you wouldn't expect much from have been so sweet and helpful. Dave's cousin, who I met exactly once a few weeks before Des died, sent us such a kind gift in the mail, from her family to ours. It was thoughtful and entirely unexpected. A few of the ladies I met online years ago when pregnant with Truman and Penny, and who I've never met in real life to this day but stay connected to on Facebook, sent me remembrance jewelry with his initials and birthstone on it. There have been people we know in the homeschooling community or at church who have been just awful to us - some simply refuse to look at or speak to us, and others have seemed to go out of their way to be hurtful and cruel. And then there are others who have overwhelmed us with their love, thoughtfulness, and tender kindness.

So in all of that, I think it has helped us to see ourselves more objectively. Are we as kind as we like to think we are? What do we do for others in need? At least in this situation, when someone loses a child, we will know better what to do. Do SOMETHING rather than nothing. Reach out on a personal level - even a text, if you can't bring yourself to make a phone call. Or a card in the mail. Anything. Use the baby's name. Think ahead to dates or events that will be hard for the parents. I have one sweet friend who so often remembers things that are going to be hard for me, things no one else would even think about. She has been a great example to me and I want to be more like that and help others.

We've also learned it helps when we stretch ourselves. Foster parenting is a huge stretch. Just recently we took an 8 month old baby girl. She was delightful - so adorable, like baby Moana - and so easygoing and sweet and slept well! We would have kept her indefinitely, but the judge decided to reunite her with her mom so we said goodbye and pray that her situation improves. Then we took a newborn boy. We had trepidation about it but we wanted to try... and, NO. No. It was not good for us. Every shrill newborn-boy cry was a reminder of the cry we never heard when Desmond was born. His tiny little boy clothes were just such sad reminders. We were only able to keep him a few days, but at least we tried, and now we know. Baby girls, yes. Baby boys.... maybe someday. Not now. And that's okay. There are other people who can take the baby boys.

I can't say I'm glad it happened because I'm not and if we had it to do again I would not want him to die, even after all the love we've experienced and how much we've grown this year. I would still rather have my son than have this knowledge and experience. But if we had to go through it, I'm glad it happened when and where and how it did. I'm glad we have a grave to visit (even though I sometimes become furious that we have a grave to visit). I'm glad our parents were able to see photos of him and be at his burial. I'm glad we have learned how to treat other grieving parents and I hope maybe little by little it will become easier for other people, once we all learn how to love and support each other.


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