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.