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Life and Death

On this day, October 21, six years ago, a child was born. He was small, no bigger than the palm of a small woman's hand, weighing slightly more than a few feathers. His entrance to the world was too soon, too abrupt, unexpected.

He fought to live.

On this day, October 21, four years ago, a different child died. He too was small for his almost five years, weighing no more than a few good sized rocks. His departure from this world was too soon, too abrupt, unexpected.

His fight for life was over.

I've written and rewritten this post over in my head from the moment I learned Jumby's birthday fell on Shalebug's death day early on in the adoption process.

Each time I stop, having run into a wall of emotion that is too tall to climb. So I pushed it out of my head, and out of my reality, telling myself I would deal with this mix of emotions tomorrow.

Tomorrow became today and there is no pushing it out of my mind.

There is a little boy, who for the first time in his life, has a forever family to celebrate his birthday with.

There is a little boy, who will no longer have birthdays to celebrate.

We were prepared for the emotional impact of bringing in a new life to our family. As a family we talked at length to each other, to ourselves what it would mean to love another little boy in the absence of another. We knew there would be nothing that could fill the void Bug's death created, no amount of love or time could fill the vacuum created with his absence.

Like the world around us, we knew we needed to move on, to continue, to live. We knew instinctively the only way to heal would to be to keep loving. Jumby has been the miracle medicine this family has so direly needed for so long. This is a family that is meant to share, to embrace and we knew that another child, another sibling was out there waiting for us to find and call our own.

The love he freely gives us with each laugh, each hug continues to soothe the raw edges of our wounds of grief.

But today, on the day of Jumby's birth and Shale's death, it is a cruel reminder of what we have all lost.

Perhaps it won't always be this difficult. Perhaps I'm being too hard on myself, holding myself to higher expectations than any mother can possibly maintain. But I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to wish one son a happy birthday while not remembering how his brother turned cold and blue in my arms.

It feels like a knife through our love. A betrayal to Shale for trying to find joy on the day he was ripped away from us. A betrayal to Jumby for not being able to wish him a happy birthday without wiping silent tears that streak down our cheeks.

My children are struggling with this. They don't know how to cope, how to comprehend, how to compartmentalize their pain alongside their love for their new brother. They look at me with wounded eyes and cry softly wondering if Shale will think they are abandoning him for a live sibling. They weep while wondering if they are betraying this new brother for feeling sadness on a day that should be laced with nothing but joy for the birth of their Jumby.

I'm struggling with this. Deep inside me I worry if Shale is aware of this, if he thinks I've forgotten him for my new son. I worry Jumby will question every cuddle I give him, wonder if I'm nuzzling the soft underside of his neck while wishing it was a different little boy in my arms.

It's complicated and absurd and the irony makes me cackle out loud like a crazy lady inside a padded room.

I can't change the past, I can't undo death, nor rearrange time to make birthdays unto their own, unmarred by the fog of loss. I can only wrap the love of my little boys around my heart and put one foot in front of the other while hoping desperately that the example I'm setting is not doing more harm than good.

Today, on October 21, I sit here and marvel how six years ago, my child was born and I never even knew it. A boy who should never have had the strength to live a day has somehow managed to live 2190 days and counting. My beautiful son with dimples so deep you can lose yourself in them.

Today, on October 21, six years ago, our family was given the greatest gift we have ever known, even if we didn't know it then. A fourth son, a brother who can't stand or speak or see yet somehow has the ability to allow us to soar to heights of love we had all forgot was even possible.

Today, on October 21, I sit here and remember how four years ago, I said goodbye to my boy and sang to him his last lullaby. A boy who lived longer than anyone thought possible but not nearly long enough for those who loved him. My beautiful son with his bright blue eyes and lashes that touched the sky.

Today, on October 21, four years ago, our family endured the greatest loss we have ever known, a pain we never knew existed. A son, a brother who couldn't talk, or eat or smile yet somehow had the ability to show us the meaning of unconditional love as he gave us enough love to last a life time.

I will light a candle for one son while I help another blow out his own as he makes a wish.

Today I will gather all my children around and hold them dear to my heart and know that no matter what the day is, whether a birthday or an anniversary, it is a day to celebrate the heart. No matter how fractured it is, the pieces will always expand to love another.

I love you both so very much, my beautiful boys.


Happy Birthday Jumby. We love you so very much.

(Identity concealed to appease the governmental gods while the adoption is finalized.)


We remember Bug. Always and forever we love you little man.

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Reader Comments (182)

Love you, Tanis.

All that love in your heart? I believe it makes the world a better place. I really do.

Thank you.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

Tanis, that was beautiful. I'm so sorry for Shale's passing, but I'm positive he knows he's not forgotten. How could he, when even strangers on the internet feel how much you love him.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteravasmommy

The days are the same for a reason, dear heart. I'm not sure *what* that reason is, but there is one. Love you.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChibi Jeebs

Almost forgot:


October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteravasmommy

oh, sweetheart.

so much love to you and yours. just so much love.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterslouchy

Tanis, Bug will never for a moment have to wonder if you've replaced him in your heart. He knows, as we all do, how much he is loved. Same for Jumby. I'm so sorry for your heartache.


