Life

Happy Birthday….in Heaven

My step-son would be 11 today.

Instead of planning a big party with cake and ice cream (and probably a hockey game) we have to visit him in a cemetery.

I never met Riley.

In fact, my husband hardly did either. Riley was “born sleeping” as they say, meaning he was stillborn.

My husband has been through so much, but I worry losing his first son was probably among the worst of it. It is probably worse than a father he never knew, or losing his mom when he was 12. It is probably worse than any loss in Iraq on deployment.

He was deployed to Iraq when he got the Red Cross phone call his son would not make it to be born alive. At seven months pregnant, his first wife had lost the baby.

I won’t get into a blame game, especially since I only get one half of the story (I’ve never met either of the ex-wives, which I’m totally cool with) and because we know where Riley is. He’s in heaven. I imagine (for some reason) he takes lots of walks with my great-grandfather, who never met either of our children. I don’t know why I imagine this…I just do.

They flew my husband back for Riley to be born sleeping. He buried him. He returned to Iraq. Less than three weeks after Riley, my Bill was in a convoy where he lost two guys and almost lost a third after hitting an IED. We are lucky he’s alive…we are lucky all those who survived are alive, my husband included.

I know my husband was mad at God for a long time over losing his son. There’s no rhyme or reason we as humans can understand when it comes to loss, especially one like that.

I just know he’s okay now, and one day my husband will not hurt, but he will see him again.

For now, even though we struggle, he is the absolute best father to our two children (who are too young to understand having an older brother in heaven). He does spoil them, but I let it go, knowing he’s making up for lost time with Riley.

Today we will go to the store, Bill will ask me what I think an 11 year old wants, and we will go leave it next to his headstone.

I know I struggle with it….I cry every time I’m there.

Sometimes I go alone.

Usually I have to give Bill a reason to go there, such as putting up decorations, etc.

I know Riley isn’t there….I know he’s in heaven. I also know there is nothing I can do to make my husband feel better about the loss of a child.

Usually he sits in the truck (my husband) and just stares at the grave. He makes a comment like “no one should bury their child,” or “all these poor families.” (Riley is in a special section of the cemetery for babies.)

It’s painful to look. You see all the graves of parents who are there every week with custom toys and decorations for their lost child, their names embroidered on teddy bears and flags. You also see the untouched graves of the children whose parents can’t bring themselves to go there, or in some cases, even order the headstone, so a marker sits there years later.

So for today, all I can do is pray. It’s hard to lean on God for comfort. I think it’s because we want answers and healing and as humans we want it right away.

Think of my husband today…….

Psalm 23:4 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

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