Today should be his 2nd birthday. Or it is his birthday. Or was?
I don't know the correct way to say it. I don't know if there's anything correct when it comes to the death of a child. I don't know if anything is still right.
But two years ago today- he was born- this I know. John William Slepitis.
I remember her calling me the next day- pride and love evident in her voice. This was her baby boy.
We celebrated. We talked about how sweet he was. What a great sleeper. How handsome.
I felt guilty because I wanted to send her a picture of Addison and Carter (who was only 6 months himself) holding a sign that said "WELCOME TO THE WORLD JOHN WILLIAM", but it was a busy week, and I never got around to staging it.
I remember the call saying that he was bringing in his 1 week birthday by breathing too heavy for comfort and that he needed to be taken to the Emergency Room. I remember hearing that the doctors weren't really sure what was wrong. I remember hearing that he might need some heart surgery.
I remember hearing that he didn't make it. I remember hearing that a rare virus attacked his body- the only symptom being a heart attack. By the time anything was noticeable- it was too late for sweet little John.
All I remember then was the intense grief and "This isn't fair" on repeat in my numb mind.
My sister is one of the best mothers I know. Her stripe of motherhood falls under the "fantastic" category. I have half a mind to ship MY kids off to her most days because I know they would get better care from her than they do from me. She had a picture perfect pregnancy, did everything by the books, and yet she still had to say goodbye way too early.
And yet even though I felt intense grief as the aunt- even though my whole family grieved- I knew that no one felt this as deeply as John's parents- my sister and brother-in-law. No matter how many articles you read on losing a child, no matter how close you may feel to the situation, no matter how much empathy you may apply- nothing can compare to losing a child yourself. I saw the look in my sister and brother-in-law's eyes at John's graveside service and knew that the pain I was feeling wasn't even a fraction of their pain.
I can't erase that look out of my mind- a hurt deeper than I have ever felt burning in their eyes normally so full of love and laughter.
Over the past two years my nephew's all-too-short life has been heavy on my heart.
When I worry about if I'm doing enough- protecting enough- following all the right rules- I remember that at some point I have to put down all of the parenting advice columns and trust. Trust that at the end of the day I'm not in control of my children's lives. I can do everything right and still don't get the outcome I want because no matter how well I feed them, exercise them, teach them- I don't get to choose whether or not they draw that next breath. Their lives are in the hands of someone else. I can't dwell on the shoulds, can'ts, and recommended lists too long because at the end of the day- I do my very best as a mother and trust that the Lord will choose to sustain them another day.
And if he doesn't choose to sustain them another day? I find peace in knowing that this is part of his plan. That he created John to lead a perfect one week life. That he has a number on my children's lives and my life- and it's my job only to do my best with what we're given- just as my sister has so graciously demonstrated to our family.
When I grapple the unfairness of life with the fact that God is intrinsically good, I know all too well that it doesn't always feel good. Sometimes it feels wrong. When I watch my sister beautifully mother her two daughters, I see the hole that John left behind. When we talk about about motherhood- our conversations go deeper than perhaps they would have a few years ago.
My sister and brother-in-law are some of the strongest people I know. When I remember today, March 17th- I will always feel an extremely bittersweet reminder that my nephew was born today.
That his family got one beautiful week with him.
And that he was, is, and always will be- loved.
Written in loving memory of John William Slepitis 3/17/12