I can’t say “happy birthday”

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.