Year Five

It’s an odd time of the year for me.

It’s the time of the year when I think most about Gabriel. He would be 5 years old this year, tomorrow.

I usually think of Gabriel at least once every day. Often just in passing. It’s especially poignant when I am with my nephews and niece and my children all together. As much love as I have for them all, I feel with a little bit of my heart that there is a child missing.

A child is missing. I am missing a child.

I feel in dwelling on him, as I do around this time of year (starting Mother’s Day, and going through the anniversary of his delivery), that I run the risk of seeming self-indulgent. That I run the risk of seeming ungrateful.

I am extremely blessed in my marriage and my family. I have two wonderful girls who fill my life and my heart, fill it to overflowing. I thank God every day for what he has bestowed on me.

And I still miss my little boy.

Although here’s a confession: I forgot to miss him a little bit recently.

Around Mother’s Day this year, I looked ahead to the anniversary of Gabriel’s delivery.

I noticed it was on a Sunday, so I talked briefly to DearDR about going to go to church as a family, then to the cemetery, then to lunch. He agreed.

But DearDR has his own ritual about Gabriel. He usually marks June 4, as this is the day that Gabriel actually died.

So on Tuesday, when he mentioned he had taken Wednesday off, I was very surprised.

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, I didn’t take it totally off,” he said. “I have two late appointments.”

“Oh. Why did you take most of the day off?”

“I have a physical tomorrow, first of all,” he explained. “With a new doctor.

“And I was going to go to the cemetery.”

With a jolt, I realized the date. I also realized that I had “forgotten” to think about Gabriel, to miss him. In kind of a knee-jerk reaction, I felt guilty. Which I almost immediately knew was ridiculous.

I have been wrapped up in the everyday details and stressors of my life — what I recently referred to as “the daily” — full-time/overtime work, a household to run, bills to pay, children for whom to care, ear infections with which to deal. Sometimes I forget what day it is, let alone what date it is.

Second, I have set aside the day I consider to be the day to mark Gabriel’s… passage.

And because of these two things, I actually hadn’t given much thought to my son in recent days. When I realized that, I felt bad. Then I got a hold of myself.

I shouldn’t feel guilty for forgetting to think about Gabriel. He is in my heart every day, if not always in my head.

And I shouldn’t feel self-indugent thinking about him, and continuing to commemorate the day I feel is most appropriate. Grief doesn’t have a deadline. There is no day that I will wake up free from my sorrow at having lost a child. It’s just not going to happen. I will never forget my uncle, who lost a 22-year-old son more than two decades ago, saying after Gabriel’s death, “Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s time to ‘get over it’. You’ll never get over it.” As difficult as that is to hear, it is also a relief.

Someday I will wonder what kind of teenager he would have been had he lived. I will tell his sisters about him — we tell them now; we take them to the grave with us, but I am sure they won’t understand for a few years. And I will continue to write about him. And tomorrow, we will put white flowers on his grave. And let him know: We will never forget.