October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJen @ lifelove'n'wine

What words, I have no idea how painful this must be. I feel for you though as you as you search for the most impossible answers.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBobbi Janay

Tears. ALl I can say is tears.

this came directly from your soul tanis.

Nothing in this world happens by chance. I believe this with all my heart. This was no coincidence. Jumby was sent to you from above, born on this day for a reason my dear, strong woman.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaya

I'm sorry for your loss...and happy for your gain. Does that make sense? :-)

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter3carnations

I have no words except to say that I am thinking about you and your family today.


Thank you for posting this.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMelisa with one S

My heart goes out to you and your beautiful boys.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBut Why Mommy

As is so often the case when I read about your boys, I find myself at a loss for words... but overwhelmed by the scale and intensity of your love for both.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTwoBusy

I have no words. This day is the very definition of bittersweet for you. Wishing you all the best.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

What a powerful and touching post. I can't imagine how hard this was for you to write, to get your fingers to press the keys. I am so sorry for you loss, but so happy for your new light. I believe that your son who has passed has the knowledge and the love to know that he will never be replaced. I'm sure he's looking down on you from a soft cloud, so proud of his family for making room in their hearts for so much more love. Thank you for sharing your story.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJill @BabyRabies

Thinking of you all. You have each other and that is what will help you all get through the happiness and sadness.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

Happy Birthday, Jumby!

Dance with the angels, Bug!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMartha

much love to you and your family today.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermelissa

I am not going to even pretend that I can in any way understand what this day means to you or your family... but I will say that this post totally floored me emotionally. seriously, made my heart ache. thank you for sharing it.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbryn

You kick do much ass, woman, you don't even know it. But ALL of your boys do. I love you, baby.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMr Lady

blessings and love to you and all of your children, whether they are with you in body or in spirit.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkate

Dang it, woman. If you don't have me leaking tears of laughter, you jerk at my heart strings.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwitchypoo

What a beautiful post of celebration of two very important lives. I wish you strength in your old and new memories.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGina von

Tanis, so sorry for your loss, yet so joyful for your amazing six-year-old Jumby. Your blog gives me a taste of what UNCONDITIONAL love can do for a family. It's a gift.


October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Wilson

Tanis, you and your family are in my thoughts today. What a beautiful post.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarci

I can't even imagine the emotions, but I think we need to declare tomorrow Tanis Day because you? Are amazing.

Happy birthday, Jumby!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBurgh Baby

Tanis, I know nothing of your faith or religion or blah blah blah, so I don't speak this as truth to you, OK?

I just want to share with you what I believe...

I believe that when a child dies, he goes to a place where feelings like "betrayal" and "being forgotten" do not exist. I believe he goes to a place where miraculous understanding and love occurs - and only that.

I don't believe it is any more possible for your son to feel forgotten or slighted by your love for another boy than it is for you to forget or slight him.

I don't know if that's what you believe. But I wish I could give you, at the very least, the little bit of peace that comes from believing that.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Britt

Oh Tanis. ((hugs)). I'm sorry. It's the closed door, open window analogy. Good and bad. Biter and sweet. Beautiful and horrible. All at once.

Happy Birthday to Jumby! I'm happy for the joy he gives your family.

And I'm thinking of you today as you and kids and hubby miss Shale.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

I'm at a loss for words, or the right words, at least. But I'll be thinking about you and your family today.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJust Shireen

There really isn't anything anyone can say to make this day any easier, but I can very much see how extremely blessed BOTH of those little boys are to have and be remembered by such a fantastic family and mom.

You do amazing things.

Happy Birthday, Jumby!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMrs Chaos

The day I went to the hospital pregnant and came home deemed the exact opposite wondering if we would ever have a babe to call our own, much less getting over losing our first one, I wouldn't have dreamed I'd be sitting in the hospital EXACTLY 8 years *to the day* holding a happy healthy baby girl! No, it will never "replace" what you've lost, but I do like to think it is something or someone a little bigger than us winking at us as if to say, "I told you not to lose faith, this was no accident!".

I will keep you & your family in my prayers today that every day of joy with your new found love eases every marker of another year lost with Shale. And I doubt he would ever be jealous over Jumby, but delighted to see the love & joy alive in your house as it once was and always should be, because he loved ya'll just as much!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterO'Neal

Please give the little man a big hug!! we miss him very much and are happy to hear all is going well!! Happy birthday little brother!! luv ya man! you will always be my little bro!!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKarin

I'm not trying to say that the story I'm going to tell you comes close to your pain - because it can't - but it makes me believe in a greater plan.

On May 5th my grandfather died, he actually committed suicide after a very long battle with cancer. I was 15 at the time and struggled to deal with his death.

