Max’s 4th Birthday

If you can believe it, it’s been four years since we said hello and goodbye to Maxwell. We were in Yosemite the days leading up to his birthday- so it both snuck up on me and then also hit me right in the face. (More on Yosemite, because it was a few days that lifted my soul and the veil felt very, very thin, almost like a sacred place.)

Jazz took the day off on Tuesday, which was much appreciated.  It kinda feels like a regular day– kids go to school, lunches are packed. Except it’s not a regular day. There should be balloons and presents and cake and a very happy little four year old boy. And there isn’t.

In Max’s honor, we always take homemade cinnamon rolls to L and D and the NICU at the hospital, as well as drop some by our favorite OB’s office. We walked into her office and the front office lady said, “No way, has it been another year already?” They are so kind and loving and I allllllmost made it through that visit without tears. Almost. Hugged Dr. Kang and showed off our little ginger baby, then headed up to the hospital.

Even though it’s been years, it is STILL hard to hold hands and walk through that door. Up the elevator, down the long hallway… to the nurses station at the Labor and Delivery unit. There are still nurses there that remember and know us, and they are ALWAYS so nice and welcoming. We missed seeing some of our favorite ladies, but dropped the treats and a note off. On our way out we took a pan of rolls to the NICU.

You have to ring to get into the NICU, and as we were ringing, a nurse happened to come by headed through the door. She took the treats and we did our nutshell story. She asked if Max was buried at the cemetery off Eureka- and when we told her he was- she said her father is buried just a few plots down. She has been to his grave and remembered when he was born at the hospital. Made me feel happy to make that little connection. I can’t go into the NICU- too much sadness for me there- but the hallway was close enough.

Doing this little act of service every year always helps the day feel lighter. I always think about Max while I’m kneading dough and rolling it out, it’s time consuming- and it gives me a little time dedicated just to him. It’s something tangible I can do to remember him and to celebrate his brief little life.

After our afternoon, we met the family at Max’s park for pizza and cupcakes. I about cried my face off when I saw all of the little rocks everyone had decorated for Max to leave at his stone. It was so sweet of JaNae and Kelly to do that (without even talking to each other!) and I loved seeing what the kids painted.

Kids make everything better. We ate pizza, blew up balloons and wrote messages to Max. Sang him a birthday song and packed up to go home. After all, it was a school night, kids needed baths and reading and bed. Just before we left I sat on the bench and took just a minute. Hi Max. Happy Birthday. We miss you so much it hurts. I love you. Four years feels like a blink, and also a lifetime.

After we got the kids in bed, I was feeling really good! We made it through the day. Another birthday down. And then I opened a text from Sabrina.

Every year Sabrina makes cupcakes on Max’s birthday. Even though she lives hours away from me and from our celebrations. She makes cupcakes and she frosts them and she puts sprinkles on them and she gets out a picture of Max and they sit around the table and sing happy birthday to him and she records it. And I sobbbbbbbed. Sabrina has three little children, she doesn’t have a bunch of time leftover in her life to do this and that total selfless gift she gives to me just really is tender.

After a good cry, a piece of cold pizza and several (too many) cupcakes, I felt better. I’m so lucky I have this giant web of support from everywhere, people who send texts and flowers and phone calls. People who buoy me up and lift my burdens, who ease my pain. And for Jazz, who finds me in a pile on floor and picks me up and puts me to bed when I need it. Couldn’t do this without him.

We made it another year.

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