by Kelly Nickerson
11 years ago, we heard a cry that resembled that of a bleating sheep. It was music to our ears. The delivery room was filled with people, and we all cheered! He was here! We had waited so long for this moment. After 30 weeks of bed rest, experimental infusions, and whole lot of prayer he was here. He had zero kidneys.
Elijah Praise weighed in at exactly six pounds. This was the precise weight needed before the doctors would even consider doing surgery for peritoneal dialysis. It’s shocking looking back now, knowing if he had even been an ounce under weight, his life would have only lasted a few days. He made it six and a half amazing months.
Today, I am not going to focus on all the surgeries and worry. Instead I want to write about the joy that his life brought to all of our lives. Everyone used to say that he was blessed to have us for his parents. I disagree. We were the ones who were blessed to have him as our son.
He had the sweetest demeanor. For all that he went through, I don’t remember him being fussy. He had this way of charming everyone around him. He had the most beautiful blue eyes and his daddy’s double-dimpled smile. When he looked at you, it was if he was staring into your very soul.
He loved music, particularly John Denver. Maybe I liked it more, but his music seemed to soothe all of us. Looking back on his videos, when the days were good, we made them fun. I can’t help but wonder what he was thinking. We were fools for him, and loved every moment.
I started reading Winnie the Pooh to him only a few days after he was born. We made sure to have lots of books and show him all the colorful pages. He loved his musical mobile and seemed genuinely surprised every time a new frame came around. We prayed, sang, and wept over him.
Seth and I agreed after he passed, that we wanted him to be remembered with joy. I took a lot of time openly grieving, for the very purpose to expose the reality of our loss. Now that we have our kids we wanted to strive to remember our children with happiness. We do this so that they will not be afraid to talk about them, be fearful of death, or feel burdened by their memory.
So far it has worked really well! When they hit teenagerdom I might be singing a different tune. For now, they love Eli’s day. Being this year we have all been struck down with the plague, so we will have to wait a few days to do our usual celebration. Even as I padded down the stairs this morning, I was greeted by two nasal voices squealing, “It’s Eli’s birthday!! We are going to have root beer floats, and maybe go ….” As they chattered on, I got so excited to see their excitement.
So here is what we do to honor our kids memories. We talk about them. I will be honest, the first ten years I cried a lot. However I found talking about them lessened the ache. I think a mother’s worst fear is her child dying. Her second, her child being forgotten.
We also try not to set a heavy standard. That way if things shift or flex, then we aren’t disappointed (like say the flu bug from hades). We do try to get out to the mausoleum. Since this has been a way of life for our kids, they are not bothered by a cemetery in the least. The kids love to make cards, sing songs, and yes, even dance.
Depending on how we are handling things, we pull out the pictures and movies. I have loved having FB for this. I tend to post a video and share my memories. I love the likes and the comments. The kids love showing their brother off. We let the kids ask any questions that they want. Every year they are be coming more inquisitive. We always answer honestly. Truly, kids are much more resilient then adults give them credit for. Then, we try to go out to eat and talk about all the happy memories and what we wish he could be doing with us now.
Most people have cake on special occasions. We do something a bit different. Elijah was on a special formula to balance his levels. He wasn’t supposed to have anything but the formula. A couple of weeks before he died, we took him to the mall. We went shoe shopping and then headed for the food court. I ordered an A&W root beer float. We sat in front of the carousel and let him watch the ponies bob up and down. He was mesmerized. I scooped off some of the vanilla ice cream and fed it to him. He loved it!!! I gave him a few more scoops of yumminess while Seth and I watched in amazement. I wish I would have given him the whole cup.
Since he loved it so much, we try every year to have root beer floats. I know he would want us to think about his life and celebrate. I say this for those of us who may be further out in our grief. For those of you who are fresh in it, this may not happen for a while. It took me a long time to get to this point. Allow yourself grace and time.
I will tell you that some moments I do want to cry. There is not one single day that goes by that I don’t wish he was here. That’s a big misconception among people that time makes that feeling go away. It doesn’t. We just don’t talk about it as openly. I cry for what we had and for what could have been. I have to remind myself that Eli would want us to live each day that he couldn’t, to the fullest. He wouldn’t want me laying in bed all day and associating his name with pain.
Nope, not Elijah Praise. When I hear his name, I think of miracles, prayers answered, and G-d’s kindness in extending us our son. His life forever changed the way we look at life, and how brief it really is. So when I think of all he could have been, I am quickly reminded, he was the best Eli we could have ever had. He encompassed so much love and one day we will be together, without all the tubes, and this time he can eat all the ice cream he wants.
Happy Birthday Elijah. I am so thankful for every day that you fought so hard to live. You will NEVER be forgotten and forever loved.