Annie’s party on Saturday was terrific. Annie enjoyed herself, she was surrounded by beloved family and friends, and we got to celebrate our little girl’s life in the best way possible. Despite all of this, however, I wasn’t sure initially if throwing this party was the right thing to do. In fact, I wasn’t sure if we should throw Annie a party at all.
Here’s the thing… Maddie’s first birthday party was amazing. It was, without a doubt, one of the very best days of my life. So when I think of first birthday parties they are so ingrained in my mind as belonging to Maddie that I worried that throwing another one would somehow cheapen Maddie’s. (Sort of how Hollywood’s making “Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skulls” left the first three Indiana Jones movies looking a little less lustrous.)
Raising a little girl after losing one is very, very hard. There is the push and pull of wanting to be the most present, incredible parent possible for your new child while also protecting and honoring what you had with your first. To this day there are games and songs that I shared with Maddie that I haven’t with Annie, and I don’t think I ever will. Those were private moments between the two of us.
A birthday isn’t a private moment between a parent and child though – a birthday belongs to all of us. Heather helped me understand this. And I soon saw that throwing Annie a party wouldn’t cheapen what we did for Maddie. Nothing could. The only thing that could be cheapened is our relationship with Annie if we didn’t give her our all.
So we did, and I am so thankful that we did. There was still a lot of sadness on Saturday though. Among the party’s guests were some of Maddie’s old friends – old friends who crawled around on the floor with Maddie and exchanged the four or five words they each knew. Today these old friends are girls and boys who run around at the speed of light and talk a mile a minute. It was hard to look at these beautiful children and not picture Maddie running alongside them, or to see in their faces living examples of exactly what we are missing. As the party went on though, I realized just how beautiful it was to have them there. You have to admit that having Maddie’s friends on hand to toast her little sister on her first birthday is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
It’s complicated for sure, but you know what? That’s okay. Because once you lose a child there is no way to get through life without sadness. The best you can hope for is that the sadness is accompanied by joy, and that certainly was the case on Saturday.