Sharing Thomas' Birthday

6:28:00 AM


After Thomas died, I thought I was left with only two things: his name and his birth date. And both were very precious to me.

A short time after our baby died, a friend said, “Thomas Augustine… what a beautiful name!”

How could I not agree? It was the name of my baby. But instead of being pleased by these kind words, I thought, “Please don’t like the name too much. Please never think of calling a future son of yours Thomas. Please don’t take his name. It‘s all I have left.” But, of course, I never said anything. The friend had spoken in kindness and she probably had no intention of ever giving a child the same name as my lost son. But I was very sensitive and I worried.

Several months after Thomas died, my sister announced she was pregnant. I was finding other people’s pregnancies very difficult to deal with. Now both my sisters were expecting babies. And I was the only sister with empty arms.

I tried to smile and I was doing my best to be happy for my sister. I was even thinking about offering my congratulations when…

“My baby is due on Thomas’ birthday, 9th November!” She sounded excited.

Would my sister’s baby take my son’s birthday? Would Thomas not have a day that was just his? Would he be forgotten as the family celebrated his cousin’s special day? Would he even be replaced by his new cousin?

I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t put my feelings in words. How could I? I didn’t want to spoil my sister’s happiness. But I sorrowed. My sister probably didn’t know the agonies I was going through. For weeks and months, my thoughts strayed back to her baby’s due date. On the 9th November, we would be remembering Thomas’ birthday and mourning his death. Would we also be welcoming a new member to our family?

I told myself a birthday is just a day on the calendar. It doesn’t really matter which day a baby is born on. But it did matter.  I tied myself up in knots over this issue.  Then one day I could stand it no longer. I poured all my worries out in prayer.  I said, “God, you know when my sister’s baby will be born. If it is on Thomas’ birthday then you will have to help me bear it. You will have to make things right. You will have to help me celebrate the birth of her child. I can’t worry about this anymore.” So I handed over everything to God and refused to think any more about it.

Thomas’ first birthday drew near and we made plans for celebrating his special day. I tried to be generous. I thought about gifts and cards and congratulations I might have ready for my sister’s baby.

The 9th November arrived. We celebrated Thomas’ birthday. And my sister’s baby did not arrive. Her baby was born two weeks late.

I think about myself. I think about my sister. Looking back, I don’t think we understood each other at all. Never having lost a child, my sister didn’t really understand my need to keep one day on the family calendar just for Thomas and Thomas alone. How could she? And I didn’t understand her excitement when she announced her due date. I didn’t understand that she wanted to share Thomas’ day because it was special. I thought she wanted to take my child’s day whereas really she wanted her child and mine to have a special bond.

In those early days of sorrow, I was a sensitive bereaved mother clutching at names and dates, trying to keep them solely for the child I no longer had. Unlike my sister, I failed to see the joy that could come from cousins sharing a birthday.

Since Thomas’ death, I have met a few people who have an association with the 9th November: a friend’s husband died on Thomas’ birthday a few years ago, another friend’s daughter was born on this day, I even noticed our parish church of St Thomas Aquinas was opened on this day 25 years ago. They all share the same day with my son.

God connects us together. He ensures we meet the right people at the right time and he uses many means: our choice of work, the ages of our children, our place of residence, our blogs(!), our interests, even names… and certain dates on the calendar.

I am no longer so sensitive. I have come far enough through the pain to look around me and I no longer focus solely on my own child. I look at the friends who share Thomas’ day. God has connected us together for a special reason and these people are important in my life. I am glad we share the 9th November. And I would now gladly share this day with my niece if that was what God had intended.

So on this day, the 9th November I want to say:

“Thomas, my heart aches because you are not here and I miss you so much. I still sometimes wish you were here on earth sharing our lives. But that cannot be. I used to think all I had left of you was your name and a date. However, I have much more than that. I still have you.  Now I am willing to share your name and your birthday. Through them, I have been connected with some very special people. You live on in those bonds.  You live on in my stories. And you live on in my heart. I love you so very much. Happy Birthday!”

 And…

Happy Birthday Emma and Catherine.
Michael and Waltraud, may God grant eternal rest to your souls.
Vera and Veronika, may God hold you close and bless you and your families.
May God bless our parish, St Thomas Aquinas, Bowral.
And an early Happy Birthday to my dear niece, Bethany.


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2 comments

  1. It's true I've never suffered the loss of a child, but I'm willing to bet I would feel exactly the same way. I am glad you suffer less with the sharing of that special day now. God bless you Sue, and God bless Thomas on his special day. Praying for you both, and for your family too. <3

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  2. Thank you, Susan. I'm sitting here crying. I don't really know why. It's good to have friends to share Thomas with and to pray for us.I really appreciate you stopping to say hello. God bless!

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