I have spent the last few months dreading this day, counting down the weeks, fearing the moment when you would feel further away than ever before, when I could say that a whole decade has passed since I held you in my arms. And whilst all of your birthdays have been hard, none have felt as truly momentous as this one, double figures, a huge milestone that I wanted, and needed, to honour.
And what started out as simply an idea to raise money for SANDS, a charity so close to our hearts, soon escalated into an awareness campaign, a media whirlwind and a celebration of your life and all that you meant to us. Over the last three weeks your story has been shared with our local newspapers, the national tabloids, various parenting websites, social media and amazingly, reached as far as Australia.
I can’t even begin to tell you how proud this has made me, how comforting it has been to know that so many people have shared in your story, spoken your name, taken the time to reach out and offer me their love and support. I have been amazed at the number of emails flooding in through my in-box, people telling me how deeply you have touched them, how they too have suffered such tragic losses, how our story has given them hope of finding happiness in the future.
Because for such a long time I felt so guilty that I had gone on to find happiness, infact I was scared to feel happy again, unable to differentiate between the emotions of moving on and letting go. I was so scared that, should I move on, the time we had shared would feel even further away, that the memories would start to fade and ultimately, that I would start to forget you. It took me such a long time to realise that actually, it would be impossible to forget you. It would be impossible to forget those moments that we spent together, so deeply etched are they in my memory, impossible to deny that the beat of my heart still whispers your name, every heartbeat a gentle reminder that although life has moved on, we have taken you with us.
And so on Saturday, at our SANDS Summer Soiree, we all came together to celebrate your life, to raise money, and to remember that just because we didn’t get the ending we had hoped for, doesn’t mean that we didn’t get a happy ending. Because we did, even though it still hurts, and even though we feel your absence every minute of every day, there is no denying that your Dad and I have been truly blessed. And you would have been so proud of us all on Saturday, not just my family and friends but your Dads family and friends too, all of the people who had known and loved you, putting our differences aside and coming together in your honour. And as emotional as it was, and admittedly there were tears, it was also a really happy occasion with so much laughter, lots of drink and crazy dancing, and all of your family, your siblings, Lewis, Eva, Megan, Harry and Theo, safe in the knowledge that you will always be a part of our lives.
As always on your birthday, I try to imagine what you would be like at this age, whether you would be like Lewis or someone else entirely. I try to picture what you would look like, what our lives would have been like with you in it. I wonder what you would be into, whether you would be glued to your X-box playing Minecraft or out chasing Pokémon with other boys your age. Most of all, I wonder what you and Lewis would have been like, whether this would have been a difficult year for you with him moving on to High School, whether the two of you would still have been as thick as thieves, partners in crime, an older, cheekier version of your sisters. And I cant deny that it hurts when I try to imagine those things, when I fail to imagine you aged ten, when all I can see when I close my eyes is our little baby, with your mop of dark hair and those perfect little fingers and toes. I think that regardless of how many years pass, you will always be that baby. The little boy who changed our lives, stole our hearts and stayed forever young.
I used to tell myself that there is nothing I wouldn’t give to go back in time to that July, to 2006, when we were so innocently naïve, when you kicked away in my tummy with Lewis at my side, when life was seemingly perfect. And yet as the years have passed, and circumstances have changed, I am slowly learning that although life doesn’t always work out as we plan it to, perhaps life has it’s own plan for us, bigger than any of us could ever imagine. I’m not sure how our lives would have panned out had you survived, had we been a happy family of four, simply enjoying our boys. I’m not sure whether, even had my marriage ended afterwards, I would have wanted more children, if your siblings would have been an option, or a dream, for me to consider. It’s difficult to live with regret when had we gone down a different path, I would potentially be without your siblings. It’s a constant power struggle in my mind, the question of whether had there been you, would there have been Eva, Megan and Harry?
It’s not a question we will ever be able to answer, but I do know this.
You, Joseph Emmerson, made me the person I am today. Not just a different person, but a better person. You gave me strength I never knew I was capable of, you gave me the understanding to be more forgiving, more allowing of others behaviour, the knowledge that every single one of us is fighting a battle that others know nothing about. You made me want to be the very best that I could be, gave me the ambition and motivation to make you proud, the desire to live my life to the fullest, to embrace a life that you never got the chance to live. You made me a better wife, a better daughter, a better friend, and yet most importantly you gave me the greatest of gifts in making me a better Mother.
You are always there, an angel on my shoulder, reminding me not to sweat the small stuff, to take the time to simply sit down and snuggle these precious siblings of yours, to get down on the floor and build dens, draw pictures, pull funny faces, create magical lands where fairies fly and rainbows end. You got me through the hardest times of my life, were with me during the best times of my life, and you live on in all of us, in the sound of your siblings laughter, in the twinkle in their eyes, in the magical stories they tell me of how you fly in through the window at night and sprinkle them with angel kisses. You have given me so much, more than you will ever realise, and I am so thankful for you, for every moment of you, then, now, always.
And so on your 10th birthday, we shall remember you, in the same way that we do every day, and we will remind ourselves how very blessed we were to have you and the legacy you left behind. You will always be my sweetest hello and my hardest goodbye, and I wouldn’t change it, not one moment of it, ever.
Love and miss you all the stars in the sky.