I can’t say “happy birthday”
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
I utilize my blog, Facebook and Twitter differently from many people. I normally do not put much that is very personal on any of it. I post some pieces that I have written about world events, and repost other pieces that I come across that I think might be of interest to various readers. I even felt a bit strange posting information about my new novel—The Man Who Fell From the Sky—but decided that I had to use social media in order to get the word out.
Occasionally I write something personal. Maybe about Father’s Day or Mother’s Day, but there is no consistency on whether and when I will do so. You don’t go to FB, for instance, to see pictures of my love ones. Perhaps that reflects caution? Perhaps that reflects being too private? I am not sure.
Yet on March 18th I generally feel the need to be public about something that is, paradoxically, very private and very public: the death of my first born 33 years ago.
Let me tell you a story. Virtually every year since I lost her I have commemorated her memory on March 18th. I don’t mean that I only think of her on March 18th, but on March 18th, the day that she was born, very much alive, I take time for reflection. Sometimes I write; sometimes I cry; sometimes I simply reflect.
Last year, however, I found myself overwhelmed with work and political projects and March 18th came and I never stopped to reflect. In fact, and I hate to admit this, I forgot the significance of the day. I mean that the day was just another day according to my calendar. Nevertheless, during the day I found myself feeling, physically, very uncomfortable. My stomach was bothering me and I just felt ill. I did not know what was wrong with me. Suddenly, and I mean VERY suddenly, it hit me that it was March 18th. I realized that I had almost let the day go by without saying, once again, good-bye to my first born. I stopped what I was doing and apologized. I was so embarrassed and angry with myself.
And then, just as suddenly, the pain vanished. I do not mean that it went away slowly; I mean that it stopped altogether. I think that the spirit of my first born just wanted to get my attention.
My first born lived three days but was premature and could not survive. Three years later I was blessed to have my second born. But one does not replace the other. The joy of having my second born, who has been a remarkable daughter, never replaces the agony of having lost the first born. This is something that many people who have not experienced this sort of tragedy fail to understand. I do not blame them; it is just a different experience.
And so, today, on March 18th, after having acknowledged St. Patrick’s Day yesterday, I now share this note with those who choose to read it. A note of love and a note of sorrow. A note of remembrance and a note which triggers thoughts of what might have been. A note to those who have experienced this sort of tragedy and a note to those who have not, yet want to be there for those who have.
And a note to my several month old granddaughter who is sitting only a few feet away from me while I write.
My first born will always be a special love of my life.
8 thoughts on “I can’t say “happy birthday””
Now I’ll have two things to reflect on March 18. You sorrow for your child, and my partner, Alynne’s birthday, the Dao of the day.
Thanks very much for this.
your writings (and speeches) are always done with, knowledge, sincerity, honesty and passion. this post, on the physical loss of your daughter, follows suit. thank you for the reminder that while there is physical loss, love remains.
Thank you so very much for this. I am honored.
Thanks so much.
So sorry for your loss Bill. She would have been very proud to have you as a father. Keep up the good work that you do and thanks for sharing. Sending peace and love your way.
Many thanks, John!