There is an emptiness surrounding today which fills my space with hurt.

It's my son's birthday today. He would have been twelve. 12. ONE-TWO. My mind is blown. Somehow, if my son had lived, he'd be in double digits. He'd be a preteen.

It's weird. For the first time, in all eight of the birthdays he missed since his death, I feel a bit closer to him than I have before. 12. Twelve is a language I understand. Twelve is tweenager language and that is a language I'm fluid in. Twelve makes me smile and remember his siblings at that age, while nodding my head as I stare off in space.

'What ifs' and 'would he's' taunt me more today with their cruel mysteries and I'm having more trouble than normal with eyes that leak unexpectedly. Like a dripping faucet in the night, keeping one awake, that's how my tears feel today.

In all honesty, for the past few years now, I've handled his birthdays and his death days with a tug of sadness. Mostly they are just grim reminders that life moves on when love ones don't. I've been filled up with love and life and I refused to allow room in my heart to let this hurt seep back into my life.

But pain and grief ricocheted back this October when my dog died. I was scared to write these words, for fear of feeling the wrath of anyone's judgment, but Nixon's death hit me as hard as Shale's death did.

Only, it didn't. Not really. What my dog's death did was rip me back into the centre of my memories and force me to relive wounds that I had long thought had been sealed tight; welded shut by all the tears I've cried.

The unexpected cruel death of my dog brought back all the terror and pain I had felt years earlier. It was less about my dog than it was about my child. Timing really is everything.

It was about a mother who never got to say goodbye to the child she loved more than anything in the world. I never got to say goodbye. To my son. To my dog. Everything was conflated, a puddle of oozing wounds and bad memories.

These past few months I have learned I'll never really be far from that moment my son died.  Love and laughter and life will heal me and move me forward, but it only takes a second to be sent tumbling back into the abyss of loss and fear once again. I will never really escape the scars of burying my son.

I wanted to be done with this chapter of my life. I'm tired of having to bear the burden of this pain. This epic ache of a mother longing for a child that no longer exists. Life is too short for this; I'm too fragile.

But there is no escape from that reality. There is no escape from January fourths or October twenty-firsts. My son's death as much as his life, has shaped me into the person I am, the people my children are and life as I know it.

I didn't choose it, nor did I want it, but there it is.

I can't wallow anymore. And I've no real words for this sorrow of mine any more, other than I really miss my kid and it sucks he's dead. It's as ineloquent as that.

I didn't want to wake up on my son's twelfth birthday and think about his death.

Twelfth birthdays are about hope and joy and possibilities. All of that still exists even if the boy does not. That is the gift of love and of life.

That is the gift my son gave me.


Happy birthday Shale. Happy birth day, me.

My view this morning.

Hope and possibilities await.

Hunny Bunny

I don't have any baby pictures of my youngest son, Jumby. When we adopted him, he was five and we were promised an album filled with pictures of his past.

We got a piece of cardboard with five photocopies of pictures taped to it. Not quite the album we were hoping for.

Five years plus five sets of parents equaled five photos.

Most days I never dwell on the fact I missed those years, all of those days, those moments with my son. Most of the time I never worry about the memories lost to us, to Jumby. Instead of focusing on what was lost I choose to create new snapshots of memories, preserved both in pictures and with the intangible threads of our love for him.

I may have been his fifth mother, but luckily for me, I get to be his final mom.

Jumby is MY son. There is no photographic evidence to argue differently.

But sometimes, in those small moments, usually in the silence of the night, or the quiet moments when the rain pit pats against our roof, I look at him and I wonder.

Where is your past?

What did you look like when you were born at 24 weeks, weighing one pound, four ounces? A micro preemie, addicted to crack.

Did anyone capture your first smile?

Does any of this exist? Or was all evidence of your life erased in an effort to wipe clean any traces of guilt or regret?

I worry about my older children's futures, hoping they will be bright and shiny and filled with amazing greatness. But with Jumby, I worry about his next breath. His next ounce. The next virus. I worry about his life. Because everything else is a luxury Jumby is rarely afforded.

It's all pared down to survival with Jumby.

That was the gift his original family gave him when they robbed him of his future.

But last night while my son's wheezing rasps filled the quiet spaces in my night, curiosity took over. I was feeling particularly charitable, grateful for every diaper I get to change of his, every doctor appointment I am required to make for him, every snuggle the boy has gifted me with.

So I looked.

I looked at her profile, right there where it's been waiting for me to look, for all of these years. Inviting me, mocking me, goading me. Last night I couldn't ignore her any longer.

And there she was. With a new life. With her new son. Her healthy son. I saw her smiles and his, her pride in his growth. His life documented on a web site, open to any prying eye that cared to look.

