Thanksgiving was a hard day. I thought it would be easier. I only had one Thanksgiving with Jonah. He was so little and I was so sleep deprived that I hardly remember it. His presence is not woven into my memory and nostalgia for the holiday and so I thought we would move through it just like any other day. I was wrong, it was so hard.
I realized that the heart of the holiday is not tradition, it is family. Even though I was surrounded with friends and family that I love, it was so evident that my family was not whole. Jonah was absent and my heart was with him. As I made conversation I could imagine myself chasing him up the stairs, or changing his diaper in the hallway. I wondered what food he would have gobbled up. I wished for the excuse to leave and put him down for a nap. Instead, I sat. I ate my food. I thought of something to be grateful for, and I tried not to cry.
When Jordan and I finally came home last night, we crawled into bed, talked about how hard the day was and said a prayer together. After we prayed I laid in bed thinking about gratitude. It is not necessarily hard for me to find things to be grateful for, it is just that the cumulative impact of all those good things only seems to make a small dent in the grief I feel. My health, Jordan, my home, Jordan's job, my family, good food... As I listed these things I remembered the last night I had with Jonah.
The night before Jonah died he woke up 3 or 4 times. This was unusual for him, and I had recently gotten used to sleeping through the night. Each time I got up with him I tried to figure out what was wrong. He wasn't teething. He had a dry diaper. He wasn't hungry. He wasn't grumpy, just awake. Each time I would hold him and kiss him and put him back to bed. The last time I got up with him it was about 4:00 am. Normally after the 3rd wake up I would have made him a bottle and given it to him in his crib, and gone back to bed. I was so tired, but I felt like I should hold him. I pulled him out of his crib, grabbed his blanket and sat in the recliner with him. He was wide awake. He laid on my chest for awhile, and then popped his head up and looked at me with the brightest eyes. He began to scoot off my lap like he was ready to play. I said "no, no, it is time to sleep, come here." I pulled him back on my lap and he smiled. Then he cuddled into me and laid his sweet head on my chest. Something inside me told me not to worry about sleep, and to enjoy holding my sweet boy. We laid together for a long time. I stroked his wispy hair and breathed in his little boy smell. When I finally put him down in his crib, he was still awake. He looked at me and I signed "I love you." Then he turned and snuggled into his blanket. This is one of my sweetest memories.
I am so grateful. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to be a mother, to be pregnant, to feel his life grow inside me. I am grateful that I was able to stay home with him and be with him every single day of his life. I am grateful that I tried to soak up every minute I had as his mother. I am grateful for the sacrifice of motherhood and how it tied my heart to his. I am grateful that I was with him the day he died, that I was the last face he saw, and that I could hold his hand as he left this life. I am so grateful for the sweet whisper of the spirit that told me to stay and enjoy my little boy one last night. Most of all I am grateful that I listened.