Tomorrow is Xavier’s birthday. He would be three. It’s hard not to think of the things I should be doing. Buying balloons, baking a cake, wrapping presents.
Instead, I stole a few moments to make him a prayer flag. I make him one ever year.
I chose three hearts and three butterflies. Signifying the age he would he. Representing my three sons. It hangs, pure and white, against the aged flags that have fluttered on the balcony for so long now. They are yellowing and starting to become brittle. I like these changes. The way the flags evolve and change. The way Xavier never will.
I want to write him a poem, but the words that used to flow so easily are stilted now. Once upon a time he whispered poetry into my ear and I caught the words. He was so close. He feels bewilderingly far away.
The pain has eased. Because he does not occupy my every waking thought, life has returned to the safe harbours of normal. But birthdays are birthdays and anniversaries are anniversaries. They are tough. There is no opting out.
Every year is slightly different. This year I am angry. A new kind of angry. Not just angry that he died – that came to be the moment he left. Not just angry at myself for not protecting him – that anger was born when he took his last breath. But angry that I have to think about celebrating the life of a dead child at all. Angry that no matter how far I row away from grief, these dates will always draw me back. Angry that I am snapping at friends and parenting in absentia, as my mind wanders elsewhere. Angry that I apparently have no control over that. Angry that I want to spend time with him and on his memory, but that my busy life has robbed me of that time. Angry that I don’t just say NO to those other things and spent the precious time I can with my son. Angry that I am angry.
Angry that I am the mother of a dead child.
I don’t want to be angry. I want to be the best mother I can for all my sons. I want to remember my Xavier with love and devotion. I want to be tender and bereft, not angry and thrashing. I find conflict difficult. Even internal conflict.
My dearest boy, I love you still. Even when you feel far away, even when life seems to move away from you, even when there are days when my thoughts don’t wander to your side, even when the years place distance between us that I cannot bridge. I love you still.