I’m taking a day’s break from editing and posting about my unschooling book because my mind is elsewhere. You see, it’s our son Thomas’ birthday.
This morning, the girls and I visited the cemetery. When we arrived, we saw people preparing for a burial. A grave was open. There were chairs arranged in the shade ready for the bereaved who hadn’t yet arrived.
Thomas is buried at the back of the cemetery in the children’s section. As we got closer, we could see two bunches of flowers in the bowl that sits on top of his grave. Someone placed them there recently, probably on All Souls Day when the graves were blessed. We added our own flowers and a ‘Happy Birthday’ balloon. And then it was time for some birthday photos.
We were halfway through our photo session when someone cried, “Look!” and we all peered over the fence. There in the paddock were dozens of huge kangaroos. Our cameras swung towards them as they bounded over the grass. (Unfortunately, my photos aren’t very good, but I’m going to share Imogen’s video as soon as she uploads it to the Internet.) We’ve seen a lot of kangaroos recently. Are their numbers multiplying? Sightings of large mobs, even at midday, are becoming very common.
Once the kangaroos had disappeared between the trees, we finished taking our photos, and then we headed back towards the car. We wanted to be gone before the funeral party arrived. Despite it being Thomas’ birthday, the cemetery belongs to them today, and not us. Their sorrow is fresh. Ours is eighteen years old. Fortunately, we hadn’t planned to have our usual birthday picnic in the cemetery. Instead, we had lunch at McDonald’s on the way home.
Each year, I buy Thomas a birthday bear. This is Paul Bear, the newest addition to his collection.
And now I’m going to post a birthday story. Over the years, I’ve written a lot of stories about Thomas. I wrote Today I Saw Thomas a few years ago. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Today I Saw Thomas
This morning I saw Thomas…
My bedroom door opened and Gemma-Rose appeared. Without a word, she slipped under the quilt next to me and snuggled up close. Her deliciously cool skin touched mine as we lay in the warmth of the bed. I stroked her hair back off her forehead and I looked at her profile.
And I saw Thomas.
There is something about Gemma-Rose’s nose and her upper lip and the distance in between. I saw the same profile when I held Thomas. When he was disconnected from all the tubes and wires of his life support system, that beautiful nose and upper lip and that distance in between appeared.
Imogen also has the same profile. For months after Thomas died, I’d gaze at my five-year-old daughter trying to recapture our son. I could no longer look upon our baby, so I looked at his sister instead. I looked and I remembered and I tried to hold onto the picture of his face.
And this morning I saw Thomas again.
Our children are never really gone. The experience is never truly over. God always has one more gift, one more surprise to bestow upon us, if we keep looking.
“It’s a pity we have to get up,” I said to Gemma-Rose. “I could stay snuggled up to you all day. I could hug you forever.”
“We don’t have to get up,” she replied. “We could stay here all day.”
I remember snuggling up to Thomas. I couldn’t hug him forever. Eventually, I had to ring the bell for the nurse. I kissed him and laid him in her arms and said goodbye.
“We have to get up. We have jobs to do,” I said to Gemma-Rose.
“We could let the others do those,” she said with a cheeky grin.
“That would be lazy. No. Up you get.” I reluctantly disentangled myself from my daughter. Unfortunately, we can’t hug anyone forever.
But we can love. We can love forever.
And we should stop and hug and savour the moment, as often as we can. For if we do, we might just observe a little gift from God.
This morning I hugged Gemma-Rose. This morning I saw Thomas.
Happy Birthday, Thomas.
If you’d like to see the kangaroos at the cemetery, Imogen has included them in her latest vlog: A Week in My Life.