Today would be my son's 22nd birthday.
Like every other year, I wasn't able to sleep last night because every single second of his birth kept replaying in my head. I've been short-tempered for a few weeks because the anxiety of the day is still overwhelming even after all these years. I'm angry that CDH took him and angry that 20 years later, we're still struggling to help these kids. Mostly I'm angry that I'm still screaming into the wind trying to stop CDH. A determination to end CDH is the only way to hold on to my son.
Like every other year, I hit the snooze button on my alarm clock and laid in bed not wanting to face the world. I cried and then pulled myself together like every other year and headed into work.
Some friends posted Shane's photo on their Facebook walls today and the charity's birthday and angelversary list for the day included him. It helps to get through the day knowing others are thinking of him too.
So here I am. To most people it's just a Wednesday. To me, it is a day to remember my hero and miss him.
Around lunch, my mom will call to check on me and tell me that she's thinking of Shane. Inevitably, she will say "I just can't image him at this age". It's the same thing that I say about my sister when I call my mom on her birthday 11 days before Shane's every year. I'm sure my mom will walk down to see him at the cemetery that's on her property. Shane loved his "Nanny" and she loved him. I'm so grateful he had such a good grandmother, and still does.
I will leave the office at 5:00, maybe a bit earlier to run to the store before dark.
Instead of running to the grocery store to buy a cake mix I get to go to the floral counter and ask them to put helium in CDH awareness and Sesame Street balloons. And when the nice person behind the counter asks me what the CDH awareness stuff means or how old my child is, I will swallow my tears and try to say something cheerful and lie that my son is 6 years old. Because in the past I've truthfully said that was I getting balloons to send to Heaven and ended up a basketcase in the middle of the store. Or watched the store employee start crying and then I console them. 15 years later, I know it's easier to just lie and get in and out of there with minimal emotional implosion.
Instead of posting celebratory photos on social media full of fun, family memories, I will instead post the same photos I've posted a million times. Because they are all I have. And I am grateful to at least have them.
Instead of singing "Happy Birthday" to my son, I will drive to the cemetery in Virginia to put a new matchbox car on his headstone or if it's during a work week I can't take off from (like this year), I will only quietly walk out to the golf course behind my house and let balloons go. Then I will watch them as they glide past the row of pine trees and up to the clouds. Always in a group together except for one that seems to lag behind as if it doesn't want to leave me and keeps looking back. Sometimes my husband is with me. Sometimes our dog is running circles around me wanting to play. Sometimes I am just alone. But every time I hope for some small sign from my son.
I had my son for 6 and a half years. I had a false sense of security that we had defeated CDH, that he was special and chosen and a miracle. CDH tricked us.
His Birth Day
But I am blessed. Because we had 6 and a half years with him. Thousands of CDH families do not get those years. Many don't even get that first day of their child's birth.
I am blessed. I got to bake my son cakes and buy him gifts. I got to help him blow out candles and open presents. I got to send out invitations and decorate and celebrate.
But I am greedy. I wanted more birthdays. I miss my son. He should be here with me. Especially on his birthday.
So today, I will try to keep busy and work on charity projects that mean a great deal to me in order to honor his memory. I fight CDH, I try to help a family, I try to raise awareness, I donate in his name. I want the day to be about him, but not about just him. I don't want other children to not be here to blow out their birthday candles.
Dawn M. Torrence Williamson
Shane's grieving mommy