Fast forward five years later and I'm pregnant with my first son. His due date is May 9th. My son was born on May 5th, five years after his great-grandfather died. During my pregnancy my father and I never spoke of a desire for my son to be born on May 5th but after he was, we told each other how we had wanted him to be born on that day. That his birth would help us heal that day. For me May 5th is unforgetable, a day that years later causes me both pain and joy.

Your day is October 21st. It will forever cause you two great opposing emotions. Both of your boys know that you love them and that they are both important to you. Grieving for your loss does not diminish your joy in what you have gained.

On a side note: My husband and I both have very dark brown eyes. My son has the most beautiful blue/green eye. My grandma says they are my grandpa's.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy FishKnees

All you need is love. In life and death, for those left behind and those still holding your hand, all you need is love. You have an abundance from your children. Although I cannot comprehend the feeling of loss you have for your son, I can feel the love you have for him through your words. Your boys are blessed to have you for a mother.

{{hugs to all on this day of celebration}}

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHockeyman

I'm so sorry. This was a beautifully written post about sadness and happiness.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwn

Oh, Tanis! How beautifully you write; how exquisite your pain. Sending hugs through my blubbering here. Thank you for your honesty, your honor and sharing your raw emotion here. Remember, ShaleBug is always with you.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbikerchick

This is close to me, not as a mother, but as the sibling. Your kids.

My younger brother was killed on January 17th, 1994. He was 17. January 17th is also my older sisters birthday.

As a sibling, I never knew the right thing to do for my sister. For a few years, she celebrated her birthday in June - on his birthday...so that we could 'remember' and 'grieve' on January 17th.

I still struggle with what's right, but I never stop missing my brother. I will always remember the years we had. Even the years we celebrated our older sister's birthday.

Peace to you today, and happy birthday to Jumby. Love his glasses ;)

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMK

I think both your boys know how much you love them, that despite the sadness there is much joy - they go hand in hand so often.

Happy birthday, Jumby.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterVirginia

Totally felt your pain through your typing, and cried my eyes out on behalf of your loss and your joy. Thankyou for sharing even such tragic pain. It is something that makes us all recall the frailty of life, and appreciate every small moment.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterR King

Both of your boys know how you love them abundantly, unconditionally.your heart shows it. Happy birthday jumby. ((Hugs)) bugs and tanis

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjenn

Sending so much love and hugs to your family today.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPrincessJenn

Tears well up in my eyes and all I can think to say is... actually, there are no words to truly convey my sympathy.

What a sad, yet equally amazing day. I wish your family only the best.

what a beautiful post. FWIW I would bet money that both of your boys know how very much you love them, and I doubt Bug would hold any grudge over you guys celebrating Jumby's birthday.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterthepsychobabble

((hugs)) to you & your family!! You're in my prayers. Happy Birthday to Jumby!!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCat

I didn't realize (or maybe I'd forgotten) that we lost our boys so close together. My Nathaniel died Oct 19th, 2005. He died shortly after birth, so the circumstances were different, but I know that heart fracturing, earth shattering, unimaginable loss.


October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy @ Muddy Boots

that was beautiful! im sorry for you losss!love and hugs to you and your beautiful family at such an emotional time!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterandrea bent

No matter what you believe, our elsewhere children return to that one energy and become something else entirely, something not remotely saddled with all the attachments of being human. Like guilt, or feelings of abandonment, or jealousy, or regret.

He knows your love no matter what day it is. He knows love, and he is love.

(Happy birthday, Jumby. Cake on yer face.)

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersweetsalty kate

First of all, I was struck by the very strange coincidence that today is also my son's birthday and reading your post made my heart hurt.

Although I cannot begin to comprehend the cosmic mix of pain and joy that is in your heart today, I do believe the love we feel for new people who come into our lives never diminishes the love we feel for people who have passed through and from our lives. A new love is not a betrayal but a living testament to the loved ones who are gone. We somehow believe that we must grieve long and hard for those we loved, and the longer and harder we grieve, the more it proves how much we loved them. But you must know Bug has no doubt about your love or devotion to him. You don't have to prove that to him.

So, please light the candles, send up an "I love you" to Bug, and celebrate two lives today with no guilt, only joy for the precious family you have been blessed with. And HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JUMBY!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrenda

Love is the greatest power we know. Your love for your children makes you one of the most powerful women I know. All my love Cancadian.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWill

My heart goes out to you. Your Bug would never think that you've forgotten him or tried to replaceme him. Never. Your love for him is so evident. Bug would be so happy that you have some joy on this very difficult day. Happy Birthday, Jumby! You've found yourself a wonderful family!

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStimey

I just found your blog today, thanks to Avitable.

I cannot imagine what you are going through, and I won't pretend to. You have so much love and affection in your heart and soul, there is no way either son could question your feelings. You sound like a great mom, and I am very sorry for your loss.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSincerely, Jenni

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