Happy birthday, cousin!

Dear Carter,

Today at 7:10 pm, EST, I got a text from your Gigi that your new baby cousin was born. We thought the baby was on the way about 3 weeks ago, but it was a false alarm, so we’ve been anxiously waiting for what seems like forever. Auntie and Uncle didn’t find out if they were having a boy or a girl, so the anticipation was even stronger. Daddy thought it was going to be a boy but he was wrong — IT’S A GIRL! She weighed 8 pounds, 11 ounces and she was 20 inches long. She’s beautiful and everything has gone smoothly so far.

Can you hear the worry tinging my words? Can you see the tightness of my smile and the dimness of my eyes? Can you sense my jaded heart?

There used to be a time when news of a new baby, especially my little sister’s baby, would fill me with bubbly joy. My smile would spread from ear to ear, my eyes would light up, my voice would sparkle with excitement.

But now. Now I’m a mess of contradictions and conflicting emotions. So worried something would go wrong during labor and delivery, but so amazed at your Auntie’s strength and courage. So happy for her and her family, but so very sad that your sweet cousins never met you and that the three of you won’t grow up together. She’s so cute and beautiful, but seeing her sweet face and hearing her little cry makes me miss you so much. One minute so sure that I want to try to make you a big brother. The next heartbeat crippled with fear that lightning will strike twice or that you were my only chance to be a mommy.

I have so many precious childhood memories of growing up with my cousins. Amateur-hour homemade commercials and TV shows, exploring the creek behind my grandmother’s house, going fishing in my granddad’s pond, drinking cranberry juice at the low bar in my grandparents’ kitchen, shelling bucket-fulls of peas fresh-picked from the garden, passing out Christmas gifts and racing to find the pickle ornament on the Christmas tree. I had dreams of those kinds of memories for you and your cousins.

So after I smiled about your baby cousin’s birthday today, I cried a little. I cried for yet another dream snuffed out. I cried remembering your birthday and how it felt to see you and hold you for the first time. I cried because my eyes saw your cousin’s picture, but my heart saw you. Smiles and tears.

I hope you’re making precious memories with your cousin from Daddy’s side of the family and with your cousin from my side of the family, who both went to heaven while still in your Aunties’ tummies. I hope you’re picking giant tomatoes in Grandmother and Granddaddy H’s big garden and eating chocolate pie and staying up late to watch Miss America. I imagine you holding your great-great grandmother’s hand, walking through heaven; surely her hands are smooth and young there, not wrinkled and papery like I remember them.

We miss you here so desperately. But we’re also comforted when we think of you surrounded by cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends in heaven until it’s time for us to come to be with you. What a day that will be, baby. I’ll scoop you up in my arms and breathe you in and finally feel whole again. I love you, son, and

I kiss you.

Love you forever,


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