Six And Eight: Hell By Numbers

I put on a happy face this morning when I woke up and greeted my children like today was another regular day.

I picked Knox up and held him tight and whispered birthday wishes into his ear as he squirmed for freedom. "You're eight today, cub," I announced as I slathered kisses on his cheeks wet from drool.

I hugged Fric and Frac and told them to try and enjoy their day and to remember it's their little brother's birthday and I promised them it was okay to feel any way they wanted to. My daughter blinked back tears as she nodded; clutching her Shale bear tight and bravely smiled and said "Today's the day we celebrate for Knox."

Frac was remained quiet but I caught him singing Happy Birthday to Knox as he wrestled his brother into his splints and shoes. Frac is the only one who can seem to get them onto Knox's feet.

I watched all three of my children walk down the drive, somber and confused, and then I cried.

I was surprised I could hold the tears back for as long as I did, to be honest.

I feel like a failure as a mom, because what type of mother can't celebrate the birth of her child?

The type of mother, I suppose, that watched her other son die on the same day her other child was born.

Beginnings are hard, endings are harder. And it's all too much when they fall on the same damn day.

October 21 took one son away from me and then later gave me another. The irony of this is lost on me as I struggle to maintain my composure for those around me. I don't know how to graciously accept birthday wishes while listening to hushed whispers of condolences. It's the hardest thing to do and it's my own personal version of Ground Hog's day hell for every calendar year to follow.

The gift of my beautiful child Knox and his life has been marred by the loss of the brother he will never know. Nothing in life is free or fair. My new son came with a price tag, one that we were willing to accept but without really understanding the cost.

One day of hell for a life time of gain, I suppose. A deal with the devil, a fair trade.

But it's so fucking hard, and I haven't found the balance yet. I don't know how to weep for the loss of a child I loved so dearly my world collapsed in his absence while celebrating the birth of another son who I love so dearly my world is righted by his presence.

I can't wish October 21 off the calendar because without it my son wouldn't be here.

But with it, my other son is lost to me forever.

I haven't found a way to reconcile the two just yet and I don't know if I ever will.

Six years ago I watched as my Shale died, uselessly and without purpose or warning, taking with him a joy I've never been able to replace. Our family fractured forever and there is no glue in the world to fix the cracks we all collectively share. That Tanis, that mother, that person, she no longer exists. And I'm learning six years is still not long enough to dull the pain that flows through my heart and cripples my soul.

I miss my son. Wildly. I still wake up at night to be crushed with the realization he isn't just down the hall from me, snoring softly in his room. He no longer exists except for in my heart and the memories of those who loved him.

But eight years ago, my son Knox was born, unbeknownst to me. A culmination of circumstances and horror lead him to our family, and his presence breathed new life into all of us. His unrelenting joy and loving spirit has brought a peace to all of us as we listen to him snuffle in his sleep.

A bed that was empty is once again filled.

But the memory of who is lost haunts me, us, and casts a permanent shadow on our lives.

Six years and the shadow is still long and dark. I was foolish to hope this grief and sorrow would be a terrible memory by now.

I'm so sorry Shale that I couldn't save you. And I'm so sorry Knox that I can't celebrate your birth with wild abandon and joy. I'm still broken inside. There is not a day that goes by that I'm not gripped with a fierce love and thankfulness that you exist and that I can call you mine. But for one horrible day of the year I am all yours. Completely and unreservedly.

But today, today you have to share me with the brother you never knew. And I am so terribly, absolutely sorry for that.

Happy eighth birthday my beautiful Knox. We love you more than any words can ever express.

I'm so sorry Shale. What if's and wishes tear at my heart and we, I, miss you so much it hurts to breathe. You are not forgotten. We love you still. Absolutely. Always.

One day I'll be able to let go.

But it likely won't happen on an October 21.

Happy Birthday Knox. We love you to the moon and back.

We miss you Shale. Every day. Look for our love; it's brought to you by an angel's wings.