May 18, 2020. He should’ve been born any day now.
I’ve expressed to some friends that in my grieving, time has a peculiar way of moving both fast and slow. Either way, we’ve arrived at May 18, a day that is now significant but in a different way than we had imagined it to be. I should’ve been about 40 weeks pregnant today and getting ready to deliver Joen. He should’ve come into this world crying, we should’ve left the hospital with him and we should’ve introduced him to all our friends and family. We should’ve been raising our baby and going through all of the moments in life that being a new parent brings. We were supposed to raise our baby here on Earth but instead today we mourn him on what supposed to be his birthday. May 18 was supposed to be different.
But then again – who am I to change the course of life and what God has decided for us? In these trying times, James and I have leaned into our faith and put our trust in something greater and bigger than any of us. Nothing can or ever will take away the pain in our hearts from learning our baby had died in utero at 24 weeks gestation and then having to deliver a stillborn baby with no heartbeat. Nothing. But we’ve chosen to channel that pain into something that makes us better people for us, for the world and for Joen. We’ve chosen to talk about our pain openly, in ways that we’ve never imagined we’d ever have to. It’s been hard, but writing about my mental and emotional trauma has taught me so much about myself and activated the right side of my brain in ways I haven’t been able to before – grief really has been life-changing. It’s now easier to express feelings, think holistically and I have gotten in touch with my emotions. But above all, I’ve learned that what keeps me going every day and what allows me to continue writing is the constant reminder that Joen is loved and his short but mighty life mattered, just as all of ours do. These reminders come in the form of words, messages and actions by friends, family and even kind strangers who have all helped to restore the shell of a person I once was not too long ago.
Today was Joen’s First Annual Walk of Remembrance. The day in all its meaning had the potential to be full of sadness, depression and isolation. I went into it without expectations, prepared to feel whatever I would feel. But because we chose to put love first before anything else, my day was made brighter and warmer and I reserved space in my heart for happiness, healing and unity. James and I walked with our families to a nearby trail, wearing our very green t-shirts! It felt so great to walk alongside my family, knowing everyone was there for Joen. And throughout the day, it has been uplifting to see our friends and family everywhere come together for Joen by taking time to walk outside, be present in nature and dedicate some of their thoughts to him – and thanks for wearing green! Each photo, message and prayer we received today brought a smile to my face and filled me with that much more love. They serve a greater purpose as intentional acts of remembering Joen, each one a healing piece that fills the void of brokenness and despair. And I intend on cherishing them all by keeping each memory and connection close to my heart.
[Because I love them all so much, I will be compiling all the photos that people have sent to us or tagged us in and sharing it in a collage here. Stay tuned! ]
The outpour of support and participation on Joen’s Walk of Remembrance today reminds James and I that we are not alone in grieving and missing him. So many others were anticipating his arrival to one day meet him. He is loved by so many. On a day that could have easily been full of depression, sadness and isolation, I had a beautiful day full of beautiful memories that I am now writing about for me to read in the future and hopefully smile about. That is more than enough for me, especially on a day like today.
Today on Joen’s due date, I am feeling many different and perhaps even inconsistent emotions. Yes, I am sad and the sense of sadness will always remain, but at the same time, I am holding onto hope even tighter than before because May 18 isn’t the end of Joen’s story, which is my story too. In fact, I believe it’s the start of something beautiful. Joen’s legacy will move us in stronger and more profound ways as we go forward in life. And as it does, I will write about it, expressing my appreciation for the beauty in life, even a life after loss. James and I have already grown in over the past few months, and I know we still have a lot of growing and learning to do, which will be guided by the ultimate gift Joen has blessed us with: being his parents. It’s hard to describe what I feel or put it into words but all I can say about today is that I feel at peace – not necessarily in losing Joen, but in realizing his place was not meant to be here on Earth, but above the clouds in Heaven. Yes, today was supposed to look a lot different. But though the outcome is far from what we had ever thought it would be, the day is still a special one and May 18 will forever have meaning in our lives. Today was the first of many annual walks to remember Joen. Until the end of our days, we will continue to walk during this long weekend every year for him and to honour the day he should have been born.
These days, I live life full of purpose, focus and clarity – all things Joen has bestowed upon me when he left us. I also live knowing that each day brings us one day closer to reuniting with Joen in Heaven, a reality that brings me some sort of peace and calm. Those of us who worship know that “Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal.”
Joen, you’ve made our lives better simply by coming into existence and blessing us with the gift of being your parents. We think of you every day, but especially today and we continue to feel your love shining down on us in all of your magnificent and mysterious ways. You are and will continue to be the reason for everything, and you will always be remembered. Love, Mom and Dad.