With every photo she posted of her new child, I wonder, does it help erase the memory of her lost son?

I've struggled for years, since Jumby arrived in our lives, with my feelings towards her. She was young and so so stupid. But she wasn't evil. For all her faults I am thankful to her for the life she created, for the boy I call mine.

Without her, there would be no him.

I wonder if there would even be a me.

I remained straddled on my fence, vacillating between forgiveness and pity when I saw it.

Five pictures of my son. On her mother's page.

She called him her grandson. Her Hunny Bunny.

And there it was.



A lump of anger so bitter and vile it refused to be swallowed.

Where were you for your Hunny Bunny when he needed you? Did you look the other way? Did you make excuses for their behaviour? How do you look at your grown daughter with her new son and forget the tubes and scars and broken body of her old one? The one she never protected?

Fury swallowed me, filling me with its poison. I was suffocating under the weight of hate. So I closed my computer and wandered to where the sounds of a broken boy wheezing his way through the night filled the air. I put my hand on his chest and felt it vibrate; I checked his diaper.

I saw the shadows of his abusers in the soft curves of my son's face. He has their colouring. There is no trace of me on my boy's face. For one single second I questioned my claim as his mother.

And then he twitched and felt my hand on his back. He smiled that smile he saves only for me as he changed positions and then fell back asleep, his rasp filling the air once more.

He doesn't belong to them. No matter what his face may look like. Their Hunny Bunny no longer exists. Hunny Bunny is merely five photos on a Facebook page.

Jumby exists where Hunny Bunny ended. I will never stop grieving for what Hunny Bunny lost, the price my Jumby had to pay for someone else's choices. I can't imagine a day when it never shreds my heart to know what he endured at the hands of another.

But I'll never stop being grateful to her, to them, for my son, just as I'll never stop pitying them for not knowing the depth of their loss.

I'm missing my son's past, forced to scrape together bits of it confined in boxes of court transcripts and medical records, piecing together the jigsaw puzzle of his past while gazing at five precious pictures. I've his entire life to decipher my son and create new memories. I've got so much more than five photos.

But their Hunny Bunny? He's forever lost to them. He's simply five photos on a Facebook page and the unspoken secret of a broken and lost boy.

He's their past. He's my future.

Five years, five photos, five parents.

It all ends with us.

The Story of Us.



312 pictures.

That's the sum of my son's life in photos.

I know because I counted every single one, days after he died.

11 years ago today, I looked like this:

It's okay. You can totally laugh and call me a beached whale. I still twitch when I see that picture. I mean, really, how sexy can one gal get?

Less than 24 hours later came this photo:

Shale didn't yet have casts on his clubbed feet and I remember being horrified by the tubes and his crooked little feet. I didn't want to touch him. I was scared he'd break even further. I was stuck in this odd limbo of grief for not having a perfect baby and the horror of not knowing what to do with a broken one.

Then came the big button incident of '01.

My lovely child couldn't control his tongue and it kept falling back and blocking off his airway. Any time he was flat on his back or upright he'd choke on it. So the all knowing doctors stitched it to his lower inside lip in the hopes he'd be able to finally get off his stomach.

Three weeks later, he did.

Only to go back flat on his back again.

One lesson I quickly learned in the early moments of Shale's life is just when you think things can't get worse, they can.

Oh life and your silly little lessons, mocking my naiveté.

There was a lot of tubes and wires, surgeries and casts, transfusions and general hospital chaos filled panic but eventually it all led to this:

Shale finally came home.

His first birthday found me unprepared. I figured I wouldn't make a cake since he couldn't eat it but it didn't seem right to deprive his sugar loving siblings of cakey-goodness, so I bought donuts as a happy compromise. It became our January 4th tradition while he lived.  Of course, while I remembered to buy donuts I completely spaced on birthday candles.

Oh well, beggars can't be choosers and all that.

The days blurred by with doctors appointments, hospitalizations and the haziness of life in general.

He grew hair, learned to sit and give high fives.

He grew. Even past the age they told us he wouldn't.

He learned to walk. He taught us how to live beyond the fringe of normal and see the world with new possibilities. He taught us how to be the people we are today. He loved.

And oh, how he danced.

And then, he didn't.

It's an odd thing to celebrate a birthday of a boy who no longer lives. But I suppose it is no odder than loving a child who is simply a memory.

Time slips by and nothing seems to change just as everything is.

My son is still gone. I still love him. Most don't even know he existed for the years he did.

But today, as the sun shines through the parted clouds and glistens off the snow riddled with footprints, my family will take a moment to recognize how much he gave us and how grateful we are for the moments we had with him.

Happy 11th birthday kid.